I woke up this morning humming Israel Houghton’s version of “Moving Forward.” It took me about 10 minutes to remember the words. I sang to my dog and moved at a glacial pace getting ready for church. I usually have some pep in my step on Sundays. However, I wasn’t too excited to hear the Father’s Day sermon the Apostle had planned. Would it be good? Of course, but I didn’t think it applied to me.
See, my parents got divorced when I was twelve. I was seemingly the only one angry at that fact. My brother was too young to know what it was like having two parents, and my sister was old enough to not care. I got the short end of the stick. Throughout that whole ordeal there was a lot of manipulation and bad mouthing happening from both sides. No one ever sat us down to explain anything. As much as I hated that fact then, there was still no reason to be bitter thirteen years later.
Unbeknown to my Dad, I’ve been neutral for years now. He existed as a representation of all the hurt, chaos, and unnecessary detours I’ve endured because of who I thought he was. That’s the image I fed myself until I met Papa. Eventually, the hurt, along with many other betrayals, were pruned away. I knew I was resolved about everything that happened, so there was no reason to reach out. We were just two strangers who happened to be related, moving about in the world with no connection and no relationship. I didn’t see a need to reach out until today.
In the service, the Apostle talked about honor. Everyone needs it, but he preached about how fathers and husbands need to be honored regardless of all the faults we know about them. I heard what he was saying. It was all so simple really. Honor produces change. When you honor someone, you say, “Regardless of the faults you have or the circumstances we’ve found ourselves in, I still am grateful for you.” For years I grappled with honoring my father and mother. How could I honor my father after what he did? Yet, there the Apostle was making the road to restoration visible through Christ.
The Apostle didn’t say it, and he didn’t even allude to it, but honor cannot exist without forgiveness. Before today I journeyed through my day ignoring the tug on my heart, yet out loud I’d say, “Oh yeah, I forgave my Dad.” That’s been a lie. Forgiveness is a lot like repentance. You can’t just say you’re sorry. You have to turn away from your behavior, so you don’t make the same mistake twice. Forgiveness isn’t just saying you forgive someone. It’s about extending love even if that love cannot be returned. It’s about admitting what happened and that it can’t be reversed, but you’re willing to let it go. With either one you can’t simply make a declaration, you have to also take a Jesus step in your behavior. I took that step today.
After church I texted my Dad two sentences: “Happy Father’s Day. I know you did the best you could. – Aisha” I’m a long winded person, so I thought I’d have more to say. I didn’t. I meant those two sentences wholeheartedly because that’s what I’d been feeling for months. I took a nap after I sent it. I refused to let my mind wander about all the responses I could receive. I woke up to gratitude and a phone call. He told me that out of all the Father’s Days he’s had, today was the best. I invited him over to my house, my brother came over too, and we all talked. It was familiar. We hadn’t been in the same room for six years.
I don’t have to agree with everything that my Dad does or says, but I do have to honor him and respect him. Did he do some things I don’t agree with? Absolutely. But, did they make me a better person? Yes. I took what I needed from our conversation. I put some things on the shelf for a later date. The things I didn’t understand I made a mental note to ask Papa about. I left the rest.
I longed for a relationship with my Dad, but I ignored it. That branch had died never to be replaced. That relationship was one I had learned to live without. It’s hard, though, having something one day and the next living in a completely different world. I couldn’t be like my brother. I knew what it was like, and I missed it. I missed him. I always made sure to only tell Papa sometimes. I didn’t want to give that desire fully to Him because I thought that would be it. It would die with Him. It didn’t. He is the Resurrection and the Life.
I believe someday I can look forward to, Ephesians 6: 1-3: “1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2“Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— 3 “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” So that it may go well with me…
I have no clue what’s going to happen from here on out, but I think it’s already going pretty well.
Truly, in Him, all things are made new.