When he was four, my oldest child leaned over to his preschool Bible teacher and whispered, “Jesus never un-loves us.” This wisdom imparted to me from my own son continues to sing over me six years later.
Sadly, the earliest words I heard were confusing and hurtful:
“I love you.”
“I hate you.”
“Come here, sweet pea.”
Although my mom used words to pray, my father often used words in a painful way.
As a small child, I learned my father’s story. He grew up in an abusive home. His mom died in childbirth and his siblings blamed her death on him. He suffered from epilepsy—chronic seizures—into adulthood. He also carried with him the diagnosis of bi-polar.
In his marriage, Dad’s suicidal thoughts and actions were frequent. My brother and I spent many nights in the homes of church members while my mom spent the night with my dad in the hospital.
One night, as a young teen, I found myself home alone with him. We’d argued most of the day. As I folded laundry, he twisted Matthew 5:41 in my ear about going the extra mile. “Isn’t that what the pastor said? Go the extra mile. Come on, Patty!” Exhausted, I escaped to my room. As I lay in my bed, he screamed at me through the door. Then, on the other side of the wall, I heard the medicine cabinet doors rattling and pills spilling onto the floor.
“If I die tonight it’s your fault!” he shouted.
He did not die, but I slept with starts and stops and tears and gasps. He lived while I died inside—unsure of why my story felt so wrong.
At the age of fourteen, my story shifted. I found Jesus, and although my circumstances did not change, the words I listened to no longer came from my father.
Jeremiah 31:3 assured me of God’s everlasting love.
1 John 3:1 told me I had been lavished with my heavenly Father’s love.
Hebrews 13:5 promised me God would never leave me or forsake me.
Years later, I occasionally visited home on weekends during college. One weekend, as I buzzed with the excitement of all my new experiences, I took a chance and shared with my dad the highlights of my classes and stories of friends I’d made.
While pouring my heart out, I looked up to see the familiar glazed eyes and empty stare. My words fell flat. My father had nothing to give, no ears to even listen.
I felt hollow.
But the Holy Spirit whispered to my heart, “I will never leave you or forsake you.”
My earthly father let me down. However, God, my heavenly Father, made his presence and attention known.
Decades later, my husband and three children teach me daily about the love of Christ. Though I grew up in a volatile home, unsure of the love my father had for me, the love my heavenly Father demonstrates for me at all times is certain.
My son understood at age four. Jesus never un-loves me.
“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” 1 John 3:1