This is a short story that has been on my heart for a while now, so I finally sat down and wrote it out while in the Prayer Room today. A little disclaimer... While I can relate to the woman in this story in many ways, it is not about me. The feelings, emotions, and actions portrayed in this story are pulled from many, many women I have had the privilege to talk and pray with throughout my life.
There was a little girl who didn’t know if her father knew her name. She would often lie in her bed at night and think about her father and wonder if he even knew where she was. Sometimes she even questioned whether or not she really had a father. At school this little girl would listen to her friends talk about their fathers and as she listened to friends brag about how their fathers were policemen or salesmen, she wondered what her father was like. Was he a good man? Was he someone who went out of his way to help others? Was he taller than the fathers she saw at the school? What did he look like? What did he sound like? What did it feel like to hug him?
One day this little girl grew up. She was now a woman, and sometimes she still spent her nights wondering what her father was like. After growing up without a father, she had come to grips with the fact that her father must not be a very kind man. What kind of father would leave his child to grow up all alone, wondering where he was and what he was like? The fact that she didn’t have a good father, or possibly any father at all, started to hurt her deep on the inside. This woman felt the hurt so deeply that she didn’t know what to do. Sometimes she cried, sometimes she retreated to a faraway place in her mind, and sometimes she physically hurt herself in order to try and escape from the pain that was hidden so deep within her. She wanted to feel anything but the pain that was filling the void she had in her heart.
The woman tried everything she could to escape the pain. She went to church and began teaching Sunday School to little children. The woman believed that Jesus was real and she knew that church people probably had the answer. She thought teaching children would be evidence that she didn’t really hurt anymore. She even walked to the front of the sanctuary one Sunday and let an older gentleman pray for her. Perhaps if a father figure prayed for her, she would be able to get rid of the pain and the questions. But his prayer only stirred up more questions in her heart, and the questions began to turn into bitterness and anger. Why? Why was she alone in her hurt? Why didn’t her father care? Where was he when she needed him most?
Years past and the woman continued to fill the void with everything she could think of. She became an expert at masking the pain. No one knew she hurt on the inside. No one even knew that she had questions. She was the model citizen at work and at church. Everyone loved her and everyone wanted to be her friend. But often after an evening spent with friends, the woman would go home and give herself to something that would cover the pain, even if only temporarily. Sometimes she drank, sometimes she poured her heart into the latest romance novel, and sometimes she just ate a gallon of ice-cream as she watched the latest episode of reality tv.
One particular night after the woman got off work, she was starting to feel the pain and the questions rise up within her. On her way home she passed by a fast food chain, so she decided to pop in and grab a few items off the dollar menu. She didn’t feel like cooking, and a couple of burgers and fries and a coke would probably cover up some of her pain anyway. As she pulled out of the fast food joint, her eyes darted across the street and she noticed a sign posted outside of a church. The sign had been there for years, always with the same message, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! 1 John 3:1” The woman had probably passed this sign hundreds of times on her way to and from work, but this was the first time she actually read it, and when she did, something broke loose within her, and the tears began to flow. Embarrassed, she wiped her tears away and continued her drive home.
Two months later the woman was teaching Sunday School when one of the children asked her a simple question, “Teacher, does your daddy make you happy?” Suddenly the tears that she had forced to stop two months earlier came flooding back. She rushed out of the room and into the nearest restroom where she washed her face and tried to hide the tears. As she looked into the mirror she heard two words, “Let go.” Instantly she knew that God was speaking to her and in that moment she broke. She remembered the Scripture on the sign outside the church and she screamed, “I don’t know YOU like that! I never knew him like that so how can I know YOU like that?!?!”
The woman wasn’t really sure what to expect. She figured it probably wasn’t the greatest idea to yell at God, but she was so tired of so many unanswered questions. All she knew was pain and nothing she tried ever fully took it away. But this time she felt something different inside of her, she felt the pain as it was rising up, and she felt it want to leave. Never before had she let go of that pain. Her excuse would be that she didn’t know how, but the real reason was that she was afraid. She was afraid to let go because she didn’t know what she would find. If she dropped the mask, would there be more hurt?
The woman didn’t really know what to do. She thought about the words, “let go,” for a few minutes longer, and then once again, she dried her tears and walked out of the restroom, intent on ignoring the tumultuous feelings running deep within her. What the woman didn’t know is that while God was telling her to let go, He was not telling Himself to let go. As the woman turned the corner to walk back to the classroom, her eyes still damp from tears, she felt herself bump into someone. Surprised, she looked up, and her eyes immediately connected with the most tender pair or eyes she had ever seen. They were the eyes of the old gentleman who had prayed for her so many years ago. He took one look at her and said, “I have a message for you. I don’t know what this means, but I’m supposed to tell you that your Father loves you. He knows your name and He has always been there for you. He wants you to let go and He knows that even though you don’t fully understand what that means, He does, and so He wants you to surrender whatever is raging inside of you, and just let go of it so that He can hold on to you.”
As the woman walked away, tears once again filled her eyes. This time she knew the tears would not be leaving so quickly. This time she understood that the Father she had been missing since she was a child had always been there, she just couldn’t see Him through the pain caused by another man who had left before she was even born. Now the woman knew that the sign outside the church was meant for her. She was a child who had a Father, and that Father loved her no matter what. But now she had something she needed to do. Instead of heading back to the Sunday School room, the woman went home, where she opened her freezer and threw out the remaining ice-cream, along with the romance novel that lay half read at her bedside. It wasn’t that she was never going to eat ice-cream again, or even indulge in a good book once in awhile. It was that she had finally realized that in order to let go, and allow her heavenly Father to heal the pain she had hidden so deep within, she was going to have to surrender those false comforts, no longer allowing them to mask her pain, but instead, allowing her heavenly Father to hold her close as He took all her pain upon Himself.