It’s 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.
This is a repost, inspired by Emily P. Freeman’s book, Grace for the Good Girl, Chapter 16 entitled Safe Even in Failure.
Counting gifts with Ann and thankful for cool weather, a saved hard drive, candlelight, time to garden, the color and texture of Fall spread around the house, my husbands sermon, a day for all of us in Charleston, time with a book on my back porch, candy corn and cozy blankets.
Also linking with friends Michelle and Laura.
This is #15 in the series 31 Days of Letting Go. You can read the collective here. If you are a writer, I invite you to link up any post you’ve written on the theme of letting go in the comments here on Friday. Subscribe to receive the series in your inbox or feed by adding your address in the side bar under Follow Redemptions Beauty.
Wow, Shelly…….this is so very real, and touching, and I can feel your pain and even your Dads pain too . I had to comment right after I read it, but right now I just want to read it again 🙂
Thanks Lori, its a hard thing to write about as you probably know.
I’m reading the same book right now and I have to take it in pieces because, well, it’s hard work to carve a heart that has been hardened in some places. I could visualize your journey with your dad and it gives me pause as I continue to struggle with my own unfulfilled expectations. To know that Jesus stands in the gap, well, that is amazing.
It’s been years of walking this road to come to peace about it Jen, like it does with many things in life. Glad your reading it. I enjoyed the book club Emily did with it a few months ago, its when I wrote this post originally.
Oh Shelly.Letting go of expectations of how things are “supposed” to be. And accepting how things are. Hard. So hard. It’s a wonder to me how our brains receive what may or may not be true–and why some parts of me are what they are. And I wonder how my words have been translated in my own children’s heads.
But Jesus bridges that gap, and alleluia for that!
Yes, think this has been something I’ve grappled with in regard to my parents my entire life. It doesn’t change just because you get older, you just learn how to accept it. And I wonder that too, how my words and actions will translate as my children become adults. If I think about that too much, it makes me crazy. That is why I’m so thankful Jesus stands in the gap of my inadequacies.
That is a hard letting go … wow.
I was teary eyed while reading because I just wrote about my dad…and the pain that is still somehow lingering for his leaving beyond the sunset…
May God give you comfort in your sorrow Kulasa. Praying for Him to heal the places that are open sores of the soul.
Oh your last paragraph…and Amen…it is Jesus. Yeah for a saved hard drive…blessings to you friend~
Oh how I hate divorce and the devastation I have seen it wreak in so many lives (my brother’s now). I’m so sorry for what could have been, Shelly. How sad for both you and your father. And there is that difficult tension between what he said and meant and what you felt. I’m glad you are in each other’s lives now and pray that God will provide *years* of goodness now to make up for years locusts devoured. It’s still possible.
All things are possible with God aren’t they?
So, so true. Beautifully said.
Such a poignant post, Shelly. Thinking it over and finding points to relate with in my own life…
Oh Shelly…You have so put into words what I have struggled with off and on for years! As you know from previous comments I’ve made, my journey with my Dad, and the loss of my mother because of the traumatic separation when she was a mere 44 years of age…well, those things just never leave me. My Dad and I have had such an up-and-down relationship for so long, that I’ve often wanted to just give up trying. There was a bit of a ‘breakthrough’ on his 80th Birthday, but since then, things have returned to what they’ve so often been. When you wrote, “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.”….well, this is FINALLY what I’ve realized I HAVE to do. Just let go of the expectation that things are ever going to change, because they’re not! It is what it is. How thankful I am to know Jesus…He is my Brother…and God is my Father…and their love is perfect. Still, the yearning for Daddy’s love. Your writing expressed that hollow in the heart perfectly. I so relate to your heart.
There are empty holes of the soul in all of us Jillie and they look different for each of us. It’s why I look forward to heaven some day where they will be filled to overflowing, never empty again. We can grieve for what should be but what is not, and know that God fills the empty places even now. I’m glad you’ve let go of the expectations.
This letting go–it is a big one, isn’t it? And even after opening the fingers, one might be surprised to find them balled tight together again sometimes. Yes, yes. We walk with with Jesus, and He with us. So grateful for the Unchanging One and all the ways His grace makes room for love to look differently for different places.
Yes Laura, you are right. How surprised I find myself balled tight again over what I’ve let go a million times before. But God . . .
This post touched my heart when you first wrote it and it touched me again today. My mother killed herself when I was 2 – I don’t remember her but the message she unintentionally left me with has haunted me all of my life. The message that I am not loveable. This message has been reinforced over the years by some others. It is hard to let go of that kind of thinking. Sometimes it is even hard to believe that God loves me.
Laura, your comment moved me to tears of compassion for you. Oh how he loves you my friend and how the enemy of the soul would like you to doubt that. I would love to pray with you and am available if you need someone to talk to about this. You know how to find me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
powerful – moving – truthful – thank you for sharing – letting go of the right to be loved- I will spend more time pondering this and read it again – thank you. 🙂 hugs for that little girl and the big one who allows herself to let go & let God.
I feel your hug Kelli, thank you for that warm encouragment and affirmation. Appreciate you.
Thank you for sharing your journey to let go.
Although this situation is very different, I was reminded of a multi-year fight I had with my mother-in-law, in which she didn’t talk to us and missed the birth of our second child. Later she said, “It was my first time to be a grandmother. It was the best I could do.” And I realized that she was right. So I said, “It was my first time to be a mom.” Turns out that was a pretty toxic combination.
I understand that Megan. My mother never saw me pregnant, has never met my son. Toxic is a good word.
No, Shelly, I obviously don’t understand at all. Darn it, why didn’t I talk to you more at Laity?
“The disparity between expectation and reality, it’s Jesus.”
I’ve thought and written much about letting go of expectations and trusting those to the Lord, particularly in relationships over the past two years… as one who lives a life filled to overflowing with goodbyes and unfulfilled dreams and wonderings of what if.
That phrase sums my conclusions more eloquently and succinctly than I was able to do.
Richelle, so touched by your comment and I’ll have to visit you and read some of your thoughts on letting go of expectations. Your comment intrigues me. Appreciate your visit.
Letting go… There’s a list before me in which I need to let go. I need HIS help to do so. Thank you for once again putting your heart on display!
I know Stefanie, me too, a long list. That is why I knew I’d have something to write about every day this month. I was actually thinking today that I could’ve done 90 days of letting go.:)
That bit about the car. The purest truth. xx