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TRIBEWORK is about consuming the process of life, the journey, together.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Want Control? Then Take Your Responsibility

Photo by Louis Reed on Unsplash

What I write about below is personal psychology 101. 
Most people in life want control over their life.
Indeed, that’s a huge understatement. We all want more control over life and our lives than we can seize.
But this want of control, when needing control becomes an idol, creates situations where, most often, we surrender control. We give away what we cannot afford to lose, whether for ourselves or our relationships.
Here’s how that works. 
When we interact with life and with others in a way that demands control, that very action forces others in a direction they would prefer not to go. That creates conflict. Conflict creates the temptation to wander into a blame game. The moment we begin blaming someone else is the same moment we refuse to take our own responsibility for our contribution to the conflict. In refusing our responsibility we surrender the only control we have; the only control we ever have, that is, the control we have over our own responses — over ourselves. If we think we can control or have control over others we’re deluded.
Controlling others requires you to surrender
the only control you’ll ever have.
Taking responsibility for what’s ours,
gives us control over ourselves.
Control over ourselves
is the only control we have.
The ‘internal locus of control’ (psychology term) suggests we have control over a great many things, for instance, how we respond to others and what choices we decide to initiate. By taking responsibility we take our control. By owning your contribution to conflict, and not taking theirs, you’re able to apologise for what you did wrong. Having an internal locus of control gives us maximum control over our own lives.
The ‘external locus of control’, however, sees issues of conflict as the other person’s problem. It’s the blame game — the game that gets everyone nowhere. By refusing to take our responsibility we lose whatever control we could have in attempting to control the other person. Having an external locus of control gives you minimal control over your own life, and it damages your relationships, because others are confused as to why you refuse to own what you did wrong. Taken further, the person who cannot own what they did wrong becomes an unsafe person, and these very people can make it their mission, and have the temerity, to suggest it’s others who don’t take their responsibility, that others are unsafe. Can you see how this kind of person will never have the only control they could have, because they refuse to take their responsibility?

The sanest way to live life, and the only way to relate with others, is by taking responsibility for our lives, for our actions, words, mistakes, errors, faults, and successes.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

When a relationship is not what we hope


Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash
There are times in all our lives when there is a relationship that doesn’t quite meet our hopes. There is a particular kind of relationship that continues to elude us with a loved one or a friendship that has experienced fracture.
It is quite a common theme in my pastoral, chaplaincy, and counselling work to be confided in to the extent of:
‘Please help me, I’m so sad
because of this relationship —
I don’t feel close,
or they don’t seem to care,
and I don’t know what to do
about this situation or my sadness.’
Professionally, of course, these moments leave me feeling out of my depth, but then I quickly realise that hardly anyone is expecting me to fix their problems. What I have to offer is the care of listening and interest of and capacity to journey with a person. I am still so amazed by what the Holy Spirit can do when I’m feeling hopeless and useless in my own strength. In endeavouring not to fix the person’s problem, the person is ministered to by the Holy Spirit operating through me.
I recall a time when a particular relationship was not only strained, but the relationship, as it had been, was over. I was impelled into grief; cast into the place of loss that I was completely ill-equipped to handle.
When people say God
doesn’t give you more than you can handle,
part of me wants to laugh,
but part of me also gets angry.
Life does give us more than we can handle.
God allows this to bring us
to an understanding of Himself in our suffering.
This is why we need God,
because at times life cannot answer our questions of it,
and only God at those times can help.
… but never in a way we initially expected…
The above relational situation taught me so much, because at some levels there was no hope. I had to get used to the fact things had changed forever. There was no way of reconciling the relationship to how it was. I was forced to adjust. But I also found a way to reconcile with this person in a way that only God could have procured. And yet there was a blessing in disguise, a God compensation if you will, for the fact that things had changed irreparably. I have written about this before:
God takes us deeper into Himself,
and, as a compensation,
we get a gift that nothing in this world can provide.
That can, however, seem short-change for those who have not yet experienced such a compensation. For whatever reason, they may never experience what I and many others claim as faith-facts. But it’s only as we press on in within our pain that we stand to benefit in a way that is entirely of God.
When I go into some of those moments with others, pastorally or therapeutically, so many in a moment of sharing are overcome by their sadness and heave out their tears. Again, I can feel quite useless, because it is completely inappropriate to console them in a way I would like to. Such consolations I talk about I can only give to family, otherwise others and myself are vulnerable to a possible inappropriate use of the power God gives me to care. And yet, stopping short of such consolations is the very power of God, as God gets me to step out of the way, so His Spirit can work in this situation of my holding and containing of the person.
Still, the sadness of being in some kind of relationship that doesn’t rise to the hopes we have can very well feel overwhelming. And yet, God’s power doesn’t seem to operate until we get to this place of feeling overwhelmed.
Feeling overwhelmed is like arriving at first base
in the economy of God’s ministry for the grieving.
And there is something very precious about a person-to-person relationship that is both safe and intimate at the same time.
Such a therapeutic relationship works for healing through the power of God because, and only because, it is platonic. Such a relationship does not and cannot rescue a person from their immediate pain, but somehow gives them the courage to continue on in the journey of hope toward resolution.

And I would argue that the effectiveness of the counselling relationship is because of that very reason: we do not interrupt the flow of God’s healing Spirit that requires a person to do their own work even while they’re urged onward in faith by any of us privileged to walk alongside with them.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Name the game and you take its power away

Photo by Thibault Mokuenko on Unsplash

One of the healthiest devices known in the field of counselling is the concept of naming what is going on in the room. As I was reminded recently, one way of looking at this is to imagine each phenomenon as the game. There is incredible value in naming a game.
Naming without Shaming
For instance, sometimes it is abuse that needs to be named, and if we can name the game early, locate it and put it on the table, it can be discussed as an object; it can be discussed without apportioning direct blame; it can be discussed in a safe way; it can be discussed in a way that does not frighten off a person engaging in abuse who cannot yet contemplate what they are doing. What beckons isn’t immediately threatening. The person engaging in potential abuse, it is hoped, can meet the concepts without feeling accused.
It is the accusation itself
that amplifies the threat.
The power of naming the game
is we take its power away.
Before we move on from the concept of abuse, it must also be acknowledged that many people who engage in abuse will refuse to see it as abuse. But every person in therapy must be given the opportunity to face the therapist’s teaching and decide for themselves. Those given to being abusers ought, like everyone, to be given the opportunity to repent. God’s miraculous grace is not beyond the abuser. But repentance (a change of mind that leads to a change in behaviour) is required.
Counselling Friends
Another game that can be named is the pure fact that a process of therapy can and often does involve a complex process and a convoluted bunch of emotions.
Sometimes in churches we are required to counsel our friends, but our friends ought to be given the opportunity of knowing that the game can change friendships.
Indeed, for the pastor and counsellor it is wise to recognise that every relationship is vulnerable to disruption, even destruction, when it is exposed to the truth of the therapeutic process.
It’s remarkable how many relationships do change when licence is needed and given in the gentle though firm interrogation of relational dynamics to arrest toxic patterns and to breathe life into marriages and other family dynamics.
The power in naming the game
is we give licence for people
to opt in to or out of the process
having been forewarned.
Sometimes it is a pastor or counsellor’s job to put at risk the personal relationship they enjoy with the person to improve a family relationship that person has — “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends,” it says in John 15:13.
It is in the identification of issues
that gives people command over truth.
The power of naming the game is
we take its power away.
Citing cause for Encouragement
One of the great opportunities in working with a pastor or counsellor is the likelihood that they will identify something (and perhaps more than one thing) to encourage. Given that most people burn out because of a discouragement, not having been noticed or acknowledged or praised or valued, even having been rejected or left out, the role of encouragement cannot be understated.
And yet those who are in helping professions have the uncanny knack of identifying niches of brilliance in those they come to know.
This runs counter to the above two points, whereby the power in naming the game — the strength or performance of someone as yet unnoticed — is power not taken away, but a power for truth through the identification of the game.
***
Some people do take advantage, especially of caring kinds of persons. Once the game has been named, however, there is nowhere to hide. Once the game has been named, a genuine kind of freedom can be realised.

This article acknowledges the wisdom of my father-in-law, Ray Brown.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Good news for some is never good news for all

Photo by pawel szvmanski on Unsplash


With every piece of joyous information, there is always a pocket of commiseration. Celebratory moments have their share of instantaneous despair. Such is life.
The jubilant sharing of a pregnancy, and the hopes of a new life to be born, have a sobering effect on those who have miscarried, suffered stillbirth or infertility. It is impossible to rationalise just how deep the pain is in the loss of a new born life, that of a hope that will not go away that will never be realised.
When academic brilliance is lauded by parents at the receipt of a scholarship, a special needs parent is once again reminded they have a child who will never achieve anything like that. Parents of special needs children face a grief that never goes away, for the reminders of their loss repeat each day. The same goes for parents with a teen or young adult who has gone off the rails.
There is shame at the same moment there is joy.
And yet the paradox of life presents itself afresh: those who struggle early in life often prosper later, and those who prospered early can often struggle later. Very few people go through life without having struggled.
That time when you are single, and a best friend tells you the wonderful news that they’re engaged to be married, you cannot help but feel lonely in that moment. Something deep inside a single person grieves such news because they know the relationship will drastically change, and often the married friend can seem to have no idea, or even resents that their single friend can’t accept change and move on.
For the divorced person, any reminder of a ‘successful’ family is likely to remind them of the failure that time cannot scrub away. Yet they know full well that ‘successful’ families aren’t always what they seem, for there are skeletons in everyone’s closet. Theirs are simply exposed, and that exposure has been opportune, perhaps, for a journey of growth in courage to be vulnerable. It’s the same with those with troublesome family dynamics who look on when other families get on well. There’s a grief that’s palpable. Separated families constantly face the grief of doing life without loved ones, and it’s doubly worse when it’s outside your control.
That announcement of a position secured within a company or on a board or at a school, the kind of position that you have often coveted, that has gone to someone else. Part of the disappointment can be the shock of hearing the news when we also experience others being universally joyful at such news.
It’s isolating when everyone else is celebrating
and you’re reeling at the shock of news you didn’t expect.
When we move an elderly parent into an aged care facility, there is the sadness of a diminished life in that parent, but those who have lost parents well before age could weary them can have a different perspective. They may quietly think, ‘Well, at least you’ve had the last 20 years; I haven’t.’ Nothing spiteful, just reality.
The reverse occurs when someone cannot escape their grief or trauma and they seem to go on and on about it. Some would be tempted to give these people some advice, ‘be more positive,’ ‘count your blessings,’ or to offer some glib cliché. Of course, it all falls flat, because the advice is coming from a person very poorly positioned to comment. The evidentiary fact is the position of the heart to give advice to someone who has exhausted all simplistic solutions. Advice doesn’t work well in cases where the complexity is overwhelming.
When someone’s relationship is going gangbusters and yours is in the toilet, or when they’re being waited on and pampered, yet yours is a torrent of abuse or a sea of neglect with no horizon.
Good news for some
is never good news for all.
It is important at this juncture to recognise our feelings of disappointment amid celebration, and not to immediately surrender to guilt or shame, but to legitimise them and let the feelings have a place.
We feel what we feel,
and feelings have purity to be honoured.
Feelings show us who we are,
that God gave them to us for a reason.
God wants us to feel.
Our opportunity in sharing good news is to make a broader scan of those who are around to anticipate the impact. Of course, we are not responsible for how people take change, but we can be kind in the way we share. We can anticipate disappointment in others even if we’re ecstatic, and to legitimise another’s authentic felt process is to forge depth of trust.
It’s okay to be disappointed,
and better to acknowledge it,
we just endeavour not to stay there.

Yet, out of all this, the Lord is the God of the disenfranchised, the abandoned, the outlier, the lonely. He remains with us through all our adversity.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

God won’t change your circumstances

This is an ugly and uncomfortable, inconvenient truth. To put it in a modern way, it sucks.
God
doesn’t
change
our
circumstances.
If we’re in a season of grief for any reason, life ordains that the journey is designed to break us in either of two ways: brokenness becomes hope through endurance, but it is nonetheless a putrid journey, or brokenness becomes resentment through despair.
This article is about the choice we take in choosing which side of the dividing line we’ll fall.
Psalm 13 was emblematic of my initial grief journey, a voyage into the uncharted territory of loss where maps just didn’t exist. I was given the compass of good counsel. I had the desperation of a soul sick without God. I was fed on the hardtack of rejection. I grasped the wheel of discernment daily, and many days wrecked me by failures to read the turns. So many days I wished that God would break through upon the horizon to release me from the hell of my circumstances. He never did. Grief was unabating, just more sea mist broke over my bow as my craft plunged through the waves that bludgeoned my soul, bringing me to repent without strength again and again before the Lord. Sails tethered by ropes gnarled by long service, my rigging was battle weary, those sails ripped in places, yet the winds blew as tenacious gusts incessantly.
But the voyage was necessary to teach me
something I could not have otherwise learned.
It’s so hard to keep going when the hope of the horizon
continues to fail to meet its initial promise.
Grief causes us to abandon our perception that God can be used for material blessing. The nature of grief is we must hold to a promise that won’t come true, but in holding to that promise, which is the alleviation of our suffering, we make it through… as Churchill said, ‘if you’re halfway through hell, keep going!’
God uses our grief to teach us He is more than a giver of release, of blessing, of comfort. He is more. He is Sovereign. He is just. He is all-powerful, all-knowing and all-wise. We control nothing. We have partiality. In grief, we’re powerless, so limited in our knowledge and wisdom.
We never have any idea what we’re missing
before we sail the intrepid storm of grief.
It’s good that we finally arrive at the ports of acceptance
along the journey to the ultimate destination.
Those ports of acceptance are arrival points on the grace-growth journey. Softly does the soul come to rest in the acceptance of what cannot be changed nor controlled. A depth of spiritual maturity comes as a gift for having no further demand of God.
What a blessing it is to become aware
how much we attempt to manipulate God.
It’s a very good thing that God will not change our circumstances. He uses this to crucify the last vestiges of self in the discipleship journey that brings us from the practicalities of death to eternal life.
We think we know what we need, but our wants invariably are an abuse of who God is. If we insist that God listen to us and do what we say He do, we pretend we have a control we’ll never have, and we entertain a futility that is stark in its madness.
So, at the precipice at the Valley of Decision, truth garners the spirit, and compels the choice — for God or against God. We think the choice is about us. It is not. It never is. It never was.
Choose to go against the grain of our petty nature, and we do what is necessary to move through growing in the passage way of grief to a restoration better than we would have once settled for.
Go the way of ease,
that is an ultimate hardship.
Instead, go the way of hardship,
which is the ultimate peace.
I cannot help but admit that the title of this article seems hopeless.
But the very great truth is:
God won’t change your circumstances
because He wants to change your capacity.
If it wasn’t for our pain, we would never grow and mature. I have known too many people, not least myself, who have been transformed because of their pain, because they submitted to and trusted God.
We have to be careful, however, not to be transformed the opposite way, in bitterness or through sorrow that breaks us, through insisting God change the circumstances our very lives, in this season, call us to live.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

There’s one doing it tougher than you

Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

They say there’s always one doing it tougher than you, yet it isn’t always the case. We all take turns at being bottom of the wood pile.
But most of the time there’s at least one person doing it tougher than we are. One person we know. Someone we know who isn’t being or cannot be transparent.
A male. A female.
Someone older than us.
Someone younger.
·        A person who’s recently suffered a loss, but we imagine they must be okay by now. Surely they’re better by now… yet grief sneaks up like a thief in the night.
·        Someone who’s experienced a trauma we don’t know about; could be bullying at work or a sexual assault or some other violation.
·        Another one contemplates self-harm and they don’t know why or how to stop. There is one (at least one) we know who is thinking suicide.
·        A person who covets a secret addiction they’re mortally afraid of being found out about. Or the person who’s tired of running and wants to be caught — how desperate are they?
·        For many it’s the inability to pay the bills or put food on the table. Poverty is no surer way to hopelessness.
·        And others cannot anticipate having the children they wish to have. A grief that takes a thousand deaths to die.
·        The person who’s angry and doesn’t know why; could be one of ten reasons or several of the whole bunch.
·        The man (or woman) in the car behind you shaking his fist for you to get out of his way.
·        The woman (or man) who is so paralysed with anxiety they cannot look you in the face.
·        The child (or adult) who acts up because they’re tired of being misunderstood.
·        The person with chronic illness, depression, and fatigue; the despair they face every single day of their life.
The strange thing is, whenever I face spiritual attack, having been in the torment of it, I see others on the way out of it. I see the litany of others struggling at every level under the sun.
It’s like I’m haunted by a sea of anonymous faces. All people with needs. At the precise moment after I’ve felt like the only one oppressed. Always after, not in the midst.
I get so tired of being the one in the firing line, but the enemy loves that sort of defeatism. Even as I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired, that moment, the Lord breaks through, crushing my elegantly arranged city pity party.
Here’s some of what I hear:
There are others, too.
They’re suffering worse.
Not that we can scale the trials anyone is facing.
You might prefer what you’re struggling with
if you knew what they’re struggling with.
This sort of perspective sharpens both my resilience and the acuity of my sensitivity for others. At no time has God the Father dumped the entirety of human sin and suffering on my shoulders like He did with Jesus.
The truth is there are millions of fragments of suffering borne within billions of lives. And only God knows every single shard of rubble.
Meanwhile it is the case that my case is done a favour in recognising there’s someone out there, and possibly someone I know, doing it tougher than me at the same time I’m in my deepest struggle.
And one thing needs always
to be remembered:
To suffer alone feels like hell,
yet to suffer together is some kind of heaven.
No matter how bad we have it, we’re helped enormously in knowing we’re not alone in our suffering.
Indeed, encouragement is thin when things are going well, yet encouragement is a force thick with reckoning power when things are dire. And encouragement always comes from another, from common unity.
How blessed we are, having traversed our own pain, to find others in theirs along the journey; the pain we experienced made it possible we would see each other.

Monday, July 9, 2018

God interrupts busyness for His purpose

Oh, how mysterious is God? But oh, how reliable the Lord also is.
On a recent day, a day of supposed holiday merriment, I felt inundated with jobs, tasks, interactions, so-called pressing demands. It may have only been six or seven, but it was enough to draw me away from my sole responsibility of caring for my son, with my wife at work.
There were three email conversations, WhatsApp messages, some Messenger interactions, a sermon to prepare and read up on, along with the household chores to do. The nature of interruptions is it doesn’t take too much, just a couple of awkwardly timed interactions or tasks, to derail plans hatched with good intent.
Interruptions create busyness,
but God interrupts busyness with creativity.
All the while that I’m fielding all these interruptions, getting stressed into the bargain, I’m vaguely aware that my five-year-old son is craving my attention. He seems so unreasonable in doing this. Like a five-year-old! Like a child who wants and deserves his Daddy. Like a boy who wants to share with his father the wonder of playing with mud.
Then God speaks. ‘Put the phone down.’ ‘Go outside.’ ‘Now!’
‘Okay, Lord, if you say so…’ It wasn’t in me to do it under my own steam, but God impelled me out of the house at the beckoning of my son…
‘Dad, come and build with me… make mud with me.’
In my mind are all these priorities, needs, and desires in me to manage them now as they come in. Yes, I’ve done all the time management training courses that tell me not to do this, but…
…no buts… no if’s, no buts.
So, I walk, twenty percent against my own will, but at least I’m walking.
When I arrive not ten metres from the side door, I see what he’s arranged.
He has a whole construction site arranged with six ‘machines’ ready to do the grunt work of carting dirt and material for his building. All the machines are lined up ready for duty. It’s all set, the planning and scheduling has been done, but there’s one vital labour source that’s tarried — Dad!
He proceeds to describe to me the older machine that he’s pretty fond of, and he also shows off the newer, bigger machines. Pretty quickly I arrive at an understanding of my role in the ‘building’. I turn the water on and off, so the dirt can be turned into a slurry we’re calling ‘mud’. He arranges his machines so they can receive their payloads of dirt, with all dirt ending up in the hopper (a.k.a. wheelbarrow).

And God is compelling as He shows me His peace in allowing myself to become absorbed in my son’s world.
God will interrupt our busyness if we’re listening. Truly, if we’re attentive to our frustrations we’ll see that God is reminding us not simply via his still, small voice, but the Holy Spirit is bellowing through the rising anger of our disobedience.
The moments of obedience, when we spend time with our children and families, are often fleeting in this life, but they’re moments we’ll never regret. Managing life’s tasks and demands, however, though they seem imperative, will cause us to rue our lost opportunities with our kin.

Friday, July 6, 2018

That relationship you need a miracle for

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

We’ve all been in this place. And yet, another grief falls upon us.
There is a relationship that shatters us in the process of its shattering.
Whether the relationship is intact or not is immaterial. There is a grief in both aspects of relationship: in absence especially, but also in presence. Ask the spouse of the one with dementia. What was so precious is gone, forever. Sometimes presence resembles absence in the cruellest of ways.
This is not just about marriage; it’s about best-friendships, collegiate and professional partnerships, and soul-mate relationships of all kinds of designations — some that we never designed and never thought could ever work but did.
This is about any situation of grief that impacts you over a relationship that needs a miracle. Sometimes that miracle is that you can let the relationship go. Such a process is a gradual learning, of risking courageously, of giving back to God what life has taken from us, and of honouring the compelling truth.
Maybe you’re not ready to let go just yet. Sometimes that miracle you seek is one that gives you the strength to hold on.
Hope rests in faith to hold on
or wisdom to let go,
but oh what strength it takes
to trust in tomorrow.
What Happens Too Frequently
Something joined us together, five months or fifty years ago, in all manner of circumstances and situations we either could have or would not have predicted.
A glue formed between us, and while things were good they were so very wholesome and productive and good. It wasn’t just the love we shared. There was something beautifully elusive that formed between us, through the dynamic that we shared. And what is most frustrating is we can only attest to the potential that was borne between us as one of us or both of us looks back.
Perhaps they moved on without us. Maybe we had to move on from them. What happens too frequently is something unravels; destiny or death. It sneaks up and happens suddenly or we could see it coming. Sometimes there are warnings and it’s infuriating when every method of communication is exhausted and there’s still no response.
The shattered relationship completely deconstructs what identity we’ve built together. It reconfigures our philosophy for life. It shakes us to the core. It could bring us back to who we were. It can cause us to question who on earth we are. It can lay us waste.
The Answer…
“… unless a deliberate effort is made to restore and strengthen a [damaged] relationship, it will generally deteriorate.”
— Ken Sande, The Peacemaker, p. 219.
Reconciliation is a weird concept. It is highly negotiable in nature. We can find we’ve made all sorts of agreements with ourselves, but these were couched in terms only we could conceive. Sometimes their terms are completely what we could never have expected. We need to be ready for repentance.
There are myriad possibilities when it comes to reconciling, whether it’s a person-to-person reality, the revival of circumstances that once were, or reconciling it’s over, and every varietal between.
Sometimes reconciliation is impossible, and acceptance is the destination where hope is finally revived. A necessary severing takes place. A moving on brings healing and restoration. In these cases, acceptance is reconciliation.
The only thing we can do is honour the truth held above — a deliberate effort is needed. If that effort has been made and to no avail, we work on acceptance. If the effort is necessarily ongoing, so be it; we’re called to a season of patience that could last a year or five, or a decade or more. Ours is the wisdom to leave it with God.
Some deterioration reminds us of the effort due
to revive it to life.
Other deterioration is purely beyond our control.
All deteriorated relationships inspire us to pray.
We pray for peace above all.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

The repetitive grief of a separated parent

March 13, 2005, a Sunday, was like so many Sundays in the 2003 – 2007 period. Well, every second one. After picking my daughters up on a Friday afternoon I’d return them to their mother on a Sunday afternoon.
It was always hard.
Without exception, having helped settle them in with Mum, including a healthy handover chat, I’d leave either forlornly accepting of what was (that they couldn’t be with me fulltime), or, especially in the case of longer stays or absences, I’d leave and only be a minute down the road and in tears.
Those times I was in tears, I would pray to God and just be as earnest as I could be. It was like an immediate sense of separation loneliness gripped me, for the umpteenth time, where I would once again learn that God was all I had. He took me to desolate nothingness so many times. Yet, I never really got used to it.
I came to a place
each and every time that acknowledged,
with my Lord,
I could endure this.
I don’t know how to explain how my relationship with God grew so much in a season of such anguish. It sounds wrong to say God was all I had, but truly there were so many occasions where I found myself dropped literally into that agonising pit. And there, in the bottom of it with me, was my Lord.
Church certainly became a distraction and serving in leadership was one way of getting me to focus on something positive, but there was nothing to distract me on that thirty-minute drive home, and on many occasions, I simply lamented what I was missing out on, and especially how my daughters might be missing me. This latter thought often haunted me, but I was always reassured to know on phoning them later that they were always okay.
On the day in question, my journal tells me that my youngest daughter glanced back, and I seriously questioned, as it says, ‘Where I’m at!’ I simply mention that saying goodbye that day was ‘very difficult.’
Long stays were different. Having my daughters for a week during the holidays was great, but a strange thing would happen the day before I took them back — I would always be emotional. Sometimes moody, mostly pre-occupied, always reflective. It was just another iteration of a grief I experienced hundreds of times back in that nearly-four-year season, just more intense. It would be nothing for me to be sullenly depressed for two or three days or before I saw them again.
It was a tragic irony for me that I probably took my three daughters for granted whilst I was in my first marriage, but then when it was over, having fallen in love with them in a fresh way through their frequent absences from my presence, I just didn’t know how to adjust, other than to go deep into God — to say it was a saving grace would be a cosmic understatement.
Why do I write this sort of thing? A love letter to my daughters — Dad will always love you. A reminder to myself, that though I’m through that season, there are people doing it tough like I was, but now. An encouragement to those who relate not to give up; you’re not alone. That this love letter might open the eyes of hearts that God destines to see it, especially husbands like I was, taking the very blessings before my/our eyes for granted.