For most of my life, my experience was this last emotion. My father and I, while close when I was very young, only seemed to grow apart as I neared the end of elementary school. I could never quite figure out why, only knowing that as time went on, his role and interest seemed to lessen in my life. Once discovering his withdrawal from our family had to do with alcohol abuse, our indifference for one another became hostility- we only communicated in selfish spouts of emotion, never possibly considering what the other may have been feeling.
My perspective first changed towards my father once I learned that God desires us to view Him as a father. I wasn't sure how to do that, but the intimacy and trust described in this relationship made me desire not only to understand it with God, but also my own father. God really gave me a compassion for my dad at this point, and I felt ready to choose this compassion instead of anger.
Our relationship didnt change right away, but my approach had. I was no longer interested in vindictive arguments that demanding apologies for the past. Instead, I apologized for my part in the disfunction and asked if we could start over. Of course, it wasn't that easy right away.
My dad went through my mom and I moving out, two rounds of alcohol detox and seizures before he said yes to recovery. Watching someone detox from alcohol in their system is wildly different from sobering up, and pretty scary actually. It wasn't until I saw my dad in this withdrawal state that I realized how serious a problem it had been.
After detox, my dad went to a Christian recovery center, where we wouldn't hear from him for the first three months of his stay. Since I had chosen to become Christian, my dad had not shown much interest in the topic, and I wondered how he would do in a Christian facility. I knew my dad, a fairly stubborn and methodical man, but God told me to be faithful.
A week before my birthday, I received the first call from my dad- informing me he not only had remained sober and in recovery, but he had decided to begin a relationship with God, and had even been baptized to symbolize this new life he had begun. This amazingly epic news, the best birthday gift I have ever received, was a chance for a new start with my dad.
That was seven years ago. Today, my dad is someone I can't wait to see, love spending time with, and miss often. Of course we're still human, we bicker and get annoyed with each other on occasion, but I ask myself what I have possibly done to deserve this much healing in my family.
"God has saved us and called us to a holy life- not because of anything we have done, but because of his own purpose and grace." 2 Timothy 1:9
I am so thankful for this reconciliation. To have an amazing relationship with my dad is something I never really thought about or pictured happening. But the only reason I even have it is because of God, who filled in the role of father when my dad didn't. As much as my dad and I work to make time for one another now, we can't take any credit for this new season we enjoy. We both know that the generosity of God is why we have what we have today.
I don't dread Fathers Day anymore, but I know a lot of people who still do. My heart is sensitive to those who feel their situation is painful, undeserved and unfair. I share this story not to grieve those who have experienced estrangement like mine (or worse), but to show that hope and fulfillment in God is possible, no matter what our circumstances.