When I was a child, my dad said things that many dads say. “Stop that crying or I’ll give you something to cry about”. My dad passed away many years ago and I can still hear his voice and the way he said it. At the time, those words evoked fear in my heart. I was always terrified of my dad as a little girl. I know I wasn’t the only child to hear these words.
I now have four wee little grandchildren and although each one is different, they all have one thing in common. They cry. When they cry a lot, they distress their parents to no end. Crying is a child’s non-verbal way of expressing their needs and desires, like pain, boredom, hunger or fear. There are lots of reasons a child cries. Parents in their humanness sometimes react in ways that are not helpful or healthy.
How People Respond Matters
Some responses to a child who cries can cause the child in their immaturity to interpret their caregiver’s tone of voice or reactions in a way that may not be intended or even considered. Sometimes this can create a core belief in the child that becomes a theme or framework for their entire lives.
I know now that my dad was a tender-hearted man who loved his three children and was very proud of us. I didn’t always believe this. When I was growing up, I saw him as a mean man who was too quick to strike and too slow to listen. I never felt secure around him, especially when I was alone with him.
My perspective changed several years after he died. I had a load of memories of him reacting to my tears or my other childish “flaws”. During my early years as a Christian, I was taught the need to forgive others. The Lord’s prayer reads in Matthew 6:12, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” It further states in Matthew 6:14, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.”
I learned to forgive my dad for every negative memory I had of him. I released him into the hands and care of my heavenly Father and asked God to bless him. I then asked the Father to forgive me for holding those negative actions against him and asked the Lord to wipe the slate clean between us over those events. It took several years and loads of memories to go through, but over time it became easier and easier to remember some of the good things about him. As I cooperated in this process, God met me along the way.
After Practicing Forgiveness
About fifteen years after my dad’s funeral, I woke early in the morning before anyone else in the house stirred. Not wanting to leave my comfortable bed, I decided to just thank God in my head for all the blessings I was enjoying at that point and time. As I did, I entered into what seemed like a daydream. I “saw” the Lord walk into my room with another fellow. I knew it was Jesus and he told me that this gentleman had asked permission to talk to me and He had decided to grant permission. Now it was up to me to decide.
Because I didn’t recognize him, I wondered who he was even though I’d said yes to letting him speak to me. I saw an old picture of my dad in my hand. It turns out that this person was indeed my dad and he wanted to tell me how sorry he was for not knowing how to raise me well. He apologized for a long list of faults and failures and asked me to forgive him.
Astonished, I forgave him immediately. The confession was so sincere. My dad proceeded to tell me all the things he loved about me as a little girl. From there he went on to affirm me as a woman and a mother and to let me know how proud he was of me. Years of fear washed away. Any list of sins I had retained against him were forgotten during that conversation except what I needed to remember for this testimony. He bestowed upon me a father’s blessing and assured me that I would recognize him in heaven when I got there as he had been healed of all that had deformed him as a man on earth.
The conversation went on for many minutes. I cried during a lot of it and still cry today in the memory of it. These tears are not negative in nature. They are not a sign of need or pain and they are not full of regrets either. These are tears of gratitude for the encounter I had in a day-dream where the Lord revealed something to me in a way I could receive and accept. Now, I can hardly remember the negatives of my childhood with my dad.
I do remember him getting on the floor with my brothers and me playing arm wrestling with him and hearing him laugh at our vain attempts to beat him. I remember playing checkers and washing the dishes with him. I remember how he used to boast about my brothers to visitors after they left home and I am sure he boasted about me too when I left.
I remember the many hours he, being almost illiterate, helping me with homework by dictating the numbers I had to copy out of the text book to help me get it done faster. I remember him bringing my mother breakfast in bed when she was really really sick and bringing her plastic flowers on her birthday.
I remember reading the Bible to him as he lay dying of cancer at home. And I remember being there when he said his last word to God, and I know that I will see him again.
May you, my reader, learn to forgive those who did not react to your crying well. May you practice that act of forgiveness in the presence of God and may He lead you to the full healing you need so that you in turn can react well to those who cry around you. And may your tears become tears of joy and gratitude in many times and in many ways.