beauty for ashes

     On September 1st, 2013, my dad committed suicide. He put a gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger, ending his life. We were devastated, but while his death came as a horrifying shock, I felt as if I had lost him long before that. I guess you could say I never really had a father. 

      I was the youngest of three, with two older brothers. My mom was a loving, devoted, Christian woman. She made sure we made it to church, and she always tried to instill in us a faith in God… 

     My dad on the other hand, was haunted by scars that often filled our house with chaos. I spent so many nights, during his drunken rampages, huddled in the corner of my room, in the dark, in tears. My dad struggled with alcohol and anger issues for most of his life. One minute he was nice, the next he could become my worst nightmare. 

     I never felt wanted by my Father. I’ll never forget the day he told me face to face, in a drunken stupor, that he wished I’d never been born. 

     Not all of my memories were like that. We did share some good times together when my dad was thinking straight, but his continual brokenness left me with enough emotional baggage to make me struggle in my relationship with God.

     People would tell me that “God was my Heavenly Father.” Well that didn’t mean much to me, because my view of fathers was that they were abusers. They were hypocrites. They would tell you they loved you one moment, and stab you in the back the next. Fathers weren’t to be trusted. I started thinking that same way about God. I wondered if He really was a loving father, then how could He let all this happen? 

     Finally I came to the point where I was dead honest with God. I admitted all my anger, and doubt, and hurt, and bitterness, and self-loathing… and in my ugly, honest, desperate appeal, He came to me. He met me in the middle of my mess and He held me.

     It was then that I decided to give faith another chance. I found that in God’s Word it says God is good. It says everything good comes from Him, and there is no darkness—no evil—in Him. It also says in the Bible that we have an enemy whose name is Satan. This enemy prowls around looking for someone to hurt, to sabotage, to deceive. 

     By reading God’s truth, and seeking advice from my spiritual mentors, I came to a conclusion: I saw that there are three things that can cause pain and suffering in our lives. One cause is ourselves. Sometimes we do things we know are wrong. We walk into situations we know aren’t good. We give into addictions. We indulge in self-harm. We make self-destructive choices, and those choices bring consequences that can cause us pain. 

     Another cause for pain and suffering is other people and the bad things they do to us. God gave us all free will, and sometimes we use that free will to hurt ourselves and others. Sometimes the people in our lives use their free will to make bad decisions that hurt us. They abuse us. They take advantage of us, and they can make our lives feel like a place of utter misery.

     The third cause is that enemy I mentioned earlier. He’s constantly trying to do whatever he can to hurt us, discourage us, and knock us to the ground. 

     While it was good to realize that at least God Himself hadn’t been the one thinking up all these ways to hurt me, it still didn’t answer all my questions… Because you see, there was still a problem. Yeah, maybe those bad things that happened to me weren’t God’s idea, but He still let them happen. Wasn’t that just as bad? 

      So my view of God shifted from an abusive father, to a passive father. Obviously He didn’t care enough to step in and save me when I needed Him to. Once again, I asked God to explain Himself, because either He wasn’t as powerful as He told me He was, or He didn’t love me as much as He said He did.

     How could God possibly justify allowing all that had happened to happen? … There’s no easy answer to this question… all I can tell you is the answer that helped me. I tried to see if there was any good that had come—or that ever could come—from my heartache. Little by little, God began to show me things.

      If I hadn’t had the past that I did, then I wouldn’t have a heart for the broken. I wouldn’t have a passion to reach out and help people; specifically if they’ve been hurt, or broken, or had to suffer in silence like I did.

     Through my past, I’ve found a greater purpose. God’s taken the bad things that people have done to me, and turned them around. What made me weak has made me strong. What made me powerless has given me the power to help others, and what made me suffer in silence, has given me the opportunity to impact the world for good.

     The next big step in my healing process was one I never thought was possible: Forgiving my dad. You know there’s a saying that goes something like “Refusing to forgive someone is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” My anger and bitterness wasn’t destroying my enemy, it was destroying me. Although no part of me wanted to forgive my dad at first, the affects the poison—all my bitterness and anger—were having on my life made me desperate enough to change. 

     I began to see my dad for what he really was: a broken man, sorely in need of the love and acceptance of Jesus Christ. This didn’t excuse all the things he did, but it did help me begin to see him with compassion, and that compassion began eating away at the bitterness.

     For a while things got better. I started to think I was done with my emotional mess. I began acting out in forgiveness toward my father. I stopped joining arguments that he would try to start. I started trying to show him love in little ways, like asking him how his day was, or giving him a compliment. 

     Little by little, my dad began to change. In fact, he made real progress. He stopped drinking. He got angry less. He started talking more openly about God. He even started showing more interest in me as his daughter. We still didn’t have a “relationship” perse, but for the first time, it was starting to become a possibility…

      But a couple months later—with no warning, my dad killed himself. He abandoned my mother, brothers, and I, and hurled us into a world of hurt and uncertainty.

     I felt betrayed. I felt as if my dad’s suicide showed yet again, once and for all, that I wasn’t enough. I wasn’t enough for him to stay. He didn’t care enough about me to stick around. My heart filled once again with anger, and hurt, and bitterness. I lost the majority of progress that I’d made. I began slipping back into depression.

     Once again I felt worthless. I felt marked. I felt like damaged goods. Worst of all, I felt like I had no hope. Like my life would always be like this. Like I would always be broken… 

     I spent the entire year after my dad’s death trying to make sense of what had happened; trying to recover the ground I’d lost. I had to forgive my dad all over again. This time it had to be totally one sided. I knew he could never offer anything in return. I had to show him the same love that God had shown me. 

     Even though I managed to forgive my dad again, I was still in a depression. I still struggled with shame, and worthlessness, and self-loathing. 

     Then I went to a Christian conference called Faithwalkers. There I heard one of the speakers give a talk about shame, and I heard God say three words to me. They were so loud in my mind it felt like He was right there next to me.

     He said “…It wasn’t you.” Those words kept repeating in my mind. God told me I wasn’t a mistake. I wasn’t worthless. I wasn’t the reason for my dad’s depression, or his anger… or his death. 

     He told me I wasn’t a “curse” on my dad’s life. I wasn’t the one who stopped him from doing what he wanted to do. He told me I was a blessing. He said that me, my brothers and my mom—we were my dad’s second chance. Sometimes my dad saw it, and sometimes he didn’t. 

     God set me free from guilt I’d been holding in for all those years. He told me He loved me, and that my shame no longer defined me.


A Decision

     I agonized for months about whether or not to share my story. There are so many things that could go wrong. Most of all, I don’t want people to get the idea that I hated my father. It’s not my intention to make him the “villain” of my story or to shame him in any way. 

     Life with my father wasn’t always bad. Underneath the painful memories are some good ones. There were times my dad chose to follow God and walk in His ways and good came because of it. 

     I do not see my father as a monster. I see him as a broken man. One who had beautiful dreams and passions, but was too crippled by his scars to carry them out. My dad was a restless soul. He wanted to do something big, to be something great. It breaks my heart to think he missed out on all the greatness God had planned for him. 

     I wish my dad had let God heal his wounds. God had something so much better in store for him, but my dad could never fully surrender his brokenness and allow God to heal his soul. 

     My dad knew the Gospel message. It’s my belief that he’d accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior and therefore resides in heaven. I believe if my dad were able to talk to me now he would tell me to share this story. He would want to tell others not to make the same choice he did. 

     My dad now knows what it feels like to be unbroken. His eyes have been opened and he has experienced the fullness of God’s love and acceptance. I believe he would want others to know that they too can be unbroken, and can experience God’s love and acceptance here on earth. He would urge them to trust God and walk in His ways. He would tell them to treasure the time they have on earth, and actively seek to become a part of God’s grand mission to reach the world with His love. 

     All of us have or will be broken in some way or another. No one makes it through life completely unscathed. At some point we all have to decide what to do with our brokenness. Will we keep it to ourselves? Will we try to handle it on our own until we are so overwhelmed that we find ourselves trapped in a prison of depression, fear, bitterness, and self-loathing? 

     Or will we give our brokenness to God? Will we surrender our hurting hearts to Him? Will we take Him at His word, believe in His promises, and allow Him to restore us and bring beauty from our ashes?

Eagle Creek Community Church

5943 Lafayette Road

Indianapolis, IN 46254