Reconciliation is a far cry from forgiveness.
I haven’t seen my father in six years. We haven’t spoken more than twice in the past three years, and prior to that, it wasn’t much more than a handful of times.
In that time, he’s been absent for the struggle of 4 miscarriages, my IVF treatment, the pregnancy of my twin daughters, their birth, two birthday parties, and all the holidays in-between.
Our relationship was always rocky, unhealthy, and slightly unusual.
He wasn’t in the picture much before I turned 10. My parents were separated and I saw him on an every-other-weekend rotation. But that all changed when my mother passed and he was my sole provider.
The next 10 years we struggled to find a connection—the only way we connected was if I fell into his misery pattern. My dad was a master at complaining, finding the worst in every situation and hating all those around him who found an ounce of happiness in life.
He couldn’t stand when other people had life figured out. We were always struggling…why weren’t they?
He took independence to an extreme. I was responsible for paying for school lunches, gas, and even rent my senior year. School and grades were my responsibility and were never discussed. I even dictated my absences which almost got me an extra year of high school.
As I got older and went off to college, being away from him for the first time I felt like I could finally breathe and celebrate happiness without guilt.
But every time he called, I had to pretend to be miserable or have a problem. This is how we worked. In my gut I always told myself he loved me, he just had a hard time showing it.
Then one day I was home from college on holiday and we got into one of our fights. I asked simply, “Why is it that you just don’t love me?” I expected his response to be a simple, “I do;” however, he looked at me and said, “You are so much like your mother. She kept you from me, and I never formed that relationship with you”.
In retrospect, he was intoxicated and it was probably not the best time for him to be answering questions.
Soon after this incident I meet a boy, fell in love, and went on to marry him.
My father felt the distance I placed between us, and he put the blame onto my husband, adding an additional barrier between us.
As the years passed, being away from my father, I felt I could be happy without guilt. My success was celebrated by those around me rather than ridiculed.
At this point, you might be wondering where the reconciliation comes in. That point is now.
After 6 years, I planned a trip near where my father is currently living. I thought with all my heart I didn’t need to see him. I didn’t want to see him. But I found myself messaging him anyway.
He was so eager to connect. I felt so much guilt.
The moment he walked into the restaurant, my heart dropped. The past six years had not been kind to him. I saw his face meet mine, and the love he denied me during our conversation years earlier was now clear in his eyes.
But that said, life isn’t a movie. I would love to say we forgave and talked openly about life, but the truth is, after six years our conversation circled around onions in his burrito and dance classes for my girls who had a hard time making eye contact with him.
Upon leaving, however, my daughter saw her grandfather was having difficulty getting up she eagerly grabbed his hand and helped him walk out. In this moment I knew she felt love. She doesn’t help strangers out of restaurants, but she felt differently about this man who an hour before was a stranger to her.
I can’t yet forgive my father—mostly because he isn’t able to understand what he denied me throughout my childhood, and will never be open to discussing.
I am ready, however, to find a middle ground. I am ready to create a new relationship, one that he can be a part of for as long as he chooses it.
When you’ve been hurt deeply and without resolution, I think reconciliation has to come in the form of understanding and compromise. Maybe in time, forgiveness will follow.
Have you ever tried to mend a messy, broken relationship? Did it start with reconciliation? Did it start with forgiveness? How did you approach it?
This post reflects the views of the author, and is intended to start a conversation. Please share your thoughts in the comments below!
Or, if you’d like to hear some overall thoughts on reconciliation from Christians at THRED, you can find those over here.