I grew up in a harsh home, with a father who spent much of his time lashing out verbally and physically, promoting a constant environment of anger and fear.
We didn’t go to church, but when I was eleven, my married sister invited me to go to church with her and her husband, and one Sunday in December 1969, my dad surprisingly said yes.
The gospel message was given that Sunday, and I knew I wanted to accept Jesus Christ as my Savior and receive His gift of everlasting life.
I was too timid to go forward and didn’t know enough about church protocol to know that I could have asked my sister to go up the aisle with me.
In the kitchen that afternoon, I prayed and asked Jesus to come into my heart and save me. I knew I was His from that day forward. Sadly, I was not permitted to go to church again, but I knew my salvation was sealed forever.
After college, I met and married my husband and we moved to Texas – far away from my parents. There was no relationship with my dad. I rarely saw my parents, and when I did, he would always do something in anger to ruin our time together. It seemed he would never change from the angry man I had always known him to be.
In January 2001 when my mother died, I looked across the funeral gathering at my father and thought to myself…
Now that Mom is gone, it wouldn’t bother me if I never saw him again the rest of my life.
I felt an instant and strong conviction in my heart that this was not the attitude God wanted me to hold.
No, instead, God wanted me to have compassion.
My dad was now alone in this world. He didn’t have many people in his life because his anger drove them away.
I began to write letters to my dad. He didn’t have a phone due to his anti-social nature, and letters were the only way to communicate with him. My letters were not very deep, as he was someone you always had to watch your words with, he was easily set off, so I kept them light.
I would come to the end of a letter and struggle with how to sign off. Since the relationship was a strained one, it didn’t come naturally to sign, Love, Kathy. I would consider it, but my heart just wouldn’t go there. Instead, I would sign off, “Thinking of you.”
Until the day God convicted me again – and this time I knew He wanted me to sign, Love, Kathy.
Oh, I struggled with this!
Isn’t it enough that I am writing him, Lord? I obeyed, I am writing him!
But I knew it wasn’t enough anymore, now God wanted me to take the next step.
I wrote the letter and when I was signing off, it was extremely difficult to write those four letters…
The struggle in my heart to do this made me feel like a horrible Christian. What kind of Christian can’t sign L-O-V-E at the end of a letter to her father?
I forced myself to do it. I knew God wanted this and I did it out of obedience. I cared for my dad, but the four letter word still didn’t roll easily from my heart or pen. But I signed, Love, Kathy and marched that letter out to the mailbox feeling pretty miserable!
So miserable I walked back to the mailbox and retrieved it and sighed, “Lord, I can’t do this.”
And then I marched back to the mailbox and put it back in there, and while standing in the living room planning another trip to retrieve it again, the mail carrier came by and the letter was gone.
Love, Kathy was gone, on its way to a father who never demonstrated love to me. To a man who never expressed remorse for angry words and angry actions.
And yet, with that single act of obedience, came a new lightness and freedom in my heart from all the pain from the past. It didn’t hurt anymore because complete healing was taking place. I was finally able to let the past go and let it go for good!
My dad hasn’t changed much, maybe ever so little, I still pray for his heart to soften.
But it definitely changed me!
I was finally able to live free of the past and no longer carried its baggage with me. I learned that God blesses obedience in ways we cannot fathom.
I continued writing to my father, and signing Love, Kathy was no longer a battle for me.
Instead, what started as a single act of obedience began to feel a little like love.
By Kathy CheekLeave a Comment
Dad left Mom about six or so years ago and didn’t want anyone from the family to find him. I respected his wishes.
A few years went by and during a conversation with Grandma, she mentioned that Dad wanted me to call him. She gave me his phone number.
I held on to it for a long time before actually calling.
Since then I’ve spoken to him a couple times and saw him once. He’s a self-absorbed, broken, bitter old man, always blaming everyone else for his problems.
I find myself tossed between wanting to care about him and wanting to run away, so this post is timely. I will ponder on it a while.
Melissa Rossi says
May God continue to bless your writing as you thrive in the “new lightness and freedom” in your heart. This is an awesome, inspiring testimony of the Lord’s redeeming love. Thank you for sharing.
I felt an immediate connect our stories are so similar, thanks for writing it I felt your healing as if it were my own. Listening to what God asks us to do isn’t always easy but the payoff sure is worth it in the end, isn’t it?
Jeff D. says
I especially love how God took the decision out of your hands as you struggled with letting the letter go – “the mail carrier came by and the letter was gone.” He wants to help us as we strive toward the right choices. What a powerful and vulnerable story. Thanks for sharing.
Vicki R. says
You and my husband share a similar journey. God is in the business of repairing hearts. We are only responsible for what we do; we can’t make the change in the other. I will pray that your father’s heart will soften and respond to you and to God, An awesome story!
Kathy Cheek says
I thank each of you for your comments, your understanding, the shared stories, the shared journeys, may we all continue to grow in the grace God so richly gives,
Cindy Dahlke says
Kathy, read your story and it touched me. Glad you were at WBF this morning.
It is hard…
Especially when I see my Dad and it’s like the abuse never happened. Although I know he’s different now, there’s never been any discussion of the past, no closure, no forgiveness. I don’t know how to forgive without closure. I want that “lightness and freedom in my heart from all the pain from the past.”
Maybe I need to write a letter too…
Hi Kathy! This is so touching. I pray that your father`s heart will also soften and I`m looking forward to read another post from you that you`re dad has returned back the love. 😉 Nothing is impossible with the Lord. <3
I can imagine how hard it is to sign L-O-V-E at the end of the letter. Felt the same way before too–with friends and other people who have hurt me. And I am so blessed and inspired with you heart and courage to do that. Thank you! God bless!
I had a really difficult relationship with my dad growing up too. Being able to forgive him gave me so much peace and joy! Thanks for sharing your story! I can relate so much!
Sometimes I feel like you said you felt, doing something you dont “feel” like doing. Like you are acting, only you are doing it out of obedience to the word. I love the statement you made “I learned that God blesses obedience in ways we cannot fathom”.
Forcing yourself to do something because you know that is what God wants you to do. It is an act of obedience.
Thanks for the encouragement
Holley Gerth says
Beautiful post, Kathy!
I was finally able to forgive my father this year (his anger was not as terrible as your experience, but it cut me deeply and influenced my life in terrible ways). His own father, my grandfather, was even angrier. At 93, my Pappaw is still an atheist and I pray that he’ll accept the love of the Lord before he’s gone. But it’s interesting –to say the least — to see patterns of anger and abuse repeated in families, back a hundred years in my case, and begin to feel healing in my own generation.