Dad

My dad recently passed away, and I want to honor him in a way that is true. I don’t have any memories to share of heart-to-heart talks, or life lessons he taught me growing up. Or, of any great adventures we went on together, or of how he was always there for me through every rough time in my life. I wish I did, but that was not our story.

That word, “Dad,” is confusing for me, and always has been. I’ve used it in many different ways through the years to describe my situation:

‘My mom and dad divorced when I was two; I have no memory of us living together.’

‘I grew up without my dad.’

‘I spent some of my summers at my dad’s house.’

‘I never really got to know my dad.’

‘My stepdad was a Marine.’

But no matter how I use it, I still don’t have a clue what it means for me. When I was a kid these were standard sentences I would tell my friends when they inquired, but they were just words that I had learned in order to end the questions; there was no understanding or emotion tied to them.

My best friend Billy lived next door to me, and when I would go to his house we would wrestle with his dad. It was so much fun!, but I would leave there more confused about “Dad,” because it obviously had a different meaning to Billy than it did to me–a comfortable meaning. “Dad” to me was a story that seemed far off, and there was no way to bring it near. The story I knew was that I had one–but for whatever reason we were no longer together–and now I see him in the summer, and a step-dad the rest of the year.

While I was there in the summer, he would tell me “I love you” and so I would say “I love you” back. But those were just words too. I knew that “dad” was someone I was supposed to love, and I could say it just like he could, but how could I mean it? I didn’t even know him. More confusion, and no explanation. Maybe he tried to explain things and I was not in a place to hear it–I don’t know–my past and memories are a whirlwind.

I came to know God as Father in 2012, and I was soon able to release my dad from that role. There has been so much forgiveness and healing, but the scars that remained prevented me from forming any real bond with him, even in adulthood. He was a good and personable man, and if it weren’t for that confusing title of “dad” I know I would have loved him more completely as “brother.” I should’ve just called him “Jerry.”

At the time of dads passing, and many years prior, he was a completely different man than in those long-ago summers. His transformation came many years before mine. He became a Christian several years ago and then became a biker-preacher. Before he actually had a church building they held service in a biker bar. I went to one of them and sat on a pool table while listening to his sermon.

And the host said, “Well then, go out to the highways and hedges and bring in the complete strangers you find there, until my house is completely full. Luke 14:23

My exquisitely odd dad fell perfectly into the niche that God created for him. He went after the hearts of people who nobody else would or could. He loved exactly the same people who God loves; he went after the same people Jesus did/does–those outside of society’s norms–the broken, outcasts, loners, prodigals, outlaws, and sinners. He loved them all, and showed many the way home.

I don’t question that my dad was proud of me, and I know he loved me. I only remember two times when he said something hurtful to me, and I forgave him. He loved the people I love without question, and was always genuinely glad to see me. I have no doubt that he would’ve had my back in any situation up to the day he died. I don’t know if I ever told him I was proud of him, but I sense that he is reading this now. So dad, I am extremely proud of the man you became. At the end of my life, if I have shown love to one-fourth as many people as you did, then I will have really lived. I would be proud to follow your example, to walk with God as humbly and closely as you have over the last several years. You have my respect, honor, and love.

I now feel grace for both of our shortcomings, and while I do wish things would’ve been different, I don’t live in regret. I am weary of all the stuff I see on Facebook and other places to the effect of “You need to do this or say that today because the one you love may not be here tomorrow.” While it’s factually true, the assumption that you only get one chance, or one life, is complete bullshit to me. Not only will I see my dad in a while, but we will both be restored–there wont be any brokenness between us–and we can enjoy each other in a way that wasn’t possible on this earth. I eagerly look forward to that day.

I’ll see you then, dad.

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11 comments on “Dad

  1. Joe Nash

    That was awesome! I am so thankful that forgiveness and healing are part of God’s plan

  2. Robyn

    Wow, what an inspiration your thoughts and outlook are! You will meet your real “Dad” in heaven and it will be beautiful and everything it should have been here on Earth. You are very wise and deep and even tho I don’t know you, I love you for that!!!! Peace be with you..

    1. Lonnie Melton

      Thank you Robyn. Your words are beautiful.

  3. Gary Iverson

    I know exactly how you feel. My parents divorced when I was 5 and my Dad moved on. Although I did see him a few times after, I never really knew him. I can relate to your story completely. I definitely could relate to how you felt when you made the connection to your Heavenly Father…our Heavenly Father. Thank you for sharing your heart with us. We all have our own journey through this life that no one else can walk, but many of us can also understand, especially after so wonderfully articulated.

    1. Lonnie Melton

      Thank you Gary. Yeah, when I finally got to a point where I saw God as father it was immensely freeing. I think to some degree there is an orphan in all of us waiting to be adopted by him. In my case the orphan was a pretty big part of me. I am still finding those parts in me and being kind to myself as I do. It’s a journey for sure. Thank-you for reaching out.

  4. Carla Wells

    Thank you for sharing this story. I wish I had a closer bond with my father, and he was in the same home as us. Still is living, and still with our mother.
    Your father was very very very dear to me and my husband. He married us. Actually had gotten out of the hospital the day before our wedding six years ago, had ridden with friends over the hour to get to our place, and said “No way was he going to miss marrying Doc and Babygirl”. We were getting married in a State Park, and we wanted to get married on the bluffs…..I told him, “you walk as far as you can, when you get tired THAT IS WHERE WE WILL GET MARRIED”. We got as far as the swimming hole. Thus the kids and people in the background swimming in our wedding pics. LOL But it was a fun memory, and I am BLESSED he WANTED to be there!

    1. Lonnie Melton

      That’s beautiful! Thank-you for sharing that.

  5. Joseph

    Lonnie: Dad and your dad are proud of you. Of this, I have no doubt! I’m proud to call you brother. Your words are humble and honest and an inspiration of hoping in what is to come. Thank you for sharing your heart. I pray the peace of God’s Spirit be with you and all those whom your dad had touched and that all who knew we him are filled with this same hope. Love you bro!

    1. Lonnie Melton

      “Hope is an act of defiance in this world.”

      Thanks Joseph…very proud to call you brother. Love you too.

  6. Bj jones

    This is beautiful. My daughter and her dad had just about this same relationship, except there were no summer visits. A phone call here and there. He’s now been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and I can’t believe how well she’s handling it all. Much better than I could have I’m sure. I got to know your dad through Bible studies. I belong to CMA. Prayers and blessings for you.

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