This post originally first appeared in October 2011 as a guest post for the site, Love of Family and Home.
I call this the third greatest love story of my life. Why is it the third? Well the first greatest love story of my life is the story of Christ redeeming my soul and saving me from death and separation from God. I did nothing to deserve or merit this forgiveness and love, and this is an unfailing, unconditional love. It’s the single greatest love story of my life. The second greatest love story of my life is the story I share with my husband; from how we met to this very day in our life, we are a living testimony of the goodness and grace of God.
So now we’re here at the third greatest love story of my life. It began when I was 7 years old and I found out my parents were getting divorced. I remember it was the summer before I started 3rd grade and it was the last time I saw my parents in the same room. Tensions ran high and I was so confused; over the next ten years I only saw my father twice, both times overseas, where he had moved after the divorce.
By the 6th year of his absence, I had resolved I would never see him again; I knew nothing of his whereabouts, he was pretty much a stranger to me.
I heard from my dad a few of times through out my college years, during that time he moved half way across the world. I can’t say for sure what prompted him to contact me, but I am sure it must have had something to do with him seeing pictures of me visiting his family during my college years. I think the photos made their way into my father’s hands and he saw my little cousin (who was a spitting image of me in my younger years) standing next to a woman he vaguely recognized (a grown up me) he felt the need to make contact. No matter the reasoning, the phone calls always ended with a promise to talk the next day, but the next day turned into the following day and that turned into years of eagerly waiting by the phone that never rang.
In 1999 I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior, my free bridge to heaven and eternity with God. As I began learning about the Lord and his characteristics, I really struggled with understanding God’s love as unconditional and eternal; without an earthly father as a role model, it was hard for me to see God as the perfect father he is. Eventually, I learned to accept that God would never leave me or forsake me and I also accepted that even if I never did know my earthly father, I was fortunate enough to be chosen to know my heavenly Father.
A few years after I graduated from college I received a phone call one day while I was at work; it was my father. At this point I hadn’t spoken to him in nearly 3 years and I had not seen him in almost ten years; I was shocked by the call. I found myself bombarding him with as many questions as I could think of because all I kept thinking was, “this may be your only chance to know anything about your father, Bianca, so you better ask now, or forever hold your peace.” I asked what I could, and got the answers to satisfy my curiosity.
We ended our phone call that day with no promises of future communications, so when I received another call from him 4 months later, on my birthday, I was surprised to say the least. It was the first birthday I can remember where my dad actually called me on my birthday. It was a very special day, that 26th birthday, one that I’ll never forget.
In October, my dad called again; this was the third time in one year I had talked to him, an incident that had never happened in my life. It was during this conversation that my dad revealed to me he would be in Texas at the end of the year and asked if I would be interested in meeting up with him. He told me he would like to talk in person and that he was willing to answer any questions I had for him, he was basically asking for a chance to start over in our relationship. I was speechless; I always imagined I would be the one tracking him down and demanding answers from him.
Obviously the Lord had different plans for our reconciliation!
I had no idea where to begin with him…what if I agonized over some list of unanswered questions, and then I met him face to face only to realize all my questions are meaningless compared to the chance to be reconciled with him? Or, what if that wouldn’t be the case? What if I was overcome with emotion and I treated him in such a way that he would regret meeting with me in the first place?
I viewed my father as a stranger; and yet I was drawn toward him with such a strong underlying bond. Even though I harbored resentment and fear from his abandonment, I still had a desire to know him. I feel like many things in my life have been directly (and indirectly) affected because of my (lack of a) relationship with my earthly father. As terrified as I was of another disappointment, I couldn’t let this opportunity pass me by; I agreed to meet him.
The weekend finally came and I invited my best friend to make the drive with me to meet my dad. Almost the entire drive I was overcome with fear that he wouldn’t really be there and that I would not actually be meeting my father after all. My friend assured me this was not a fear I should have, but even if it was the case, I should be reminded that no matter what that weekend held in store, God was still in control and he was good. Amen! We pulled in to the parking lot of where we were meeting him and as we neared the door, I noticed a man standing inside peering out. I turned to my friend and told her, “Hey, that looks like it could be my dad.” She chuckled and said it could be anyone.
But it wasn’t just anyone.
It was my dad.
There he was standing just inside the hotel doors peering out looking for me. Waiting anxiously for me to arrive. In fact, I later found out he had been waiting all morning. He was pacing back and forth just waiting for me to arrive. My dad, the one I feared wouldn’t really be there, was in fact there, and he was waiting for me! Instantly he came over and greeted me, hugged me and kissed me on the cheek. It was so surreal to be there with my dad embarking on a new road, a road to rebuilding our broken relationship.
Looking back on that day, it reminds me of the story of the prodigal son, because of the way that we met and the excitement we shared for our reunion, not so much because I had been eating with pigs or squandering my inheritance.
During the weekend my father and I came across some things that were painful to talk about. The main one being my father’s decision to no longer be able to be part of my life after my parents divorced. This was hard to hear – that he actually made this decision, but I think once I understood the full picture of what really went on leading up to the divorce, I was able to see things from his standpoint and it brought some clarity.
For all the difficult moments we waded through, there were also some very sweet ones too. I felt like I found a missing piece of my life in my dad; not that I was lacking anything in Christ, but it was neat to see parts of my personality personified in someone other than myself. My father has a passion for reading, and an inquisitive nature – both of those things are part of who I am, yet my mother and brother do not share those traits with me. Seeing that first hand made me reflect on how much sweeter will this be in heaven when we meet our Maker and see so many of His traits in ourselves; we were made in the image of Him after all!
Before meeting my dad, I struggled with anger and bitterness. I felt like I deserved answers to the questions I’d had about my dad’s disappearance and I wanted justice for the hurt that was in my heart. It didn’t take me long to realize that answers would not ultimately heal me; the only thing that could heal my brokenness was letting go of my anger and forgiving my father.
When the moment presented itself to ask my dad what I wanted, I just looked at him and said, “You know what dad? It doesn’t matter…any of it. It’s in the past and when I consider the chance to rehash the past versus just living in this moment and rebuilding our relationship, I’d much rather us move forward and let the past stay in the past.”
In fact, it’s this very idea that I have this site (Becoming Bianca) on: don’t let your past steal your present. I believe we are called to live one day at a time; I don’t believe in living in the past and I don’t believe in regrets. We are who we are because of the choices we’ve made, good or bad. It was the same with my dad – the past was over; I didn’t need answers, I just needed reconciliation with my dad. When he asked me for forgiveness, and it was then that I finally realized God’s LOVE. After a lifetime of holding on to bitterness and anger, I accepted his apology for never being there and I truly forgave him.
It was the most freeing thing I have ever done in my life.
It has been said that, “To forgive is the highest, most beautiful form of love [because] in return, you will receive untold peace and happiness.” And I can attest that it is completely true. That day I experienced the love of God in such a powerful way, it left a mark on me that will never fade. The strength God gave me to forgive my father was rooted in love so strong, it can overcome death itself. God gave me a glimpse of the greatest love I’ve ever known, the love of Christ.
I don’t think I had ever realized how heavy the chains of bitterness, resentment and anger could be. The Word says in Colossians 3:12-14, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”
I found that forgiving as the Lord forgives means forgiving without any expectations for change, it means unconditional love. I prayed the Lord would go before me and prepare the way for me, and he did that, he also changed my heart to love my dad deeply and to forgive him for everything. Aside from Christ’s love for me, I have never known forgiveness like that. It was a miracle.
The bible also says in 1 Peter 4 that we are to, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.”
I saw firsthand that love does cover a multitude of wrongs, and that it is better to love deeply and serve one another than it is to hold grudges and treat each other harshly. I had the chance to show the love of Christ to my dad, and Christ was my motivation the entire time I was with my dad; to be the best example of Christ that I could be. I never thought I would live the love that Christ shows me… I know I am no where close to attaining perfection this side of heaven, but I do believe God gave me the strength to move forward and to love deeply because he knew it would bring Him the ultimate glory.
I came to terms with the possibility that my weekend with my dad might have been the only one God planned for my life. It was hard at first, but I had peace to trust God for what He had planned. My heart was freed from anger or bitterness, and my father had peace because I forgave him. Graciously God chose to bless me with the gift of a restored relationship with my dad; God freely gave me that. It simply required my obedience and willing heart, and God did the rest.
Today I have a great relationship with my dad, the man who only a few years ago was a stranger in my life is now one of my closest confidants and friends. I’m blessed to say that in October 2010, my father walked me down the aisle in my wedding. That was a sweet moment and it was one I never thought I would have the pleasure of experiencing, but it just goes to show that what is impossible with man is possible with God.
May His love abound in your life as you witness how great, how deep, how wide His love is for YOU.