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I was the little girl in the mushroom cut and the flannel nightgown waiting by the door for Dad to come home from visiting the parishioners.

He would smell of tea when he finally came, would drop his briefcase in the office and sit at his desk, his head furrowed in wrinkles.

I was the little girl who never played, who tried so hard to sketch perfect pictures and write prize-winning poems.

I was the little girl who stopped eating at nine, because it was easier not to eat than it was to feel. I hated church, I hated the way my legs dangled from the hard pews, the way Dad laughed for hours in the foyer with people afterwards when I never heard that laugh at home. The way we had to share him with everyone, and eventually I became the little girl who no longer let her Dad hug her.

And even though Dad sang, “The Lord Is My Shepherd” to me at bedtime, I yelled at him during the day because he didn’t know.

He didn’t know my favorite color, he didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up, he didn’t know that I cried myself to sleep every night. But I made sure he knew that I didn’t want my meatloaf.

And at 13, when I was sixty pounds and purple from hypothermia I met a God who saved me, not only on the cross, but from death on that hospital bed. Nurses said I should have died, and I knew then that God was different from the man who poured so much heart into ministry he had none left over for family. But it was still hard to call him Father.

So I ran away from home at 18 and didn’t look back.

But then when I was 23 and married and starving again because I’d relapsed, Dad and Mum flew the long stretch of Canada to sit with me in my living room and say, “I’m sorry.”

Dad asked me to forgive him for putting ministry before family and I looked at him then—this man with the glasses and serious, kind face who’d spent hours helping me with my math homework—and I saw a man who had tried. A man who needed a heavenly father as desperately as I did.

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Not all of us have a father who even tried, I am sure.

Maybe yours was absent in your life, friend. Maybe your father said he loved you but did very unlovely things. Maybe he left when you were little and you’ve always blamed yourself. You’ve always wondered why you weren’t enough to make him stick around and even though you go to church, you can’t call God father, because it makes you sick inside.

Father means neglect to you, it means absent, or it means painfully and awfully present.

And yet, we all long for one. We all long for a Dad we can run to. We are all prodigals trying to find a place to belong to.

God knows, sisters. He knows how people have hurt us. So He didn’t force Himself on us. Instead, He sent His Son to lead the way to Him. And He sent Him as a vulnerable baby, so we could trust Him.

You see, Jesus didn’t just come to give us salvation. He came to bring us a family. The Trinity — The Father, Son and Holy Spirit — is a heavenly family for all of us who feel homeless here on earth.

God sent Jesus to take our hands and lead us gently along the path and even as we walk, to learn about a Father who sees the sparrow fall, who collects our tears in a bottle, who wove us together in our mother’s wombs, who sings over us.

And when we finally reach the throne room, there He is — running towards us, arms outstretched, and he gather us close, and we can feel the heartbeat of the universe pounding through His chest.

And we know.

We’ve come home.

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My memoir, ATLAS GIRL, is releasing this month, and I am excited to give away THREE copies today.

Click HERE for a free excerpt. And leave a comment below for a chance to win a copy.

I’m also giving away a FREE e-book to anyone who orders Atlas Girl. Just order HERE, and then enter your book receipt info HERE, and you’ll receive A House That God Built: 7 Essentials to Writing Inspirational Memoir – an absolutely FREE e-book co-authored by myself and editor/memoir teacher Mick Silva.

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ALL proceeds from Atlas Girl will go toward my non-profit, The Lulu Tree. The Lulu Tree is dedicated to preventing tomorrow’s orphans by equipping today’s mothers. It is a grassroots organization bringing healing and hope to women and children in the slums of Uganda through the arts, community, and the gospel.

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Emily T. Wierenga is an award-winning journalist, blogger, commissioned artist and columnist, as well as the author of five books including the memoir, Atlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look (Baker Books). She lives in Alberta, Canada, with her husband and two sons. For more info, please visit www.emilywierenga.com. Find her on Twitter or Facebook.

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