My Dad was a grouchy alcoholic when I was growing up.
Of course I didnt know that - the alcoholic bit, I mean.
But I sure knew the grouchy.
He was always in a bad mood and spoke to me mainly when I did something wrong
Or to instruct me to do something.
He didn't seem to see me.
Words of affirmation or approval were so rare that I clearly remember those he gave me.
If this seems self pitying, it isn't - just stay with me
I'm going somewhere with this.
I always knew that my father loved me; I just never felt that he was pleased with me
Or proud of me.
And then, one day, when I was about 4 or 5, the family was having a meal at the table and my dad suddenly turned to me and said:
"I heard that you gave up your swing to a little girl at the beach today. That was a nice thing to do. Well done."
In front of the whole family, he said that to me!
The whole family beamed at me. I ws embarrassed but thrilled.
I could hardly believe it.
I still remember the scene: its etched on my mind.
Skipping to another tack quickly.
I'm rereading The Sacred Romance by John Eldridge (do yourselves a favour!)
And I'm going to quote a passage from there:
"As a young girl Susan was lost in a busy household full of brothers and sisters and seldom seen by her busy parents.
One day she made a necklace from pumpkin seeds, a simple craft to pass the time.
For some odd reason the necklace captured her father's attention.
'Hey, everybody, look at this will ya? Look at what Susan made!'
Years later, as she reflected back on what seemed like a trivial moment, she remembered the power she seemed suddenly to possess: 'People came alive at something I did!'
Does it come as a surprise to learn that she now makes her living as a creative designer?"
For me - a kerchang moment!
I had often wondered why I felt this underlying sense of discomfort when I did something just for me.
If I had a free day and thought about painting, for example, I'd suddenly find my mind flooded with people I felt were needy in some way.
And always felt that I should be the one to do something.
I used to wonder why I felt it should be me - after all, it sounds pretty arrogant.
I'm not the answer to everyone's prayers, let's face it.
But the answer would elude me and the discomfort remained unless I gave up what I wanted to do and did the "nice thing" for somebody else.
I was Susan!
Only it wasn't a seed necklace that had gained my father's notice and praise: it was giving up what I wanted so someone else could have what they wanted.
That was the thing that would gain the approving smile of my father
And so, the treadmill began. All those years ago.
And expanded to include my mindset about God - who is also Father.
I knew He loved me, but must have felt deep down, He wasn't pleased with me, or approving -
Unless I could bring Him something kind I'd done.
And so the reason for my knawing discomfort became blazingly obvious.
Its my belief that the power these long hidden sources of our behaviour patterns starts draining away once they are exposed
That lightbulb seeing that explodes into understanding and change.
I'm not completely free of this yet
But I will be.
Does any of this speak to you?