When You Carry Your Father's Wounds
Bonnie Gray is the soulful author of Whispers of Rest and Finding Spiritual Whitespace. An inspirational speaker and retreat leader, she has touched thousands of lives through storytelling, visual arts, nature, prayer and meditation. Bonnie’s writing is featured on Relevant Magazine, DaySpring (in)courage, and Christianity Today. She lives in California with her husband and their two sons. Visit Bonnie at www.thebonniegray.com and connect with her @thebonniegray on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.
- 2012 Jul 23
Some of us grow up -- or end up -- soaking up the wounds of those we love. We may have found the inner strength in those moments to carry ourselves through. But, there will come a time to remember. There will come a time to heal.
I was standing in the toy store aisle. Frozen. I didn't know what to do.
It was going to be our last visit together, after my parent's divorce. But, I didn't know it at the time.
I was a little girl. My father wanted to buy me a toy. But, my mother didn't want me to return home with one. I wasn't supposed to take anything from him.
So, I told him I didn't want anything.
I was okay.
But, I wasn't.
It's funny how the most terrible memories of the past can smooth out over the years to simply become a story you tell yourself. It's a familiar scene that unrolls every now and then. What he said. What I said. How the floor of the store shimmered under the gloss of florescent lights. How happy my little sister was, picking toys off the shelf, like she won the lottery.
But, I never realized all the emotions I felt at that moment could be frozen inside me.
I am learning that some of the stories that I've merely viewed as childhood memories are still live events -- behind the steel trap door of my heart.
No, I haven't buried them.
No, I haven't forgotten about them.
I've simply moved past them.
By being strong.
By growing up.
By depending on God -- in the sincerity of my heart -- to move myself further away from the little girl in me.
Who was afraid.
Who didn't know what to do.
But deep inside, that little girl is still there.
Deep where I've never had any need for fear, confusion or neediness, there is a part of me who very much alive: the girl in me who carries my father's wounds.
You can't see that part of me looking on the outside.
I certainly didn't.
The Right Thing
I started remembering -- the look in my father's eyes.
"Daddy can't be with you anymore..." His voice stumbles. His head drops. I notice how straight his hair is parted to the side, as he crouches low.
I start to feel very nervous. It doesn't feel right somehow. Him. So low. So close. Too low. Too close.
"Daddy just... wants... to..." He starts to choke back tears. Swallows hard. Looks straight into my eyes. I see pain. He struggles to finish his sentence. Tries again. "Daddy... just... wants to... buy you a toy."
I can't tell you exactly what was running through my mind. But, I know how I feel right then and there.
Thickness fills my little body from the top of my head down, dropping down through the beating heart in my chest, to the bottom of my feet.
I feel trapped.
I don't know what is the right thing to do anymore. I am afraid.
What should I do? What will happen if I did one thing -- or the other?
Who will happen to him? What will happen to her?
What will happen to me?
As I stood there at the checkout register, with my father pulling out paper bills from the wad of cash he kept in his pocket, I felt frozen again. Fearful for what would happen after my ride home in his olive green Nova with the peeling roof.
I didn't want him to pay for our new toys with his hard-earned cash. But, as he placed the plastic bag of toys into my hands and tried to reassure me, "It's gonna be okay... It's gonna be okay...", I knew it wasn't going to be that way at all.
I am learning that day I took that plastic bag was also the day I began to carry my father's wounds in my heart. These weren't wounds he inflicted on me. They were ones I saw opening up in him. These were wounds I tried to avoid by taking that toy back home with me.
These were wounds I wanted to soak up in me by my doing the right thing.
Things didn't turn out okay that day.
Even though I tried to do the right thing.
As I walked through this memory, with Jesus in the picture now as a grown up, I discovered a heart-altering realization.
I know, Bonnie. Jesus whispers.
I know this wound, Bonnie.
What do you want me to do? I ask Jesus.
You don't have to do anything.
But, what do you want me to do? I ask again.
Stay. Here. With me.
Please. Do s-o-m-e-t-h-i-n-g about this. I'm begging. I'm desperate to do something.
Tell me to do something about this feeling of restless helplessness. I want it to go away.
Let me. Stay here. With you.
"Why can't I just let old wounds die?" I cry out. Because they don't.
Wounds don't die.
But, wounds can healed -- if we make the choice -- to face them with Jesus.
Our tender Jesus is never closer than that very moment our wounds become alive. His love for our private feelings of helplessness and shame never surge deeper -- as He holds us with deep compassion, heart aching and hating every moment of our pain. Jesus hasn't forgotten our wounding. Jesus hasn't stopped loving us since.
Running Into Her
I don't know if this story I'm sharing reads like a foreign tale from a land you've never visited. There's a part of me that feels that I'm the only one. But, if perchance you find yourself like me -- running into that little girl in you who is feeling --
between the right thing to do -- and the reality of an overwhelming difficulty, painful relationship or heartbreaking loss --
I want you to know that I am right alongside you -- treading this water of perplexing circumstances that have placed you in front of your wounded self.
I am reaching out to you today, with a smile and many tears.
To say Jesus is next to you.
He is next to me.
And I want to encourage you.
I once believed the evidence of faith was having hope when the burden of carrying pain crushes our souls. But, I'm discovering faith is equally flowing -- maybe even more so -- when we can fall into the arms of Jesus when we do feel hopeless -- in order to know that the little girl in us can be safe and will be rescued.
For sure, this is path of faith and healing is hard and long. Especially for someone like me who has been so good at being adequate or at least, having plans in place to avoid otherwise.
Free to Remember
Is this such a time for you as well? Maybe like me, you find yourself unable to forget. Maybe like me, Jesus doesn't want you to forget. Jesus wants us to be free to remember --
the wounds we have carried,
the wounds we have survived,
the wounds we have kept hidden.
We can be free to remember, so that we can be comforted. And to comfort each other. He wants to say to you and me --
I know what you've carried.
I've loved you completely.
Even back then.
I haven't forgotten.
You can be with me.
Where are you with God on the journey of healing?
Let's whisper prayers for each other as those who can, share below.
Share a bit of your story? click here to comment. I'm truly grateful for your voice here.
By Bonnie Gray, the faithbarista serving up shots of faith for everyday life.
Bonnie Gray is an inspiring Christian writer and blogger, offering encouragement to keep faith fresh in the daily grind. Her writing springs from the belief that the beauty of faith often takes place when life goes off script. Bonnie is the Founder of faithbarista.com and featured writer for Hallmark subsidiary DaySpring's (in)courage. Bonnie is currently working on her debut book, due to release in 2013 by Revell Books. Bonnie is a native Californian living in the heart of Silicon Valley with her best friend Hubby, wrangling their two heaven-sent boys on the homestead.
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Photo credit: geordieallenman via photobucket.com. when-you-need-to-feel-the-pain