Everyone Has a Story

One day I was watching people in LAX deplaning and thought, “Everyone has a story.”

Every person is unique, with a story only those who are closest may know. And even then, there are chapters known only to the author.

And yet someone can walk into the room, and after a quick “scan,” think we’ve read the book. Creating this false correlation between the things we see, and who we perceive them to be. Haven’t spent 5 minutes in conversation, but we’ve already written our “book review.”

Knowing, not writing someones story is what matters.

One of the first things God did after my decision to follow Him was to confront me about my relationship with my father. He told me I needed to love him, and forgive him for the things I was holding on to. For the record, my Dad was a good man, a good provider, and he tried his best.

But he was also an alcoholic.

Anyone growing up in a home where this dynamic exists will understand. I want to say again, he was a good man, but his drinking had a negative impact on our ability to have a normal father-son relationship. I never went without a physical need being met, but emotionally he just didn’t know how. We didn’t do the traditional father-son activities. Never played catch, rode bikes, or just hung out.

I needed to forgive him for the things that had become a part of my story. The things that created the distance between us.

I knew this was something God was requiring of me, and until I was obedient, my story would be stuck in this very chapter. God takes unforgiveness very seriously, and if you are His, you need to understand this is not optional. Many people get stuck in life, not able to move forward because they choose to hold onto the trespasses that have left them wounded. And trust me, I get it.

But if you want to be the one who writes your own story, the one who decides how it ends, you can’t live in unforgiveness.

So I told God I understood, but He would have to help. I believe it is in the heart of every child to want to love their parents, but that isn’t always easy. I wanted to be close to my Dad, but didn’t know how.

God did, and I’ll never forget what He said.

“What do you know about your father?” He asked.

God didn’t tell me what I needed to do, but rather, what I needed to know.

The honest answer was, “Not much.”

I knew he was born in Texas, given up for adoption, and remember seeing a picture of him on a horse. He was adopted by a missionary couple, the Hoovers, who died before I was born. (more on this in a later post) Sadly, I learned more about my Dad presiding over his funeral than I knew at this time.

So I started asking questions. Dad was a private person and the last thing he wanted to do was talk about his feelings. I saw him cry only once in my life, and it was before I headed into surgery. I don’t think he knew how to process emotion.

One day I followed him out to the garage and began asking if he ever thought about finding his birth mother. Before I could finish the question he abruptly said, “No! Why should I, she didn’t want me.”

I was stunned.

He was now in his 60’s, but the pain of being given up at birth, the feeling of rejection, was something he carried all of his life. It was a wound still fresh, one that never healed.

Over the course of the next few months I would ask Mom what his parents were like. Did he always drink? If not, what happened in his life that may have caused it. I also talked to my sister Kathy, who’s a few years older, and she reminded me of stories I had forgotten, or perhaps just blocked out.

My Dad suffered a great deal of emotional pain in his life. The pain of rejection, humiliation, and the tragic loss of his only brother Neil when I was very young. Neil was his only sibling, also adopted, and they were extremely close. Mom said they had a special bond, and Dad never fully recovered from his death. Also tragic was the truth that much of that pain came from people who were supposed to love him. Those who should have loved him.

Including me.

I was devastated when I remember an event, at 13 years of age, that transpired between the two of us. I try and extend myself some grace, remembering I was just a kid, but to know I was one still breaks my heart.

It was a summer baseball game at the city ball park in Porterville. My dad had been drinking and was getting a little too loud in the stands. My friends started giving me a bad time and made comments like, “Sounds like Hoover’s dad is celebrating early.” I was embarrassed, and extremely angry. I vividly remember walking up to him as soon as the game ended. He looked me with a big smile, (he had a great smile) but little did he know what was coming. “I never want to see you at anything I do ever again!” I yelled.

I still remember his face.

He was completely blindsided, and tears welled up in his eyes.

I played football and basketball in high school all four years. I was in the Panther Band, and participated in a number of events. The only thing my father attended after that summer night was my senior graduation.

That was it.

He honored my request.

One, I wish to God I never would have made.

Once I understood what Jesus was requiring of me, I didn’t wake up the next morning with a new heart. Sometimes we think God is just going to supernaturally do the work for us. But in my experience, that’s not how it normally works.

Can God do that? Of course. But I’ve rarely seen that happen.

God didn’t answer my prayer by changing my father, he answered by changing me.

And He changed me by putting me into Dad’s story. To see the things he suffered. To feel the pain he endured. Replacing anger with empathy.

The restoration of our relationship before he died was one of the greatest blessings of my life.

And now it’s part of my story.

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