While the food was home cooked and superb, the company and fellowship wasn’t always welcomed with such ease and love. In fact, most nights he ate in front of the TV while mama and I ate in the quiet, rustic kitchen. The woodstove burned with a vengeance in the bitter winter months, bringing warmth to the cold walls of our home. If only that radiating warmth could have warmed my father’s heart. Growing up, our home was devastated with out-right bickering one minute to deafening silence the next. Alcohol has a way of making the coziest of homes a place of hostility and angst. This was my childhood home.
The Lord wrote hospitality on my heart as a young girl. I remember basking in excitement at the mere whisperings of my mama having any friends over. It didn’t happen often but when it did, oh boy did I want to be right in the middle of all of the action and planning. I wish I wouldn’t have been so afraid of having friends over growing up, but I couldn’t risk it. What if they saw our little family of three unraveling at the seams? The thought of my friends seeing my father in a drunken state kept me from having sleepovers, kept me from unleashing this passion of hospitality inside of me.
It wasn’t until I was grown and married that I realized this calling of hospitality was something the Lord wrote on my heart and was cultivating all of those years. Now with my own home, my own life-filled walls, I love to extend hospitality and open up the doors. It’s a maturing process as I learn throughout my years how to graciously open my home. I’ve learned that it doesn’t have to be perfect for it to be warm and welcoming, a lie I believed for a long time. The Lord has brought reconciliation to my heart and given me the bravery and courage to do something that for so long I longed to do but felt I could never do. He’s shown me the value in cultivating a healthy and nurturing home for my family, because what happens within these walls matters, it has impact.
But this isn’t the only way the Lord has brought reconciliation to my soul in the area of hospitality and home.
This past November, I went back to my childhood home for Thanksgiving. My husband was on the other side of the world for a long work trip, so I headed back to small-town Pennsylvania myself. I knew I had to go and visit my dad, although the thought of it made me a little queasy inside. Every time I go back home, I’m not sure what my interaction with him will be like; pleasant and quiet or a slammed door in my face. It was a rainy, cold day and mama and I had plans to clean up the basement when we went up to the house. I need to mention that my mom hasn’t lived at my childhood home with my father for about two years. We made the trek up the hill to our little cottage in the woods, just a few miles away from my aunt’s house where my mama currently lives.
This interaction, these moments I’m about to share were far different and far more unexpected than I could have ever imagined. I was preparing myself for the typical visit, a visit of complaining and badgering my poor mama about something. But instead, the three of us sat in the smoke-filled living room and watched a few shows on the television. It was nothing over the top or extravagant by any means but it was peaceful and rather lovely. For once, hurtful words weren’t reverberating from the walls of that Cape Cod cottage. Our visit was simple, but it left a deep-rooted effect within me.
Later that evening my dad called and invited mama and I to go spotting with him. In case you are sitting here thinking ‘what in the world is spotting?!’, let me explain. Growing up in podunk Pennsylvania meant that my family were avid hunters. And every year before hunting season began, one could go “spotting” with their big spot light (basically a flashlight on steroids), drive around the lonely back roads and shine that bright light in each passing field, counting the deer and scoping out for the big hunt. As a small girl, spotting was one of my favorite activities to do with my parents and/or grandpop. My little girl self felt mischievous for being out past my bedtime and with each curve of the dark road it felt like a thrill movie, wondering what would happen next, what animal would pop out or show up in the spotlight. When he asked if we wanted to go, I said “Why not?! I think we should go Mom.” So, around 8:30 PM, we hopped in the car, drove back up the hill to the cozy cottage in the woods, and hit the back roads with my dad and spotlight in tow.
What a fantastic and fun evening we had! My dad was the most pleasant I’d experienced in over 4 years. He was his old witty self, sometimes not so appropriate, but still very pleasant to be in the company of. I hadn’t had family time with the three of us like that in a very, very long time. Sitting here writing this and thinking back on that night brings tears to my eyes and the most childlike smile to my face. It was pure joy for this daughter to sit amongst her parents and simply enjoy the present time, free of fighting. I think it had a deep effect on all of us. Mama and I left that night and I think we both felt it…hope, a feeling long forgotten for both of us, something that felt so lost, so intangible, and so unattainable for our circumstances with my dad.
I ended that day with a renewed hope. A renewed hope that the Lord wasn’t finished yet with my dad, hope that He is still capable of healing, and hope that this home could one day be the haven it always wanted to be. I saw not only my dad through different eyes, but also my childhood home. While brokenness and sin are still living there, I captured a glimpse of Jesus bringing reconciliation and warming the chill of that home right out of there through His all consuming love and fire.
While my father still struggles with his addiction, the reconciliation that I experienced that day, that little glimmer of hope and healing, has dramatically shifted the way I view my father and my interactions with him and the way I approach the throne of the Lord in prayer. I left that day feeling utter conviction of my lack of concern for my dad over the last several years. Utter conviction that my idea of the situation being “healed” was him not being in the picture anymore. I was convinced that this addiction would surely take his physical life sooner rather than later. When the Lord revealed that hard truth to me and the Spirit convicted my heart of those thoughts I actually had, I was mortified. I knew this wasn’t what the Lord wanted of me as His daughter and disciple. The Lord softened my heart towards my father and my childhood home.
Over the last several months, I’ve journeyed through a season of healing from my childhood. I praise God for that random rainy afternoon in my parents’ cottage in the woods and for the dark roads that shed light on more than the deer in the fields that night. He shone a bright light on my own heart and through conviction and repentance brought me to my knees, bowing down with a hope filled spirit. It was the shove I needed to push me closer to the Lord, to regain hope and faith. The Lord delights in our bold prayers, in our lavish loving on others even in difficult and unsure circumstances, and our hope for reconciliation and redemption. And that’s exactly what my prayers have been since this day and will continue to be. My prayer is for absolute freedom for my dad; freedom from the chains of addiction, freedom from the pain of his past, freedom from the depression that plagues him, and freedom from his captivity in his thought life. Ephesians 4:22-24 says, “that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.”
Before I thought the solution to our troubling circumstances was him being out of the picture, if I am being completely vulnerable and honest, but now, I see the solution to this problem being the death of himself in a different way- a spiritual way. I desire to see his sin dead, his brokenness put to the grave and to see him run out of that grave with a spotlight of truth, love, and grace shining on his handsome face. Romans 6:11-14 says, “Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.” I desire for him to be brought from death to LIFE, life in Christ. I care more about his eternal destiny than I care about the effect of his brokenness on my life. When I took a step back and saw the pain through the eyes of Jesus and not through my own eyes of frustration and suffering, I suddenly saw that the only death he needed to die was the death of himself. Yes, he will someday pass into the glory of heaven but it’s my responsibility now to point him to that glorious heaven and pray he meets the best light that will truly give him LIFE.
“The natives showed us extraordinary kindness; for because of the rain that had set in and because of the cold, they kindled a fire and received us all.” Acts 28:2