My Dad Issues...

treesandclouds-1 I remember standing in front of my neighbors house on a cold winter morning in January, waiting for the school bus to arrive. I was in Kindergarten and I remember it being cold because my little fingers were frozen—clutched to my Star Wars lunch box. I vividly remember the cold and gray skies.

As I looked back over to my house I saw my dad's Silver 280Z pull up to the curb. My dad and my uncle Chris were getting out of the car, and they were both holding a couple of empty boxes, not too many because if you know anything about 280Z's they don't hold a lot of boxes. I ran over to my dad and saw the worried look on his face—you see it was just a few weeks before my dad had left us. Left our family to move to some other place, some other town or to the moon for all I knew.

I asked him what he was doing, but I knew what he was doing—he was collecting the last of his remnant, his final belongings that tied him to our house and to our family. He told me in a firm, but gentle voice too get back to the bus stop—that the bus was coming down the road, but I remember I didn't want too! It was a feeling in my stomach—you know the one that makes you want to puke and runaway at the same time.

I didn't want to go back to the bus stop line. I didn't want to go to school.

I didn't want to leave my dad's side. If I left him I wouldn't see him again. At least that's what I believed. I remember him telling me at least three times to get back to the bus stop, each time with a little more desperation in his voice.

Reluctantly, I went back just in time to get on the bus and see the bus drivers disappointed look on his face because I kept him off is schedule again—I was known to make our bus late to school with regularity. As I got to my usual back seat, I remember looking out the back window of the bus and seeing my uncle Chris walk down the steps in his black laced up work boots and wearing his navy blue beanie, carrying a box of my dad's stuff to the car. I thought I was going to puke, but held it in and settled for tears instead.

My dad was courageous, at least to me, and made me feel like I could be courageous—like I could do anything!

But my dad also made me feel like I needed to earn his approval and love. I don't think he meant to, but he did. The feeling that everything had to be earned. The one where you look up from what you are doing to see if your boss is watching you work. Or one where your wife, or your dad gives you that nod of approval.

I remember always feeling like I was looking up to see if my dad was nodding his head with an earned satisfaction as if to say, "This is my son with whom I am well pleased..."

Many of us grow up this way.

In fact society plays off of that—everything needs to be earned. Nothing is for free—approvals, stars, nods, attaboys, identity, friendship, love... I spent most of my life feeling like I had to earn being excepted—being excepted by my parents, teachers, friends, and girlfriends. Nothing was for free, but the problem was I didn't feel like I had anything to give or at least anything of value.

Maybe this was because my dad left us or because some teacher told me I wasn't good enough, I don't know. I know I spent most of my life hiding behind masks—the funny kid mask, the trouble-maker mask, the tough guy, the hard worker, the intelligent one—although that didn't last long.

I didn't want people to know the real me, because I knew the real me wasn't good enough—I couldn't earn their friendship. I wasn't good enough to earn their love.

Have you ever felt like this?

We believe no one will give us something unless they get something in return—conditional love. I believe all of us at times buy into the lie God only loves us when things are going well or if we are living right. We feel like we need to earn grace from God and others? If this wasn't true then I don't believe I would be compelled to remind you.

God's grace is not something you purchase or work towards. It is freely given to you by your Father in heaven. Grace is a gift, and life itself is a gift—I am learning this all too well.

When we see  our life as a gift of God's grace, we truly begin to live—free and to its fullest. There is nothing you can do to earn God's love and you'll never do all the right things—despite all this He loves you regardless.

He loves you just as you are and not as you should be because no one is as they should be. And He loves you more than enough to not leave you there.

And that's the thing about grace—it meets us just where we are at, but it doesn't leave us there.This grace is the same grace that unconditionally loves the church-goer who never misses a Sunday morning church service or the dirt bag who is always lying and scheming—hurting people his way to the top.

This is our Abba in heaven's love for you.

There is a problem though. Many of us have dad issues, mom issues, friendship issues, romance issues, boss issues—which equate to trust issues. All this convolutes our perception of Abba in heaven. I know because I have dad issues—whether it be my own experiences with my earthly dad or experiences with other peoples dads, I sometimes have a twisted view of how much God loves me.

It's so hard believing truth when we've been believing lies for so long.

Jesus said he came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets. If you are feeling empty or unworthy because you practice empty religion—don't worry! Jesus fulfilled those things so you could enjoy the perfect love of our Father in heaven—Abba planned this for you from the very beginning.

This quote from my son says it all:

"Love does not seduce. Love does not deceive. Love does not condemn. Love always loves." —Thomas Puentes

God's love is not seductive. God's love says you are good enough, because God's love always loves. Abba love you for who you are—your true self. You don't need to pretend to be perfect, funny, courageous, a know-it-all, tough guy, or religious.

Grace allows you to be your true-self.

Our Abba in heaven loves you regardless. And His grace is more than enough!

Grace, mercy, and peace, Joe