“Daddy, what brings you joy?”
“Aww, daddy that’s sweet, but I’m serious, what brings you joy?”
“You, Season. You. Knowing you’re taken care of, being with you – being together.”
For many years, since my mom died in 2004, my dad and I have had a great distance between us. Not because of anger or anything dramatic, just the perfect storm of mileage, new family situations, and a huge difference in communication styles and desired ways of connection.
And this is where I get real vulnerable….here’s the ugly truth,
Because I had already dealt with so much death – loosing my mom, two grandmothers, two great aunts, and the death of a marriage, it was easier to consider my father dead than to directly deal with the difficulty and inevitable disappointment of attempting to maintain the connection. Ouch.
In January 2019 I heard the Lord say, “this is the year of the Father.”
I was a bit surprised by this declaration. My response was, “I don’t think I have any distortions about the Father, Lord, but I am open to what you want to teach me.” In my zeal for connection and growth with the Lord, I began to read parts of the Bible that reveal the heart of the Father, have conversations with some of my friends who are passionate about the Father’s heart, and even ask if there were any books that I could read that focus on this subject. My head was all about it….my heart didn’t know what was coming!
When I began to lean in a bit more to the invitation to connect with the Father, I realized my connection to the trinity was a bit lopsided. I am deeply connected and intimate with Jesus, surrendered to and powered by the Holy Spirit (well, that’s my intention anyway!), but if I’m honest, I always came up short with a knowing and being known by the Father.
So what would I do with that?! There was no shame in it, I just didn’t know what to do with the revelation.
In true God-like fashion I didn’t have to do it, He had a plan.
In March, my dad, Jerry Marshall, moved in with us.
An unexpected and painful divorce led him to spiral in every area, mentally, physically, and spiritually. He was broken, lost and confused. My father is the most committed man I’ve ever met. He lost my mother, his wife of 28 years to cancer, has played drums at my family’s church for 40 years, and worked at one job for 38 years! This man doesn’t know how to quit! So what was he to do when his wife of 10 years was done?
My amazing husband says to him, “well sir, you will come live with us.”
That thought didn’t even cross my mind! I am so grateful for the man I married, a father who knows how to love sacrificially, without fear.
At first it was ROUGH! My dad was holding on by a thread. I wasn’t sure he would make it through each day. As he evened out a bit it became very clear that we needed to find a home that was conducive to our new life. Having to walk up and down our stairs, crawling over the baby gate that kept the dogs from the second floor, sharing a bathroom with my teenage daughter, and not having any place for his stuff was not helping him feel settled and safe.
I decided to do a 90 day fast. There were some major things in front of me and I needed to seek and surrender. I fasted for three things, my dad and his divorce, finding a home, and the future of my job.
On day 30 my dad’s divorce was final. He now had freedom to heal.
On day 40 I was ordained as an Elder in the Free Methodist Church (I was already licensed as a pastor but this was the full ordination).
On day 60 we found and bought a dream house for this season of our lives.
On the final stretch of my fast, I quit my job. I will share more about that another time…you may already know that I have stepped down from my full-time job as a Pastor at Centerpoint Church. I still remain a pastor, and I am still very much a committed member of the best church in the world.
Who buys a house and quits their job?! A daughter who is being taught the abundant love of a Father. That the thing about dads, they love to provide for their children. My father is a gift from the Father to show me what being a loved daughter means. It is so hard to receive! My dad has made it possible for us to buy a house and for me to quit my job and follow Jesus into unfamiliar territory because he’s given me my inheritance so to speak.
He said to me, “All I have is yours. You’re my daughter”
Hmmm, sounds familiar. I am reminded of the Father in the prodigal son story. The younger son demands his inheritance while his father is still alive, and is given it freely! And the other brother who is jealous of that gesture is told that he had everything the father had all along!
The love of the Father comes without earning it. It comes when we don’t feel we deserve it. And the love of the Father comes with teaching. What dad doesn’t want to teach their children about the things of life?
On October 20th my father went into the hospital for what would be a month of agony for us. I was so thrown!
Lord! This is supposed to be the year where you reveal the goodness of the Father to me and now I am a caretaker for my dad! WHAT’S THE DEAL?! This is hard and painful, and I hate it!
That’s exactly what the Father was trying to teach me. The love of the Father includes sacrifice. Love isn’t only about receiving! In fact you’d be hard pressed to find much in scripture about love being anything other than self-less, sacrificial, and HARD! We have so missed the point when it comes to love.
For God so loved the world that he gave his only son….
To know the love of the Father is to know sacrifice. In my new experiences of pain and sacrifice I know it’s only a glimpse of the pain of what my father must have felt in 10 years of being estranged from me, all for the sake of my discomfort.
But this isn’t payback.
The Lord is so faithful. He does not punish us. He only longs to draw us near. It’s in the nearness of my father that I have learned more about the love of my Father in heaven.
This is an ongoing discovery. Please understand that I am not done. I have only begun to comprehend the Father’s love. I have been broken by my selfishness and restored by the love and kindness of Jesus and Jerry Marshall. Though I don’t deserve it, the Father has given me the gift of my daddy this Christmas.
The Father will stop at nothing to be reunited with his children.
I bless you this Christmas to learn more about the love of the Father. If you have a painful experience with your earthly dad or he may be no longer on this earth, your Father in heaven has so much to reveal to you. And if you have a wonderful relationship with your earthly dad, hold him close and thank the Lord.
Joyfully a loved daughter,
P.S. One of my favorite ways to connect with the love of the Father is through my friend Aeron Brown’s album, The Father’s House. You can stream it on any platform or buy it here. Be sure to have tissues!