Father. Refuge.

Psalm 118:17

I shall not die, but I shall live,
and recount the deeds of the LORD.

This week marks a year since my dad's heart surgery. Dad and I are close, so that was a frightening, awful time for me.

Our next couple of weeks are pretty scary, too. Although we are super excited, this is new territory; and my notebook full of ballpoint lists doesn't begin to cover the unknowns ahead.

Over and again through Scripture, we can watch God's people recounting His faithfulness during frightening times. Somehow, rehearsing God's loving care through past darkness is a catechism of hope for the future. These are our memorial stones in the Jordan River. (Joshua 4)

So today, I'm posting something I wrote privately a year ago about my Dad - and about the Father who walks into fearful times with us.

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"Father. Refuge."

Pastors and priests casually toss those two terms together and expect us to swallow. Yet reality, for many souls, forces them apart.

Too often, “father” equals ignored, criticized, hit, avoided, abused, abandoned, or deceived. Young trust must learn quickly that “father” is an unsafe place. It must learn that male strength violates tenderness. For these children, fatherhood is a force that destroys.

I’m not sure how kids survive that. It is a wound I’ve never known.

When I was a little girl, Dad would hold me in his lap in the mornings while I woke up. He would listen to my fears and my loves. He would take me on long walks when I needed to cry or vent. He read books to me, and he taught me how to pray. He taught me how to change the oil, and how to skin a squirrel, and the importance of world history. He helped me love words, trees, birds, and things growing from the earth. He taught me how to compete with men and how to respect them. He encouraged me to try sports that would make me physically strong. He loved learning, and pursued it. He helped me see humor in the world. He believed in the worth of femininity and also in the power of it. He brought mom wildflowers he found in the woods.

Dad smoked once a year - a cigar on the Fourth of July to light the fireworks. As a teenager, this was significant to me. He was tough enough to smoke if he wanted to, but he also had the self control not to go there. I learned from that.

Dad turned sixty this past May. He looks fifty, maybe. He is still athletic, strong, active, slim. I have always expected him to live a very long life. He had the genetics. He has the lifestyle. I felt like he would be there almost forever.

‘Refuge fatherhood’ has pulsed steadily through my life like a heartbeat. It is my constant, my music of the spheres. It is unshakable. It is trustworthy.

Last week, I sat in a hospital lobby, while my dad’s heart was stopped and his lungs were collapsed. His mitral valve went bad, and the surgeon was going to try to fix it.

Before he went into surgery, I put my head to his chest. My knowledge of cardiology is limited, but this heartbeat sounded like someone was squeezing water out of a Nerf football. There wasn’t a “thump thump” to it. It was more “thump squish.” The nurses said it was one of the worst they’d ever heard.

And so I watched him leave me. He was peaceful - content to be going wherever his Father led. I sat waiting in an uncomfortable chair under flickering fluorescent lights while the heartbeat that had supported most of my life stopped.

In that silence, Father Refuge came. He listened to my fears. He took me on a walk when I needed to cry. He helped me read books, and pray, and do some practical things. He was tender with my stumblings, and He held me in His lap while I woke to the reality of this new stage of my life.

When Dad came out of surgery, he was intubated. The throat tube was out by the time I went back to ICU, but about twenty other drip tubes were coming from his neck, arms, and chest. I’m one of those people who can’t pull a child’s tooth, because it makes me woozy. But Father Refuge helped me approach my Dad, sit with him, and help him do breathing treatments. He helped me hold his big feet in my lap and rub them to improve his circulation. These are things I cannot do... could not do. Nausea. Drugged confusion. Pain that’s twelve on a ten scale. Monitors. Tubes. With each new challenge, my fingers being pried, one at a time from reliance upon an earthly core. And yet, Father Refuge was strong, and tender, and present when imago Dei could not stand. I'm so thankful for an earthly Dad who taught me how to recognize Him.

There’s a C.S. Lewis quote I can’t find. It talks about how losing your parents is like losing points on the horizon that have grounded your view of the world. I felt that this week, that sensation of falling without harness or light. But Father Refuge met me there. He met me there like he has - like HE has - ever since I was born. It is not a lesson that I am strong enough to have chosen. But Father Refuge knows how to lead our hearts through fearful times into deeper communion with Him.

O Lord of Grace
The world is before me this day,
And I am weak and fearful,
But I look to thee for strength;
If I venture forth alone I stumble and fall,
But on the Beloved’s arms I am firm
As the eternal hills.

(From Valley of Vision: God All-Sufficient)

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About This Blog

Welcome to our family’s adoption journey. As you read, you will see us stumble and take wrong paths. You will see our hopes surge and fall. You will see the gaps in our humanity, and how our God realigns us to His purposes over and again. We think the messiness of this process is important. Sometimes walking with God isn’t a neat, linear package that can be summarized in bullet points. More often, life ebbs and flows around our plans, while God works His sovereign wonders from it all. We are learning so much through this journey. And we are super excited about our new son. If you’d like to join us, we’d love to have you along for the ride.

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