Thursday, September 9, 2010

Fatherlessness and identity

So moving to this new season has kicked up a lot of dirt in me. I first of all realized what I already knew to be true- namely that marriage does not solve all of your problems. Somehow we (girls) tend to come up with the idea that once we get married all our insecurity goes away, that life will be perfect and that we'll just feel warm and fuzzy all the time. Not true. So, to all women everywhere- if you have an issue now, it won't disappear with marriage! Ok, moving on.

Some of the "dirt" that I've rediscovered lately is my problem with "finding my identity in Christ". For me that has always been one of those Christian phrases that is slapped on as the solution to a lot of problems but that nobody really understands or knows how to apply! At least my experience was that even though I knew I needed to work on "finding my identity in Christ" I couldn't seem to connect emotionally or practically to the idea. So a couple of months ago I prayed with a woman in Princeton. That time helped me to realize that the sense of identity I felt so lacking was connected to my father dying (which of course, I already knew) but in a way I could understand. She encouraged me to remember how it felt when my dad was around- and there was this sense of "I'm really special because my dad is SO cool and he loves ME." I felt a sense of identity and significance b/c this awesome guy delighted in me and called me his own. It was this feeling of "I'm with him...I"m a somebody because I'm a Miller." There wasn't anything I could do to earn his love...he simply loved me, Hannah, and therefore anything I did (ie. sing) was special. The things I did were not what gave me his love- I can't stress that enough. He loved me simply because I was his.

Understanding how I felt about Dad helped me understand why I so desperately needed a boyfriend after my father died of whom I could say "I'm a somebody because I'm with HIM- this cool guy who everyone likes has chosen ME to call his own". I found someone else to give me identity other than my father. But the whole reason that FATHERS (not boyfriends) are supposed to make us feel that way is b/c God created them to teach us about HIS unconditional love for us and the way we ultimately find our identity in HIM, our True Father. The other major problem with my "boyfriend solution" is that unlike the love of my father, I had to "earn" the love of a boyfriend- I had to do certain things to please him or "keep" him, and I had to compete with other girls. So as long as I'm hoping to find identity and significance in a boyfriend I'm ultimately going to remain insecure, b/c no boyfriend (or even husband for that matter!) can truly love me in the unconditional way that is needed in order for me to be totally secure. What happens if he breaks up with me, has an affair, disengages from our relationship, dies, or just disappoints me by being a broken, sinful person? This is why even children with healthy, loving fathers who DON'T die end up needing to transfer this "sense of identity" because children grow up and realize "my dad is just a person, he's not superman like I once thought".

Given this new pattern of relating and "earning" identity, it made sense that I no longer knew how to relate to God as Father, because God's love can't be earned. It can't be competed for- I'm not going to feel God's love for me by being "better" than the next person because that's not a condition of His love. I'm not going to have to do certain things "right" to receive His love and if I try to ignore it, He's going to come after me until I let down whatever wall I've put up and let Him in! This is what is happening. For a long time I've sort of "put aside" God's love for me so I could focus on God's love for other people. Maybe this was my way of trying to earn God's affection and a "place in His family"...maybe it was b/c what I needed most was what made me most uncomfortable. Maybe I was afraid of opening my heart again to "Father" and being hurt again, feeling rejected again.

But lately God has been coming after me anyway. He's reactivated a part of my heart that has been turned off for a long time, subconsciously "shut down"- by showing me His Fatherhood. Reminding me that the love of Father is not earned and is not "kept" by being winsome or wonderful. It's simply given to me because I am His.

I don't have to come to God with a question for someone else or an "item of business" in order to talk to Him...I don't have to manipulate in order to be with Him. This week it hit me that God just wants to be with me. Period. No agenda, no accomplishments, no "reason" to legitimize my visit. He delights in me. In the same way I could simply walk into my daddy's room as a little girl and crawl up next to him, I can be with my Heavenly Father because He loves me apart from what I do for Him.

In the movie Sybil, a motherless girl struggles even in adulthood to find healing. She's so afraid of more hurt that she's unable to realize that what she needs most- a mother's touch- is available to her in the friendship of Dr. Wilbur, the female psychiatrist who meets with her every week. Sybil always wants to spend time with Dr. Wilbur, but she always has her "professional" reason- her counseling appointment. It's not until the end of the movie that Sybil finally ASKS for what she so desperately needs- a motherly hug- the moment Dr. Wilbur had been waiting for. Healing took place the moment Sybil opened her heart enough to ask for it.

This is how God my Father loves me. He is ever present, faithfully loving me all the while as I slowly, so painfully slowly learn to trust Him enough to unclench my fists and reach out for His open hands...the moment He's been waiting for. The moment He has patiently led me to.


Anonymous said...

I just watched that movie recently and i loved it. I'm so happy God is revealing himself in new ways to you. I love you.-Chang

Anonymous said...

It's good to know that as you are learning to open your clenched fists to reach out for His open hands He already has you in His arms! Yes, He delights to have you reach out for Him, His isn't holding back until then. He is holding onto you, while you are "in process!" UB

not a slave said...

beautiful. here's a story from my recent experience that seems to match what you're saying (interesting God is trying to teach us some of the same things):

so, in the Catholic Church, we have this thing called Adoration, which is when the Blessed Sacrament (the Eucharist, which we believe is really the physical body of Christ in some miraculous way) is "exposed" in the Church so people can just come pray and "adore" Christ in the Sacrament. Basically, Christ incarnates Himself for us again and again so that we can pray not only to a God who is near us in a spiritual sense, but also in a physical way--we are literally sitting "with" Him. My church only offers this once a month (unfortunately! Some churches offer it 24/7) and I REALLY really wanted to go when they had it on Tuesday because I had some terrible stuff I needed/wanted to work through and just thought it would be so beneficial to do it there... but I couldn't because I was babysitting the two year old girl I sit on Tuesdays-Thursdays. So I figured maybe she and I could go for 10 minutes or something, just to be in the Presence for a little bit, but I didn't want to force her to go or anything and be bored haha. Well, long story short, something happened that day and all she wanted to do was "go on a stroller ride." So I took her on a stroller ride to the church (which is about a mile away), and by the time we got there, she was asleep. So I took her in with me, and we sat in the front row, and she slept on me for an HOUR. Which meant a few things: 1) I got to spend a whole hour just sitting there, instead of the 10 minutes I had anticipated, 2) I really had to just sit there--I couldn't do any of the intense praying or kneeling or whatever it was that I wanted to do; I had to just sit in the Presence, offering nothing except myself, like Mary before the feet of Jesus, and 3) it was so, so affirmed to me that Jesus wanted me there. On my own, on any regular day, I couldn't have made it because of this other obligation, but He took care of everything so that I could just come sit with Him for an hour. I can't really explain it.... but I just KNEW that He had brought me there, that He wanted me there, and that He had taken care of everything to make sure I could come just be with Him. He didn't want me to write or study or attempt to offer Him anything, other than myself.

And He wanted the little girl there, too, even though she was asleep! He just wanted to be with us, as our Father, as our Brother. Our sweet Savior.

So anyway, your post just reminded me of that. I just have no idea how the God of the universe would love us as His CHILDREN! But He does. It is just... unbelievable. Really. I wouldn't believe it if He didn't prove it to me over and over again. And even still, I cannot comprehend it. I never will.

ah, I'm long-winded. But I love you. Glad our Father is near to you. :-)

ugrey said...

Dear Hannah,

I hardly know what to write to you. Let me tell you a few things I have told you before. Your father would be very touched that you miss him so. He would NOT want you to miss him so badly that it made you unhappy. More than almost anything else, he would want you to be happy in life. Don't let his loss make you unhappy in life. Be happy that you had such a great father, be happy that God has smiled on you in so many ways. Look at what you have, not at what you do not have have. Count your many blessings.

Your Grand Mother and Mother have lived through things in life I cannot even imagine. Through it all, they have held their heads up and remained the same, sweet ladies they were before they had such troubles. Their problems have not made them bitter or angry at God. You are the third generation of Miller women who have had more than their share of sorrow in life. Since they have handled it so well, I KNOW you can, and WILL, also. Before I even re met you a year and a half ago, I just knew you were okay because you are Dwight and Robyn's daughter. I know what you are made of. You have proven that to me in EVERY communication and contact I have ever had with you. You are truly something special.

I am not psychic, but I can see your life. You and Michael will have several great children and you two will touch people for Christ all your lives. You will have fine Grandchildren and you will be a wonderful Grandmother in the model of Mama Suzy. You will pass away someday and you will go HOME to be with the Lord. There you WILL get to see and talk to your dad to your hearts content. I am so happy because I get to know you for 20 to 30 more years and I will bounce your children on my knee someday. And, if God is especially kind to me, I will get to be present at the reunion of you and your dad. Since there are no tears in Heaven, I will be all smiles that day.

Hannah, I love you, and your brothers and sisters, because you are Dwight's children. You all did nothing to earn that love, and you can do nothing to lose it either. I look upon you all with grace, unmerited favor. If I can ever do anything for you, if you are ever stuck between a rock and a hard place, you must call me. I will hear that call as a call from Dwight. I bind myself to you with these words, much like your dad and I were bound together one day in 1974 in a ski boat in Hot Springs Arkansas. I failed him once or twice. I will try that much harder to never fail you.

I love you and I miss you. You are your fathers daughter. He would be so very proud of you. May God continue to watch over you.

"Uncle" Starke