Its early morning on the island, when the light casts shadow on marsh grass and egrets stand stick footed, frozen in stillness. We walk side-by-side, father and daughter down the causeway before applying suntan lotion on sandy beach towels.
We’ve only done this once before, had this time together alone at the beach and I can tell by the pace he keeps, the smile on his face, there is joy to do this with me. We’ve never settled into being comfortable with this kind of being alone. Circumstances separate us when I am just three years old. How do you get to know your father in just one week over the summer?
I’ve never escaped the grief of what divorce does to a family. Maybe I never will.
As we talk about kids and work, his hobbies, thoughts about retirement, he says he probably should’ve never been a father, that he isn’t very good at it. And maybe for him, that was an apology of sorts for not being there for me in the way he could’ve been if things were different.
But when he said it, what I heard was this: You should have never been born because your presence makes me feel like a failure. And I opened my fist full of rights to be loved by a father that day and let those seeds blow into the wind and scatter on the sticky mud. Because I don’t want to be a reminder of failure to anyone.
There are different types of failures. The first isn’t necessarily the sin-type of failure. Rather, this is when we fail to live up to some expectation we have of the way things ought to be . . . . the thing about this type of failure, whether real or perceived, is that it reminds me of my own limits and takes me to a place of recognizing I can’t make this life work the way I want, no matter how noble or worthy or good my intentions. ~Emily Freeman, Grace for the Good Girl
And being a daughter to a father that says he never should’ve been one, feels like pushing a broken down car on a hot day. It takes effort and time to get to the town of relationship and sometimes you just give up and walk away because the distance seems overwhelming.
That doesn’t mean your heart stops beating love in trying to make it work, you just let go of the expectation that it’s going to be something other than what it is.
It turns out Jesus, he stood there holding the key outstretched in his scarred hand the whole time. He walked on the road that day with my father and I. Stood in the place between my expectations and reality, the wounded, empty place that neither one of us can fill for each other.
The hard shell of entitlement to be loved by a parent, it cracked off me and washed away in the tide that drifted in to fill the empty places full. And just like that water coming in and going out, His love is steady and sure, isn’t limited or shifted by our failures or good intentions as a father and daughter.
The disparity between expectation and reality, it’s Jesus.
Grace for the Good Girl by Emily Freeman inspires this post; Chapter 16 entitled Safe, Even in Failure. I’m giving a copy away before I leave on my vacation because it’s just that good. Leave a comment on the blog and I’ll add your name to the drawing on Friday.