The above picture was taken six years ago – the day I met my father for the first time in 33 years. I was three when he left. Throughout the years, we connected via email with my brother’s help, and my dad would send birthday and Christmas cards, but that’s as personal as it got. So you can imagine my shock when I received an email telling me he was coming to see us. What? Why? I was confused.
How Should I Be Feeling?
He gave me about two weeks to mentally and emotionally prepare for his arrival, but it didn’t actually hit me until two days before. How am I supposed to react when I see him? Should it be this big dramatic tear-filled reunion? What if I don’t or can’t cry? What is he expecting from me?
I am not three anymore and the only thoughts and memories of him were born from not-so-nice conversations with my mom about how he was a drunk, abuser, unfaithful and abandoned us. So, I’m supposed to be mad right? Wow, I was a hot mess before his arrival.
I ended up opening my heart to my pastor about the confusion I was feeling. My dad couldn’t seriously expect me to run into his arms like a three-year-old. Yet, it would really stink if he came all the way down from Puerto Rico to be kicked by his first-born daughter. My pastor put it so simply for me, which he always does: “Give to your father what God has given to you, no more, no less.” Woah! So simple, yet so profound. But wait! I needed more than two days to figure this one out.
And the Plane Lands
When my father’s plane landed, I almost embraced the wrong man, because I assumed my dad would be this big, strong, tall gentleman. The creep seemed way too eager to hug me when he saw me coming towards him, and once I realized that was not the look of a father to a daughter, I stopped dead in my tracks leaving the creepy guy very disappointed and puzzled. Right behind creepy guy was a frail, short man with a cane, “Laurita?” What? This fragile-looking man is my dad? I thought, “Oh my gosh, let me carry your bags, no let me carry you, to the car.” He didn’t let me touch his bags – the man’s got pride and boy is he sarcastic! Now I know where I get it.
The next day, my dad spent time getting to know my kids and husband. I sat there in disbelief that I was in front of my father for the first time in 33 years. Why didn’t I feel anger towards him?
Already Time to Leave
The last day of his stay arrived way too quickly, so I decided to take him to my favorite place thinking it would be a treat for him. Well, for a guy who lives and breathes Puerto Rico, a dirty beach and pier from California is anything but a treat, but we got coffee and walked together just the same. He was the one who brought up the divorce and it sounded like he had rehearsed his spiel the entire way over here. He never said one negative word about mom and blamed himself for everything. I couldn’t allow him to bash himself any longer. I told him, “Dad, I’m not angry at you for leaving me.”
Forgiveness is Fulfilling
The night before, my dad had mentioned that every night he enjoys staring up at the stars and saying a little prayer to “whoever was up there,” (his words). “Dad, when you left me at three years old, the “whoever is up there” God became my Father and did a fine good job raising me and I wouldn’t change anything that happened. Dad, I forgive you for leaving me and I love you.”
He tried to hide the tears, but I could tell he was crying. “Wow, and I was so scared. I was ready for you to let me have it because that is what I deserve!”
“No dad, I forgive you, just as God forgives me when I mess up.” We hugged and let me tell you…it was THE BEST HUG EVER!
I found an important part of myself that day. A stronger, more healed me that just witnessed that with God nothing is impossible if we are willing to do things His way. Chains in my life broke that day, even to the point of looking in the mirror and actually liking the woman I saw. One becomes more beautiful when we let go of resentment, anger and hatred. My dad was expecting to get chewed out and insulted, and he was willing to take it. He told me he thought he was coming down to allow me to get all of my anger out on him. Instead, he received love, forgiveness and grace. Now, we talk all the time and he sends me coffee from Puerto Rico!
I want to encourage anyone who is holding on to anger and resentment to forgive and be healed. The only person you are hurting is yourself. You are not justifying what was done to you, you are freeing yourself to peace and joy. Refusing forgiveness is a prison and I want nothing to do with it. I don’t know anyone who would volunteer to go to prison, so why do we easily choose not to forgive? When there are situations of hurt and abuse that need to be addressed through counseling, take those steps to receive healing and be free to be the person God created you to be.
Have you forgiven someone special? Did you find it liberating?
Her goal is to become the type of woman that when her feet hit the ground every morning, the devil says, "Oh crap, she's up!"Right now, she is the type of woman that says "Oh crap, I have to get up!" One day at a time!
Did I mention I love coffee?Please join me on my caffeinated journey!