Stories are told in every family. One story in my family goes something like this: When I was an infant, my father, so it is told, couldn’t quite connect. That’s how my mother tells it, though I have photos of him holding me which appear to tell a different tale. The true story might be that she had very deep needs and he left for work, came home and didn’t think of the new burden of raising an infant all day. Either way, at one point, so the story goes, my mom told my dad she needed more and if she didn’t get it, she was moving to her mother’s. It is said that he began taking me out to parks and having time with me and he grew to love me.
As a grown up, seeing this legend of my childhood with a bit more distance and perspective, I think this is somewhat normal for lots of men. We really don’t talk about “father instinct” … It’s the mother who has the natural urge to bond. Men have to often grow into this role. We all grow into it, don’t we? Either way, my earliest memories of my dad were that he was fun to be with and loved me a lot. We used to play this game in which I was to play an older version of myself and he was to represent any boy who ever asked me this particular question. He’d say, “Let me look into your beautiful eyes,” to which I was to respond, “not unless you marry me.” Good stuff. I knew my dad meant for me to be protected.
My father did love me and I got a glimpse into what it was to be beloved. If only it were that pure. My father also had a huge temper and was a very controlling, pride-filled man. Unpredictable violence peppered through my childhood between afternoons at the park laughing, learning to work a camera and develop film at his side, riding on his shoulders while we bird watched, going sledding and playing together.
What is beloved when it turns on a dime? What is beloved when you have to walk tightropes and eggshells? What is beloved when there must be something wrong with me to make you do these things? I’ll do better next time. I promise. You’ll love me then. You won’t be angry then. I’ll get it right, I will.
When I got married and my husband would take off his belt to get undressed from work, I would cringe. Having a father who surely loved me and whom I adored who also was the meanest and most harmful person in my life caused a whole lot of confusion, pain and lack of stability in my childhood and my heart.
To make matters more complicated, when I was seven, my father was diagnosed with a genetic kidney disease which ravaged his body for five years. He was prone to anger in much more unpredictable ways and was weak in ways a man of his strength should never be. Our home was upturned as my sister and I had to shuffle to others’ homes for care. The feeling of beloved was long since battered and bruised out of me.
My father died. We moved. My mother remarried a man who made a much better husband than a father. I was a lonely, broken-hearted girl longing for the call of beloved. I sought approval because I didn’t feel lovable. I looked for acceptance instead of feeling the truth of my worth. I found poor substitutes and more injury to the festering wounds. I became a prodigal, on the run from God — refusing to be seen for who I was — refusing to be known — refusing love.
For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. ~ Romans 5: 6-8
Into this darkness, came the Beloved … seeking after me. He sought me out in the dark places of this world and the dark places in my heart and He went to all the lengths it took to call me beloved. He wooed me into the light. In the first blush of the call I rose up to the potential — could it be, God loves me? Yet, in time, I doubted His love. I was unsure of myself. To be known is to be rejected. To be loved is to be harmed. How do I let Him in and not risk the deepest pain of all?
|Photo courtesy of Wiki Commons|
But, God is patient. He knew. He saw. He waited. God knows the intricate weavings of a heart long broken. He is familiar with suffering and He was going to run down the path to bring me home. He sent people. We can’t often receive Him without others around us who are that much nearer than we are. They reflected His steadfast, non-condemning love into my heart and I began to see glimmers of His love.
How do I say what has been done for me? How can a woman of words find the words to share this transforming, amazing, incredible, safe, good, great Lover of my soul? I am the beloved. He loves me well. He loves all as He loves me. He loves us despite our failings — for He knows our frame and is mindful we are but dust. He loves us through our difficulties — for He tells us that His yoke is easy and His burden is light and we can cast our cares on Him. He loves us as a mother loves her children. He loves us as a lover loves His bride. He loves with a jealous, passionate, patient, gentle, fierce, unending, redeeming love.
Bless the Lord, Oh my soul!
Who pardons all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases; Who redeems your life from the pit,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion ~ Psalm 103: 3-4
Dallas Willard, when he was passing from this temporary life to his eternal place with Jesus, saw the cloud of witnesses. He, who had written books on life in God and discipleship – He, who had spent his life pursuing God and sharing that pursuit with others – He said that he had never fathomed that much love. That love is for you and that love is for me. Abide in His love for you, His beloved.
Sharing this post on Faith Jam with Bonnie Gray — Her prompt this week was “Beloved” … At Faith Jam a bunch of courageous writers gather once a week and post on the prompt Bonnie has given us to ponder. Join us here if you like.