friday flashback: a tale of a Father's love

He sits in his recliner watching television, a pile of son and daughter on top of him. Giggles pour from that corner of the room, a daddy teasing his children, children insatiable for his attention. I marvel at how they fit so perfectly together, Zach curled under one arm, Tali the other. I love that at 9 and 11 years old, they still fit on their daddy’s lap. I love that their daddy still longs to have them there.

This… this is how it is with our Daddy-God too… a Father who loves us with a lavish love. A Father who has adopted us into His Divine family.
You did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. Romans 8:15-16
Children of the most High God! Mind-boggling that the Creator would look upon His creation, a creation that has rejected Him, ran after other Gods, broken itself on the rocks of this world, and say… yes… she is the one I want! She is the one I will call child! 

I wonder, friend, if you know what it means to be the child of God? To know Him as more than a distant Creator, but as an intimate Father? To understand what it means to be accepted into this Divine family so completely, unconditionally, perfectly?

I do. 

I know a little about that kind of adoption.

Although I was purposed in the heart of God, I came as quite a surprise to my mom who found out she was pregnant with me just out of high school. Although she feared what would happen when she told her father, a man who swelled with anger and abuse at any perceived or even imagined wrong, she hoped that her boyfriend would choose to marry her. Surely he would, after all, they were 18… it would be the right thing to do…  

But that wasn’t in his plan. I wasn’t in his plan. This, I, was a major problem. And his answer was simple.

Get rid of the problem. 

I can’t imagine how my mom must have agonized. Her heart telling her that she couldn’t destroy the life growing within her, but knowing that her father's reaction would be swift and full of hatred. She must have been terrified. The world told her that it’s okay. It’s her body and her choice. That would be the easy road. Yet her heart confirmed that this was the very breath of life…  

She chose life.

I’m pretty happy about that. ;)

And while my “father” completely withdrew from the picture, her father surprised her by reacting to her, for what she says was one of the only times in her life, with grace and love.

Her heavenly Father also had a plan. A purpose. His name was Joe Talley, and for those of you who don’t know…. that’s my dad.

An unlikely pair who met over a bowl of truck stop soup on the west coast. She was young, desperate, and broke. So he offered to give mom a ride back as far as Indiana, where he lived. Wouldn't you know it, by the time they hit the Hoosier State, they had fallen in love. It wasn’t long before he and mom married, and they came to get me from my Mamaw's house. We moved to Bicknell, Indiana where I gained a new last name. Talley. 

A new identity.

We didn’t go through a fancy court proceeding or hire a high dollar lawyer. He and mom just sat me down at the kitchen table and asked if I wanted to have a new last name. It was that simple.

When dad took me into his family, into his heart, he did so completely. Without question. Without stipulation. Without condition.  That’s how God’s love is too! When we receive our divine adoption… God doesn’t ask us to fill out a form, or jump through hoops… ours is not a God of beaurocracy… He is a God of mercy! He simply stretches out his arms of forgiveness and wraps us in His perfect love! We get a new identity in HIM! And that’s how my daddy loved me.

Mom and dad never tried to get any support out of that man back in Ohio. We didn’t need him. I had a daddy, and he assumed complete responsibility for me- physically, financially, emotionally.  Our family was complete without that man, and despite the fact that we struggled financially, maintaining my identity in him was more important than a check from a person I’d never met. He just took me. That’s an amazing thing as I reflect back on it. He could have done so many things differently… he could have chosen to be a step-father… instead he chose to be a DADDY… he just accepted me and loved me. I was never ever ever made to feel any less than his daughter.

He told my mom once that she was his shiny new Peterbilt… keep in mind he was a truck driver- a shiny new Peterbilt is a big deal!... and I was the chrome mirrors. I was the icing on his cake. And not because I was perfect or beautiful or sweet (although I’m fairly certain I was all three) but because I loved him. And he loved me. Just because. 

Just because.

Then when I was twelve years old, my dad had a conversation with me that is still etched into my memory. Sitting together on top of a picnic table at our favorite campground he began to speak, voice shaking. “You probably know this”, he said “but I’m not your real father. I’m really your dad… but…” and he explained it to me. Now let me remind you that I REMEMBERED getting a new last name. I REMEMBERED bits and pieces of life before him. I KNEW that I was older than  mom and dad had anniversaries… and now all of that made sense because…

his love for me was so complete and so perfect and so unconditional and so real that I never once questioned who I was in him. He had to tell me that he was not my “father”. This is more than me being na├»ve… You see, my spirit testified with his spirit that we were family. And this little girl never questioned it…  

I know it sounds insane, I know I should have KNOWN, and on some level I’m sure I did… but I never QUESTIONED. And I still don’t. Because despite the person that helped create me… the daddy God ordained for me was Joe Talley.  

I’m not sure why it had to happen this way… but just six months after that conversation took place our world was shattered. My aunt woke me in the middle of the night and told me that they had taken dad to the hospital. It was no big deal, she said. Just heartburn, she said.

But she was wrong. It was a massive heart attack. And my daddy was gone. In the blink of an eye. Gone.

There’s no good way to explain what that season was like except to say, everything went crazy… the glue that held us together, as family, as people… was gone. This is not a place I like to go, friends. It takes my breath away to remember the pain of that loss… and the impact it had on that 12 year old little girl. I bottled the hurt up inside and quickly went about the business of building walls. Of learning to wear a face that says “I’m fine! Right as rain! Don’t worry about me!” But inside things were so broken. As secure as I once was, I became confused. The little girl who had led her family to church, found it difficult to relate to a God who would let this happen.

I couldn't connect with a “Father God”… I was a two-time loser with fathers... one had literally thrown me away and the other had been ripped from my life. Little questions in a little girl’s mind grew into bigger doubts… and big doubts grew, by the time I was in my early twenties, into a postmodernist unbelief… you know, the “many roads lead to heaven” kind of unbelief.

You see I had created for myself a comfortable god. One who honored whether or not we were nice to each other above any specific theology. One who didn't require that we call on his specific name. One who COULD overlook our inequities so long as we were “trying”. 

This god of my own making  was not a Father. He set the world into motion, and then sat back to watch it unfold. This god didn’t care about a relationship with me. Which was fine, because frankly I didn’t want a relationship with him either.

But see, Fathers love even when that love isn’t being returned… He watched from the window, even when I was in the far country. Gently, He began speaking to my heart and a hunger grew within me for Truth.  Showing up on Sunday mornings with more frequency. Picking up my Bible, long since forgotten on the shelf.

But there was still a distance.

A sea of doubt and disappointment between myself and God. No longer doubt that He was there, but doubt that He would love me. No longer disappointment for the hurt I had known in my life, but overwhelming feelings that He must be disappointed in me.  

Ah. But that is not the way of a Father’s love, is it?

A daddy’s love is different. I didn’t have to earn my dad’s love. I didn’t have to be perfect. I didn’t have to be beautiful. He didn’t have to “get to know me”. He just loved me. He wasn’t waiting to see if I’d make good grades, or develop a sense of humor, or excel at sports… HE LOVED ME RIGHT WHERE I WAS. 

Our Daddy-God is the same way! By Him we receive a spirit of sonship, and by him we cry “Abba, Father”, for the Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children!  Abba! Aramaic for Daddy! He isn’t just a Creator-God who set the world in motion! He isn’t an angry Father scowling in disappointment. He is a Daddy-God!

And we are his children! Just as purely as I was dad’s daughter- so too are you the sons and daughters of GOD… can you get your mind around that? That the most High would call you son, daughter?  Just as I trusted in the relationship I had with dad, so much that I had pushed from my thoughts any question as to whether I was his “natural” child… so too can you trust in your relationship with your Abba Father!

This was such a hard concept for me, and maybe it is for you too. I battled with feelings of unworthiness- how could God really love me? Doesn’t He know who I am? Doesn’t He see my failures? Didn’t He hear me when I denied Him? Didn’t He see that I had already been tossed away, that I had been shattered, and that I couldn’t bear much more? 

And then came a time when I found myself on my knees, in my living room… broken. And Abba called me into His lap.  It had been a long time since I had rested in my daddy’s lap. Tears streaming down my cheeks I realized… no more than realizing… I understood that He wanted not just a bit of me, but all of me. Good and bad… imperfect, weak, and broken… He desired me right where I was...He understood my hurt… my pain… my brokenness. 

Have you found that spot on your Daddy’s lap? That place under His arm that fits you perfectly? If you haven’t, He is ready. He is not a distant Creator-God… He is a God that went to the cross so that He could have a relationship with broken, flawed, imperfect you.  And when God adopts you into His divine family it’s just as pure and perfect as when my dad chose to love me.  No longer do you belong to a world that speaks death over you… you belong to the giver of life.

Are there things in your past you still cling to, because you are too embarrassed and ashamed to give them to God? Have you held him at arm’s length because you can’t imagine that He would really love you? Daddy’s love no matter what! Even when I scratched my name into the trunk of our “brand-new-to-us” Ford LTD… my daddy still loved me. Even when I told lies… my daddy still loved me. Even when I back talked… my daddy still loved me. Even though I was a “mistake”… my daddy still loved me. Daddy’s love no matter what! 

I know there are some of you who are still trying to work your way into His grace.  But grace, if by works… IS NOT GRACE.  Grace takes you where you are… and washes you clean as snow... Not because you deserve it or have earned it, but because He loves you that much!  I never had to earn my daddy’s love, he just held his arms open and I jumped in. Tali and Zach haven’t had to earn my love… it’s just there. No matter what they do, or who they become, I will love them. If I, a failed and broken human knows how to love my children… how much more must your Daddy-God loveyou?

Won’t you jump into your Daddy’s arms? He’s been waiting all of eterninty for this moment, for this chance to hold you, to know you. Don’t you see? His desire to love you ran so deep that He sent His only Son, so that we may be reconciled to Him.  Whatever shame burdens your heart, He wants to take it from you! Whatever storm is raging, He longs to shelter you! Whatever pain you carry, He longs to comfort you!  

It still hurts when I think about losing my daddy... But my Father in Heaven knows what it’s like to lose. My beautiful Jesus knows what it’s like to be separated from His Father. They understand. And in that, I find comfort.

I only had my daddy for nine short years… but in that time he crammed in enough love for a lifetime. Perfect, unconditional, no-strings-attached, genuine, deep, love.  I know what it’s like to be held secure in the arms of my daddy, both earthly and now heavenly. It took me a long time to believe that God would really love someone like me… but HE DOES!

And guess what… He loves people like you too!


Anonymous said...

My dad wasn't a very good husband or dad. That is a fact. I imagine it is as hard for you to believe this as it was for me to believe the good things people said about him after he died. It's hard to believe that your dad and mine are the same man. When I hear you or Fireball talk about him, it doesn't make me jealous, or angry. I'm glad that he could change and be the man he needed to be for you guys. I feel better knowing that in the end, he redeemed himself, he found peace, and someone got the best part of him. This brought tears to my eyes. You guys help to replace my bad memories of him. Thank you.

Becky Boyles said...

I worried, and prayed, about how my posting would be received by you all if you read it. It is such a relief to know that jealousy and anger are not a part of those emotions. I know a lot of situations where there are terrible, deep jealousies from the kids who only see dad on the weekend (if that) for the ones who are in the home with him. It's tricky stuff for sure.

I know that he had an entire life lived before we came along... and I know from some family history there were a lot of mistakes (then... and even with mom). I attempted to write about those things, even today, but know that this story was only about the way he loved me... because that's my experience.

I am glad that now, through all this social media... we can share things we should have shared all along.