I’m continuing the father theme today with more of my testimony. I have some video of my testimony (here) on this site but I wanted share from my upcoming book (RETOOLED) a snippet where I go into more details of my journey. It’s from a chapter on kindness. It’s a bit long (I apologize) but I felt it necessary to share it in totality…I hope you won’t mind.
My path to wholeness includes me becoming a dad…at first my strongest desire to be a great father was because I wanted to be different than my dad. Now, years later my desire is fueled by knowing it honors and mirrors my heavenly Father’s heart. Blessings, Jay
“Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” Colossians 3:12
Kindness impacts lives and unfortunately, so does unkindness. I grew up in an abusive home; my father’s cruelty was part of everyday life. He never spoke a kind word and his voice always carried vile threats towards me. His words and name-calling crushed my spirit, for years the verbal abuse continued, it stunted my emotional growth and I grew callous and hard. When I turned twelve, another darker form of abuse started, my dad began sexually assaulting me. It was all I could handle, I felt ashamed, hurt and betrayed. Somehow, I began to think it all had to be my fault. I turned to drinking and drugs, trying to dull the pain and the guilt I held inside.
This sick pattern continued until I was 17 and able physically to stand up to my father. The physical and sexual abuse stopped but not the verbal cruelty. However, because of the damage done, I was through with caring. One day I made a suicide tape recording, left it in my room, grabbed my hunting knife and went alone into the woods. I found a secluded spot where it would be difficult to find me. After getting high on pot, I put the knife to my wrist, paused and wondered if anyone who miss me.
Then out of nowhere I heard a small still voice say “NO”.
Quickly putting the knife down I looked around and found no one there, too shaken to continue, I went home and destroyed the tape.
Several months later, in the same woods, my friends and I were having a beer blast. Having already consumed too much alcohol, I raced one of my friends in a drinking contest. I downed 6 beers in a minute and won. Some victory, I then took two steps and fell flat on my face. My wasted friends, thinking I had passed out, picked me up and on a cot to sleep it off. However, I was awake, although unable to talk or move. Alone in the cabin I started to feel the life leave my body, first the feet, then the knees, the waist and then my chest. When it got to my chest he heard a familiar still voice.
“Is this the way you want it to end?”
I knew I was dying and time was short, I pleaded, “No Father, no.”
Then everything went black. When I awoke the next morning my mind was clear and I felt free. I looked at my still asleep friends, packed up my sleeping bag and went home. It was Sunday and I decided to attend church with my neighbors. The sermon that day was about the prodigal son. Moved to tears, I answered the call and gave my life back to Father God.
Up to this point, my dad dominated my life, and he was an oppressor. His presence occupied my life with cruelty and pain. That oppression left deep wounds that inhibited my growth as a young man. It left me with a spiritual lameness and a desire for death. I needed someone to overthrow that dictatorship and restore freedom; I needed the loving-kindness of Father God. The Heavenly Father forever changed my life. Through His kindness, He healed me and melted my cold stony heart. Unlike my dad, God was understanding, kind, and approachable. For the first time in my life I found the hope and acceptance I longed for. Father God knew I needed a heart transplant and He describes a potent one in the book of Ezekiel.
“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws” Ezekiel 36:26
And one in the Book of Psalms!
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” Psalm 51:10
The Father wants to transform us, not only creating a new heart but a right spirit as well. What is a right spirit? I believe it is humility before God and confidence in God. Renew is the word chadas (khaw-dash) which means to rebuild or repair (dare I say…retool?) Also, the Hebrew word for right is kun (koon), which mean to stand erect or straight. Because we have clean hearts and retooled spirits we can stand up straight and humbly follow His ways. He also creates opportunities and experiences designed to draw us closer to Him. Knowing that Father God does this with kindness changes the way we view those opportunities. It alters the decisions we make, the attitudes we have and the path we choose.
The path to choose for me was forgiveness; I had to forgive my father. To stop being a victim I needed to forgive him, it matter not that he deserved forgiveness or didn’t deserve it. What mattered to God was my freedom and healing. Freedom from the prison of wounds and the poison of abuse took one brave step, the choice to forgive. I didn’t feel like forgiving and didn’t want to forgive but the Father convinced me that was the only way to be free of the pain. When I forgave my dad, the healing of my heart began. I was no longer bound to the vile words spoken to me as a child or the wounds they caused. Forgiveness cleared out the gunk and I could clearly hear what my Heavenly Father thought about me.
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” Jeremiah 29:11
Forgiveness is necessary for freedom; I know it to be true in my life. Forgiveness is true kindness in action.
“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” Matthew 6:14
We become stronger fathers when we receive a heart transplant enabling us to be kind to others. Especially during times of mistreatment, mistakes, and disobedience, brothers that’s when we need it the most. We show the same kindness extended to us by Father God, and that action retools our hearts to beat like His! Because of that retooling, we discover that kindness is not a virtue that’s developed alone. The best expression of kindness is through relationships; that’s where the strength of this fruit grows. For this fruit to spread, it needs fathers fully engaged in the lives of their children, planting seeds of kindness. Cultivating those seeds when we train, when we discipline, when we play, and in every opportunity of family life. If we want our children to be close to us we need to remember that kindness attracts, unkindness repels and always far, faraway.
“I can forgive, but I cannot forget, is only another way of saying, I will not forgive. Forgiveness ought to be like a cancelled note--torn in two, and burned up, so that it never can be shown against one.” - Henry Ward Beecher