A family incident, when my children were young and when my husband and I were visiting my father, has become representative for me of my relationship with my father . . . and grace.
At one of our meals, a cherry pit hit my stepmom and my father immediately blamed our children. He wouldn’t let it go even though their ten cherries and corresponding pits were accounted for.
This is the same man who once told me, “Your mother and I didn’t plan to have children” and never followed that up with, “but we’re so glad we had you and your sister.”
Childhood moments with my father, especially mealtimes, meant enduring harsh, impatient words and responding with tears and stomach aches. Expectations, control, no sense of the child as a person. No grace.
My initial response was to hide, to be quiet, to go under the grid. If I did everything I could to stay out of his line of sight, I could survive—not that I was aware as a child that was my tactic. But this became a pattern in my life in other contexts and relationships.
Later when I realized that, I began to find my presence and my voice again, and to help others do the same. I’ve worked alongside my husband for most of our married life at a residential ministry for at-risk youth. I’ve written the stories of those who didn’t have a voice, and I am partnering in a project with an organization that is making inroads into halting the sex trafficking industry, primarily in the Sacramento area.
I loved my father, and I don’t allow the difficult memories to cloak my life in regret or unforgiveness. By the end of his life I believe he gained awareness of his impact and softened. What I didn’t realize, until recently, is how much of who I’ve become and God’s transformative work within me has been tied into those early days with my father. How when I thought I was hiding or giving up, I was learning to fight. For me, for others, for a voice. For grace.
Yes, grace. And courage and purpose and fullness of life.
After all, cherry pits are seeds.