I FINALLY KNEW MY REAL DAD
By: Ginny Luedeman
December 16, 2002
When Dad was sober, he was wonderful--bright, full of
great ideas. He made us all smile and laugh. But when he drank, life
with him was hell. He was physically and emotionally abusive. He
couldn’t hold a job, so we moved almost every year. And a lot of
the time, we lived off the charity of others.
For much of my childhood, my dad had a drinking problem. He was a World War II veteran, carrying the weight of horrendous wartime memories. Later, when he lost a brother in a car accident, his pain was more than he could bear. Dad had grown up in an era when real men didn’t cry. So he tried to dull his pain by drinking. Mother always told us that Dad was ill. Somehow that made it easier to forgive him.
The oldest of three children, I was close to and defensive of my mother, a sweet and faithful woman, with a loving heart. She understood Dad’s suffering and desperately wanted to stay married. Because she loved him and hoped he could overcome his drinking, she stayed with him for more than 17 years. But as time went on, Dad’s pain increased because of the guilt he felt for mistreating and neglecting his family.
One night, when I was 15, Dad left in the middle of the night. I was devastated. I was glad the abuse was gone, but I still felt abandoned. And I missed him terribly.
Over the next few years, my life took a lot of twists and turns. The loss and pain of my relationship with my dad haunted me. In an unconscious attempt to find answers to my silent suffering, I often made foolish choices in areas such as relationships.
Eventually, I did find some answers to my problems. When I was 19, I found the first book I had ever read where the ideas shone brighter than the words. It lit up my thinking as I read it, and brought to light an understanding of what Jesus said and what he did. Most important to me, this book, Science and Health, explained what the Lord’s Prayer meant spiritually, especially the part I most needed to understand-- “Our Father.” The line of the prayer “Our Father which art in heaven” is interpreted, “Our Father-Mother God, all-harmonious” (p. 16).
From time to time, I suffered periods of depression when I thought about Dad and my childhood. I often wondered where he was. But as I continued to read Science and Health and study the Bible, these times grew less frequent and intense because I was beginning to learn about our loving Father, who would never hurt His child. For several years I thought about what a Father who was Love would be like. How would a Father who is Love treat His son or daughter? Thinking this way seemed a lot like wishing and imagining--but it really felt good to think about perfect fatherhood, so I continued praying and studying the word Father.
One afternoon, when I was a young wife with an infant daughter, I was sitting alone in the living room praying, asking God to help me understand more about the fatherhood of God. I was beginning to feel really loved, when suddenly the thought of an alcoholic dad danced across my mind. Just then, an “alcoholic dad” seemed like a lifeless puppet--a mockery of the love I had been feeling from God. It just didn’t fit. I saw that “the drunken dad with the ugly past” was not my dad at all, but was like a story about fatherhood. The truest kind of fatherhood anyone could ever have would be what “the best dad in the world” would have--a nature like God has. No human owns this kind of fatherhood--it comes directly from God. God’s Fatherhood is a caring, powerful, and tender presence that is always here for each of us.
My dad had been so focused on loss and death that he couldn’t see what was really already his. He had been blinded to what was there all along. But I know that what he didn’t see then couldn’t blind me now. I had a God-given right to see what he hadn’t seen…and to forgive him. He was simply a victim. And now I felt I could quit being a victim of the ugly history he had been caught up in.
As soon as I stopped thinking that I was anything other than the spiritual creation loved by the one Father-God, my pain stopped. I knew I had always been safe. Dad’s abusive behavior could never touch the real me. Or, him either. None of the ugliness had ever been part of God’s view of either one of us. Neither of us had ever been at fault. An inaccurate view of God’s creation was the culprit, and the true light of fatherhood was destroying it. In the beautiful light of this true fatherhood, I simply could no longer believe in an abusive, alcoholic dad.
I just let go of the ugly image of my dad, and it no longer was. At that point, all I can say is, Heaven surrounded me. The arms I had so longed for, I now felt holding me and keeping me safe. Pure fatherhood was loving me with all the love I could ever hope for. “Our Father” had always been there loving me. I wept like a baby. And God just held me tight.
For many years, my dad and I had been completely out of touch. But one afternoon he found my phone number and called me. He said an amazing thing had happened to him, and he wondered if I had something to do with it.
He had been lying by the side of a river after a drinking binge. When he woke up, the thought hit him hard that he never wanted another drink. He reached in his pocket and found a dime for a phone call. This in itself amazed him because he had no money and no idea where that dime had come from. He went to a pay phone and called Alcoholics Anonymous. They came and got him. At that point, my dad told me, he lost all desire to drink.
As he recited this story, I was overwhelmed with awe. He sounded so clear and beautiful. I held the phone as I silently asked God, “What happened, Father?” I heard these words: “ ‘I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me’ “ (John 12:32). And I thought, “Ginny, you were lifted up above your belief in an alcoholic father, and that brought the truth to light in your dad.”
As we talked, we discovered that Dad had awakened at the same time I had realized the truth about God’s fatherhood. He said he wasn’t surprised--that he felt it had to be something like that. After all of his years of suffering and loss, he knew only God could have brought about such a quick and complete change.
After that, for the 22 years before my dad passed on, we spoke on the phone often. Once, after about 20 years, I asked him if he had ever had another drink. He said he never had--that he had permanently lost all desire to drink. He continued with Alcoholics Anonymous, devoting his life to helping recovering alcoholics. Dad and I often talked about forgiveness. The pain and ugliness of our past completely dissolved in our new-found love and respect for one another.
My mother’s second husband is a wonderful man. He even adopted me--a married woman with two children. He is a great dad, husband, and grandfather. Understanding God’s fatherhood took me into a fuller life, with lots of loving father figures in it.
Getting a better concept of God as our Father brings about clearer views of the good He has given us and thereby changed our lives for the better. No one is too lost or abused for God’s loving care to reach her or him, and the change what needs changing. It’s IK to make big demands on our Father. He’s there to be a Father to each of us.
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