Today is my father’s birthday. He would be 99 if he were still celebrating birthdays. He lived three quarters of a century, dying two months before his 75th birthday. He is not someone I think of everyday. Or even often. You will understand why, if you have read my book, A Journey from Scared and Scarred to Sacred. You can see it here.
But I have been thinking of him these last few days. I think of the lack of life he lived, especially in his later years. For years after the abuse in our family was known, he lived in darkness… running away, hiding, joyless… consuming pills and drink. Perhaps to find a ray of light in his darkness.
My father never learned the truth that it was possible to “come to light through the darkness”. (Brennan Manning’s words, Reflections of a Ragamuffin). He continued living in the darkness.
(I wrote the following memory years ago. Now I realize this was an evidence of his shuffle into darkness.)
I remember the smoke.
It wrapped everything in the crowded room with gnarled fingers of gray. The thick haze reached its tentacles into every corner of that Indiana truck stop. Around tables, through the booths, circling faces.
This was the usual meal break for my father, either coming or going, day or night, between our home in Illinois and our grandparents in middle Tennessee. The rest of us usually ate peanut butter and banana sandwiches, followed by a gulp of water from the same quart jar. Five children or seven or nine… depending on what year it was, waited in the car with our mother.
But this time my older sister and I had been allowed to go in while our father ate a ham sandwich (can you imagine I can remember what kind of sandwich!) and drank coffee. I must have been about nine years old, and while, at first, I’m sure we thought it would be a fun time, now, I wish I had stayed in the car.
I remember the music.
The dusty jute box moaned sad, bitter music. I am convinced it is that moment, that music… that has evoked a lasting distaste for country music within me.
“Born to lose, I’ve lived my life in vain,” melancholy notes, sung by Hank Snow, shot darts straight to my father’s already sad, insecure heart and soul. He puffed soft, thin circles of smoke in front of his face that lazily rose and joined the heavy gray atmosphere. Those ringlets of smoke always intrigued me as a little girl.
Crushing the cigarette, rising with slumped shoulders, “That’s my theme song,” he muttered—“born to lose.”
Many of us have lived in darkness, caused by the actions of others or simply because we live in a dark world. My father’s actions initiated a darkness in my young life, but one that set me on a journey to find real life and love. As I accepted the darkness, I realized this same blackness, this ugliness… defined my life but set me free. Bo Rinehart, Christian recording artist and a victim of child sexual abuse affirms this same truth:
How beautiful, how illuminating to walk out of the darkness and to know the Light!
This is the amazing, life changing lesson of Easter! The darkness, the hatred, causing the death of Jesus on the Cross brought about the Light on Easter morning! We could not have the Light without the darkness!
And so, we each have opportunity to know the Light… as we come through our own darkness. “Jesus said, “I am the Light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the Light of life” (John 8:12).
But first we must accept the darkness.
I wonder why my father never could or would… he never realized the truth of Isaiah 43:2 “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned, the flames will not set you ablaze.”
I ordered your book! Love you!
Thank you, Elaine.
Such depth! Every word speaks! Experience is the best author. God’s Word overcomes ALL.
Thank you Barb.
I always smile when seeing your comments. You make my heart happy!