I hated him. With every fibre in my being, I hated him. It didn’t matter that he was my father. In fact, that probably made me hate him more.
He was asleep when we left for school and gone when we got home. There was no telling when he’d return, but one thing was guaranteed — he’d be angry drunk when he did. If he came home during dinner, within ten minutes there’d be dishes on the floor.. If he drove up before bedtime we’d scatter and dive into bed with our clothes on, praying he’d be too tired to start yelling. And if he arrived after we’d retired (we’d never fall asleep – we’d lay awake listening for the car) we’d shiver under our bedclothes and wait. Wait for the inevitable, fierce, ranting rage.
Many times Mom would grab her bag (with the spare keys for the Buick) and run. We had to be quick and shadow her. Fortunately drinking made Dad slower and more clumsy. We’d squeeze into the car and roar off into the night, pyjamas and all, stomachs churning, bodies quivering. On more than one occasion we slept in the parked car, too afraid to go home. In the morning we would creep back and silently get dressed for school while Dad snored away on the couch. That afternoon he would be gone and the entire scenario would play itself out again.
By the time I reached 14 I had begun to fight back. My insides would be like jelly and I would feel sick to my stomach, but I would rise to meet his wrath with a righteous indignation of my own. How dare he! How dare he treat us this way!
In the Autumn of tenth grade I had a long weekend reprieve. A good friend invited me to a high school retreat at a camp nestled next to a national forest. The four days were filled with diverting activities and side-splitting entertainment. Every evening we would gather to sing and listen to a speaker share words of faith.
I was a believer. As a five-year-old I’d “given my heart to Jesus.” This meant, I was assured by the Sunday School teacher, that Jesus would take me to heaven when I died. Somewhere along the line I had also learned (perhaps unintentionally) that good people go to heaven and bad people go to hell. That seemed fair to me, so I tried to be a good person. It is all degrees of comparison, right? So, I took the worst person I could think of, whom I knew was going to hell, and compared myself to him. Surely I was a million times better than my father. He deserved hell!
The last night of camp the speaker challenged us to go off by ourselves and talk to God. I wandered off to the banks of a grassy field. On my back, looking up at a legion of stars, I began a monologue. I talked and talked and talked until I was empty of words and exhausted. Then, what had begun as a soliloquy turned into a discourse. In my mind’s eye I stood before a mirror. There I was, me in all my gawkiness and effort. I was comfortable with what I saw and not displeased. “This is how you see yourself,” I heard. Then, as I watched, my image slowly transformed into the image of my father. I began to shake but I couldn’t look away. “This is how I see you.” And I knew it was the truth.
Tears began to stream down the sides of my face. I knew. I knew that in the eyes of a holy and righteous God there was no difference between me and my father. I saw the hate in my heart, the ugly, palpable hate. And I was devastated. Helpless. Sick.
Then I saw in the mirror a dazzling image. But perhaps “felt” the image is more accurate. As I looked my insides were filled with a profound peace and flooded with joy. “This is how I see you in my Son. Let go and let me come in.”
A new person got up from that bank. A new person walked back into that home.
I lost hate that night. But I found joy.
Today’s assignment: On day four, you wrote a post about losing something.
Today, write about finding something.
The Twist: Use this assignment as the second instalment of that post.
(If you would like to read the first post first, you can find my Day Four Post here.)