Healing of a Memory Long ForgottenPosted: December 4, 2008
I didn’t grow up with the typical home life; not by the standard of any culture. My family was in Bangkok, Thailand, when my father left my mother and his 3 young children in 1968. I was a month shy of 6, and the oldest. When my mother tried to take all of us to go live with my grandparents (her parents), she was told that only she could return home, and my 2 younger brothers and I were to go with my father because we were his responsibility. My father came to get us, and immediately placed us in boarding school. My mother would come visit us periodically at school, and on some weekends we’d even be lucky enough to go home with her. Those weekends were always too short, and I can still recall the dread of the Sunday afternoon’s drive back to the school. When school was out during the Summer, we would go stay with our father, and not be allowed any contact with our mother. Actually, we weren’t even allowed to talk about her.
Last night, I remembered a long-forgotten incident that happened during one of these Summers at my father’s house. I was about 9, and was missing my mother very much. I secretly wrote a letter to her, telling her how unhappy I was at my father’s house, how I wish I was with her, and how mean my father’s new wife had been to my brothers and me, but that she didn’t need to worry, because I would do my best to take care of my little brothers for her, and I hope the Summer would go quickly so we could be back at school and she could come visit us again. There was one major obstacle to getting that letter to my mother: I didn’t have any envelope or stamp. I decided to ask for help from the one adult whom I thought I could trust, the servant. I gave her the letter, asking her to put it in a stamped envelope and mail it.
That night, my father called me into his room. As I walked into the room, I was horrified to see the letter in my father’s hand, without an envelope, and he was very angry. Obviously he read the letter and didn’t like the colorful words I used to describe his new wife. I told him I was sorry, that I said those things because I was missing my mother and just wanted to see her. But he remained angry.
It wasn’t the first time my father beat me, but it was the worst beating I’d ever received from his hands. I couldn’t remember anything my father said to me that night, only the swishing sound that the long handle of the feather duster made as it came down, and the hot searing pain I felt when it made contact with my skin. It seemed like time stood still as one swish came after another. I remember not being able to stand up anymore when he finally stopped. Somehow I got myself to bed (a sleeping mat), my whole body still throbbing with pain. I cried myself to sleep, longing for my mother to comfort me, wondering if God even cared.
That’s how it happened, or at least how my young child’s mind remembered it. Such memories used to bring me a lot of sorrow and bitterness, along with the feeling of abandonment, wondering where God was at such times in my life. But this time, as I saw this replayed in my mind, I saw Jesus there by my sleeping mat, with one arm around me and the hand of His other arm stroking my hair, whispering to me that I will be alright. I no longer felt abandoned, but loved.
In my heart, I had decided to forgive my father back in 1984, but the emotional wounds were so deep, it seems the healing process still continues to this day. It’s been my experience that when I come to God with my brokenness, God heals me, not by telling me to forget what happened and bury the pain, but by walking with me back in time to look at everything through His eyes, and literally takes the pain away.
As I watched this memory through God’s eyes, I was not a bad little girl who’d betrayed her father and deserved his wrath (as I had seen back then through my father’s eyes), but a deeply loved child of God who’s being treated cruelly. What literally happened in this walk back in time with God was that the adult me was there in the memory along with the younger me, and the adult me was able to understand what the younger me couldn’t in the past. The amazing thing was that now both the child and adult me could see my own father as a child of God too, and that he also needed compassion. He couldn’t love me because he had not known love himself. He simply didn’t have it to give. He was abused too as a child. Jesus was hurting for all of us! And now the child version of me was extending forgiveness to my father, and she was no longer in pain, and her face was one of joy and peace, not of sorrow. Then, I suddenly zoomed back to present day, and my heart was filled with the same joy and peace.
So, one more sorrowful and bitter memory is conquered. Maybe that’s the last, maybe not.
My father passed away in June of 2001. I still grieve that we didn’t have a chance to reconcile with each other on this earth, but I am glad that he is now free from his earthly bondage, and I hope to reconcile with him someday on the other side, with both of us fully healed in the presence of Jesus.