Breakfast time….oj, cup of hot tea, Chex (gluten free) and a Bible. What, O Lord, do you have for me today? The Scriptures fall open to 2 Corinthians 7:10 (don’t always study the Word this way, but on this day it seemed appropriate), “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” Hmmmmm, what could this mean? Having worked through much false guilt and negative patterns from the past, God has taught me to use this scripture as a filter. What brought His life to me and what brought death to my spirit was the question I would ask as I wrestled with many conflicting messages. Was this a reminder of God’s grace and mercy in previous struggles or was there something else He wanted to reveal?
The Message paraphrase uses these words for the same verse: “Distress that drives us to God does that. It turns us around. It gets us back in the way of salvation. We never regret that kind of pain. But those who let distress drive them away from God are full of regrets, end up on a deathbed of regrets.” Did this have something to do with my father and the regrets he must have had? Unconsciously following a rut ingrained in my mind, I began to imagine…how he must have been tortured…he was so weak, lacking courage to confess to the festering sores within so he could be forgiven and freed… Then I saw a light in my mind’s eye as though a window had opened in the high wall of a castle dungeon. You don’t know he was full of regret, the thought came. This is only your conjecture; he never told you he was sorry. Mentally I paused, weighing this, looking at it from different angles. Even though I don’t remember, my sister had told me he used to sit and weep at his desk after my mom returned from the mental hospital. I assumed he was weeping from sorrow, but since he never spoke of it, I cannot know for sure. Realization dawned. I had been building up a defense for him, painting a picture of who I wanted him to be. In my need for a loving father, I found myself trying to excuse his lack of confession, excuse his behavior, even excuse his sexual abuse. He was an only child, suppressed and damaged by a domineering mother; his reputation was at stake, so he couldn’t reveal his darkness (isn’t that understandable?); perhaps there was abuse in his past or family history, and he was acting on damaging patterns within; he was without a wife for six years and had unfulfilled sexual desires, so he molested his baby girl. Metal wheels screeched loudly against iron tracks as my train of thought abruptly ground to a halt. Shocked, I realized what had just crossed my mind. As much as it grieved me and as much as my spirit rebelled, I needed to accept reality that he had allowed perversion to warp his soul. Even after his death, I had been attempting to rescue him from the dark morass he had made his home. Slogging through mire on the floor of his prison tower, desperately trying to straighten his huddled form, I remained in the pit with him. Wanting to lift him up, wanting him to be who he was not, I had placed myself in his darkness. Sadly, it was time for me to leave him there, leave him to his deathbed regrets; it was time to choose to climb the ladder leading up and out. Pausing on a rung, my heart filled with sorrow, I looked back. How could I let him suffer? Even though my Father in heaven deeply grieved over my earthly father, He reminded me that my dad chose the place in which he lived. The ladder of truth and forgiveness had been there for him, also. With resolve, I turned my face toward the warm brightness and continued to climb.
Letting go of impossible dreams and yearnings is part of the path on which I am walking. Although it has been painful over the years to realize my parents will never be who I wanted them to be in spite of my internal manipulations, denials and magical thinking, releasing those desires has enabled me to receive more of my God and the freedom He has for me. In spite of life’s journey taking me places I would have preferred not to have gone, I know without a doubt, because I have experienced it, that my God is faithful and that He is the only one who is able to work all things for my good (Romans 8:28), even those difficult things which I do not understand.
“Then you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” John 8:32