“When I am afraid, I put my trust in You.” Psalm 56:3
My father stood across the living room in his purple, cotton shirt. The ceiling of the Quonset hut curved behind his wavy, black hair. His bleary eyes stared at my mother who was dark with anger. Sitting upright on the Naugahyde couch, she cradled my sister and me on either side of her. I could feel her thin build stiffen next to me as she narrowed her eyes. There was vomit on the green, shag carpet from a guest who had passed out – the catalyst of the argument. Earlier that evening, the house was full of laughter as colorful people drank and talked in our living room. Cigarette smoke swirled overhead while ice clinked in glasses and the reel-to-reel boomed songs by Sinatra and Martin. I was young. Four or five. Alcoholism was not in my vocabulary.
“We’re leaving!” my mother announced as she ushered us into the bedroom.
My sister was older by two-and-a-half years. Her taller frame stood next to mine on the bed as my mother briskly tied our puffy kimono-like robes around our thin, tan frames. My mother’s short, black hair did not move. Everything about her was efficient, clean, crisp. She was an R.N. and worked in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) on base.
“You’re not leaving! I won’t let you!” my father said as he entered our bedroom. The gun was obvious, but my mother didn’t flinch.
I loved my father. When he was sober and wearing his Air Force blues he seemed safe. But, I couldn’t trust him. He was unpredictable. Scary. In my heart that night I vowed that I would never trust a man.
“Go ahead. Shoot us!” my mother blurted as she scooped us up and walked briskly outside before plopping us in the car. We drove away to the sound of locusts screaming in the trees.
For many years this event, and others like it, colored my relationships, even my relationship with God. To cope with the instability I withdrew, surviving through a world of fantasy. Fear defined my inner life. Fortunately, many years later, God revealed the vow I made as a little girl, “I will never trust a man.” This vow was like a seed that germinated behaviors like self-protection and distrust, enabling me to shut myself – my real self – off from the world. But, God rescued me at the age of twenty-eight and brought me into a love relationship with Him that forced me to question my normal. Intimate relationships were terrifying, painful and not worth the effort. Eventually, through prayer and counseling, God revealed several deep-rooted lies that had been hiding in my heart for years. The lies, like weeds, choked out the roses of security, love, patience and trust that God longed for me to experience. He spoke these tender words to me from Isaiah 43:1-3…
“But now, this is what the Lord says—he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: ‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.’”
An unstable childhood is a reality for many of us. Like me, you may have struggled with reconciling the truth of your past with God’s character. When I was a young believer God’s personality was morphed together with my father’s. It was a distortion; a Holy God I couldn’t trust. A God that may not be there when I need Him most. A God who loved me but wasn’t always delighted in me. A God who would abandon me…someday, just like my father. It took many years for me to see how I was dishonoring God with these lies. Fear and anxiety took over as I tried to protect myself and failed. The pain crept in and I felt…abandoned. Forsaken. Betrayed. In a pit of self-pity God showed me my sin saying, “I am not a man that I should lie. I am not your father.”
He is not my earthly father. He is trustworthy and always patient. He will not love me one minute and dismiss the next. He will not abandon me. He is Love. I can trust Him…irrevocably. It has taken many years of walking with God to come to a place of owning these truths. I still struggle with trusting men in general and have lapses where I forget I have a Godly husband who loves me. The trust struggle also continues with God as I recognize the familiar feelings of fear and anxiety in situations where I feel helpless. However, I have learned to accept these moments as gifts of reflection. No one likes to have their faults exposed (ouch) but God gives us the gift of a holy mirror, allowing us to see the smudges of sin on our faces. Only then will we allow Him to gently wipe them clean with His blood.
“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,[a]
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
Psalm 23:1-6, NIV