Have you ever been blindsided? Hit with an unexpected blow, just when things seemed to be going well?
This is where I find myself this week.
Could this be an attack of the evil one, who “prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Does he see my stubborn resolve to walk in faith despite my circumstances, and fear the progress I’m making toward freedom and abundant life?
Or maybe it’s the complete opposite.
In His infinite wisdom, does my loving, heavenly Father know that I have made just enough progress to be able to handle dealing with the next layer of brokenness?
Either way, I do not like finding myself in this place.
Not. One. Bit.
This week, I was hit with some news that left me reeling. I was literally shaking and felt sick in the pit of my stomach. To explain, let me take you back a couple of weeks…
My mom was visiting and was folding laundry at my kitchen table. I was sharing with her that my husband and I had decided to be very open with our kids about the fact that their grandmother (my husband’s mother) and great-grandfather had struggled with alcohol. We would tell the children so that they would be aware that they had a predisposition to alcoholism, due to our family history. We would share this, not to shame my husband’s family, but to help our children understand the risks in the hope that they would make wise choices when faced with decisions involving alcohol.
My mom was quiet for a moment, then said, “I’m sorry to tell you, but your dad was an alcoholic too, when you were young”.
This came as a complete shock. I knew my father had his share of issues, but I had no idea that this was one of them.
My mom shared that my father had quit drinking and smoking cold turkey when he became a Christian at the age of 27. “But,” she added, “he’s started drinking again over the last couple of years. Sometimes, I worry about him.”
I don’t know if it was partly denial fueling my response, but when she said that she sometimes worried about him, I thought she meant she was worried that his drinking could become a problem again.
Fast forward to last Tuesday…
My mom called me at midnight and said she needed to talk. Through her tears, she told me that my father had had too many drinks earlier that day and had gotten on his motorcycle to ride home, despite the worried pleas of his friends. Thankfully, he had made it home safely and had ‘slept it off’ that afternoon.
My mom was understandably upset and had asked one of my brothers to talk to him about how things were getting out of hand. My brother lovingly confronted my father and convinced him of how serious the situation had gotten. They came up with a plan to get my father some help – counseling, and an accountability partner from his church, who would not only meet regularly with him, but would keep my brother updated as well. My father was remorseful and seemed truly repentant. He promised he was going to stop.
That was at 10:00. At midnight, my mom heard him stumbling around in the kitchen. She went upstairs and saw that his arm was injured and bleeding, his speech was extremely slurred, and he was completely incoherent.
That’s when she called me.
She explained what had happened that day, and asked me to talk to him. If I had not heard it for myself, I would not have believed the extent of his condition. He was unable to string even two coherent words together. He had absolutely NO understanding of anything my mom and I asked or said. We began to fear that maybe this wasn’t alcohol-induced after all. Maybe he had suffered a stroke, we thought.
My mom called the ambulance and I stayed on the line, listening over speakerphone, as the paramedics assessed his condition. They, too, worried that something neurological had happened. He was taken by ambulance for an emergency CT scan.
His brain was fine.
His blood alcohol level was so high that he could have died.
My heart ached so badly.
But, in the midst of my brokenness and pain, I realized two things:
1. I do actually love my father, despite all the things he has done to hurt me.
When I believed he might die from his ‘stroke’, I was devastated at the thought of losing him. My pain was mixed with feelings of guilt for the way I have often held him at a distance, emotionally. I know I haven’t always been the best daughter.
2. God’s hand is at work, even in the midst of all this.
For those of you who read my post, Extend Grace, you may remember how I sensed God encouraging me to show grace to my father, just as my heavenly Father has extended grace to me. This was just days before my daughter’s dedication. I assumed that there would be conflict that day, and I would have to be gracious in response.
That day, everything went extremely well. I was thankful for those who prayed for peace, but also somewhat confused about the call to extend grace.
Then this happened, and I understood.
I sensed God reveal to my heart that the call to extend grace was given, ‘for such a time as this’. How gracious of our heavenly Father to prepare my heart for this difficult day.
My father called the next day, and humbly confessed his struggle with alcohol. He apologized without defensiveness or excuse. So unlike him.
I was able to tell him I loved him, and that I was proud of him for having the courage to be honest. I told him that, if anything, I respected him more for his humility and honesty. I shared with him how God extends grace to his children no matter how serious the offense. I reminded him of David who is called ‘a man after God’s own heart’, despite all the ways he had rebelled against his heavenly Father. David was truly repentant, I shared, and turned to God in his time of brokenness.
That’s all God wants after all. For us to turn to Him, draw close to Him, rest in Him. He understands our human frailty. He loves us just as we are, and is willing to walk closely by our side into healing if only we will let Him.
In his kindness, God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation.
1 Peter 5:10 (NLT)
The words I spoke to my father did not come from my own heart. Not that I didn’t mean the things I said – I did, but I felt the love of my Savior flow through me in a way that is difficult to explain. His grace poured out freely and abundantly for us both.
Although I see God’s hand in this situation, I am struggling to understand and accept the reality of what my family must now face. I feel unwelcome, yet familiar, feelings such as self-condemnation and heaviness overwhelming me.
So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.
Hebrews 4:16 (NLT)
Boy, do I “need it most” right now. Please pray for me, and for my family. I fear the battle has just begun.
In His love,