I remember when I was six years old. Barely three feet tall, I stood on the edge of the municipal pool. “Jump, Ney Ann!” coaxed my father, arms outstretched. “I’ll catch you!”
The water was over my head, and I was petrified. “No, I can’t do it!” I called out, trembling.
“Yes, you can,” he shouted. “Jump, and I’ll catch you!”
Finally I jumped. But my father wasn’t there. My head went under the water, and I came up sputtering and thrashing. Daddy had moved back in the water, hoping I would swim to him. I began to cry.
“Daddy, you moved! You said you wouldn’t!”
I heard him laughing. “Ney Ann, you know I wouldn’t let anything happen to you. I was just trying to teach you to swim.”
I had trusted my father with everything my little heart could muster, but he had let me down.
As I grew older, I began to realize that some of the deepest hurts we’ll ever know come from those we care most about, and those relationships are often the hardest to heal. By the time I entered college, my bitterness toward my father-who provided many other experiences to fuel my feelings-had become deeply rooted and full grown.
After I joined the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ, I attended a meeting where one of our staff members said something I have never heard before: “If God is love, and 1 Corinthians 13 tells us what love is, then God loves you and me with that same kind of love.” This was totally new to me.
I discovered that God’s love toward me is kind, God’s love toward me is patient, God’s love toward me is not provoked. God’s love toward me does not take into account a wrong suffered, God’s love toward me bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. God’s love toward me will never fail.
As I drove home from the meeting, I thought of my father and how we had been at odds with each other most of my growing-up years. I thought of how little communication we had and how he seemed to be able only to express his love by giving me material things. I didn’t feel his love and wondered if it even existed.
Then I heard the message on God’s love. If God is love, and 1 Corinthians 13 describes God’s love, then it meant that God’s love toward my dad is kind and patient, it is not provoked and does not take into account wrongs suffered. God’s love toward my dad would bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, endure all things. God’s love toward my dad would never fail.
I thought, If God loves my father just the way he is, who am I not to love him also? My love had been conditional, based on his performance. My love had said, “Daddy, I’ll love you if do this and that.” Yet God’s love simply said, “I love you, period.”
For the first time in my life I decided to accept my father just as he was. Two months later I flew home to Louisiana for vacation, still filled with an attitude of love and acceptance for my dad. One day Daddy was in his recliner in front of the TV. Soon he fell asleep. I looked over at him and said in a whisper, “Daddy, I love you and accept you just like you are.”
Over the next few days, a strange thing began to happen. As he felt my acceptance, he began to respond with warmth toward me. God was beginning to restore our relationship. Now I am better able to see his many wonderful qualities. He was dear, funny and thoughtful. My friends loved him and thought he was a wonderful storyteller. Today, whenever I think of him, my heart is filled with love and appreciation.
Recently I was thinking that, in many ways, my father never changed. But I did. And that has made all the difference.
If you have struggled with your relationship with a parent, and would like someone to talk with about it, please don’t hesitate to contact us today.
This articles has been adapted with permission from Ney’s book, Faith Is Not a Feeling.