Grace and Newton’s Law of Relationships.

Editor’s Note: Today’s story is by Staff Writer and author of She Writes and Rights, Bethany Suckrow. Follow her on Twitter, and make sure you follow us while you’re at it, too!

“I hate you!”

The venomous words spilled out of my eleven-year-old mouth like vomit. I ran to the bathroom, slammed the door behind me and locked myself in. He had the key to the door, but he didn’t use it. I sank to the floor and waited for him to yell, but the thud of his footsteps softened as he retreated to the other end of the house.

At 24 my memory has faded, but I remember laying in bed that night, still seething, still letting the weight of our words settle into my chest. My bedroom door opened – there he stood, silhouetted by the hall light.

Here we go, I thought. I’m in for it now.

But he didn’t yell. Silently, he walked over to my bed and laid down next to me. Reluctantly, I made space for him and settled my neck in the crook of his arm.

He pressed his cheek to my forehead and I felt his tears. My dad was crying.

“I love you,” he whispered. “And it hurts my feelings when you tell me you hate me, even if we’re angry.”

Hurts his feelings?

Honestly, before that moment, I don’t think I ever thought about hurting my father’s feelings, or whether he had feelings at all.

“I’m… sorry.” I whispered quietly and felt my own tears well up in my throat. I was so quick to say that I hated him, but in the darkness of my room, tears flowing between us, I had no words to explain that my hatred had been an empty threat.

I loved my dad.

At the cusp of adolescence, my adversity to my father’s authority was only just beginning. Our complicated relationship was a combination of many things. Just being of different sexes made understanding each other difficult. And if one of us liked or disliked something, you could be sure that the other felt equally passionate about the opposite.

We were Newton’s Law, in father/daughter form.

There were other obstacles in our relationship, too. The person each of us were closest to, my mother, was diagnosed with cancer when I was 10 and my youngest brother was four. The ever-looming threat on her health highlighted a frightening prospect : my dad as a single parent.

Me? Alone in a house full of boys? I was not okay with that.

Him? Alone with three kids? He must have been terrified.

My teenage years became the perfect storm of hormones, personality differences, and family hardship. And these equal and opposite reactions to each other were ugly and painful, not just for me and my dad, but for our whole family – my mom, who tried her best to keep the peace, and my brothers, who had no escape.

These days, the hills we thought were worth dying on are now in distant memory.

The path that brought us to a healing place in our relationship was fraught with the hardest experience of our lives – caring for and losing my mother. We’ve learned the hard way that life is too short to spend it at war with each other.

As I think about that journey, I’ve realized that every relationship – to our parents, spouses, siblings, children, friends, coworkers – is a journey in recognizing the way that God sees that person.

We have to give up on our expectations, because more often than not they are harmfully unrealistic, capable of inflicting decades of damage onto our relationships. When we inflict our expectations on others, we try to rewrite their story and their character, but that’s not our place.

God is the Author of our faith.

Where once I used to label my father’s heart by his weaknesses and the tough exterior he portrayed, now I am learning to recognize his heart by his strengths and the extreme tenderness at his core. I’m learning to accept the context of his life – the way he was raised, the things he has been through – as part of who he is, a part that I cannot fix or change or control.

When I began to recognize his story, the story God is writing with his life,

I stopped trying to make it about me and my expectations.

I realized what an amazing character God has made him – full of surprises and humor, deep love and loyalty to his family, and a vested interest in the well-being of his children.

And here’s the funny, amazing, miraculous thing : my father’s strength and compassion for his children since losing my mom six months ago has astounded me. My expectations, my worry and concern over how things would go, my worst fears have been blown away.

Daddy, I love you and I’m so thankful that God made you my father in this story of ours.

Have you had a hard relationship with one or both of your parents, or another family member? How have you seen God’s healing and grace in those relationships? What is the best thing you have done to initiate change in those relationships?

  • Pingback: Prodigal : Grace and Newton’s Law of Relationships. | Bethany Suckrow

  • http://everydayawe.com Stephanie Spencer

    This is beautiful, Bethany. I think there is a lot to be said about releasing our expectations. They become the source of so much stress and so many fights.

    I have a complicated relationship with my dad. He has made many mistakes. But it is changing my expectations that has helped the relationship work. I have thought more about how his own childhood was difficult. There are circumstances that have shaped him into who he is today. When I am sympathetic to that, when I release my picture of an “ideal” dad, and see my dad for who he is and how far he has come, it helps me to love him better.

    • http://www.bethanysuckrow.com bethany

      Exactly, Stephanie. I’ve really learned to let go of “how things are supposed to go” in my head, and realize the mistakes that I’ve made in the relationship. I was always idealistic about getting what I wanted, when I wanted, the way that I wanted. I realized as I got older that girls that had the kind of father that I thought I wanted didn’t necessarily have it easier in life.

      I’m so thankful now that my dad truly loves the Lord, and because of that, his high standards for me and my siblings helped us find the Lord, too. That is the greatest gift a dad could ever give his kids!

  • http://thoughtfulrevolution.net Christy McFerren

    “As I think about that journey, I’ve realized that every relationship – to our parents, spouses, siblings, children, friends, coworkers – is a journey in recognizing the way that God sees that person.

    We have to give up on our expectations, because more often than not they are harmfully unrealistic, capable of inflicting decades of damage onto our relationships. When we inflict our expectations on others, we try to rewrite their story and their character, but that’s not our place.”

    LOVE THIS. It’s funny, I think as we get older we start to see our parents more and more as real people. It can turn a lot of teen angst into total endearment at their bravery in facing, and raising, us in the former version of ourselves on a daily basis. Parents are brave, strong souls.

    Your story is so moving. Thanks for sharing.

    • http://www.bethanysuckrow.com bethany

      TOTAL endearment, Christy! Time (and grace) do heal all things and put things in perspective. Thanks for commenting!

  • http://www.allisonjohnston.org Allison Johnston

    Awesome insight here – words to live by for sure. Would you mind if I shared on my blog? (with full credit to you and Prodigal, of course)

    • http://www.bethanysuckrow.com bethany

      Share away! Just please don’t copy the post in full, and please include a link back. Thanks so much for reading and for asking, Allison! Have a great day!

  • http://dianerivers.me.com Diane Rivers

    This line smacked me right between the eyes: “When we inflict our expectations on others, we try to rewrite their story and their character, but that’s not our place.” I’m going to try to remember that. Thank you for articulating it so well.

    • http://www.bethanysuckrow.com bethany

      So glad it spoke to you today, Diane! Thanks for reading!

  • ann mcclintock

    Dearest Bethany, I am glad that you and your dad are closer and you both can appreciate eachother. You know your mom is up in heaven with a glorious smile watching your relationship turn into this mutual admiration…if that makes sense. I got to experience the tugg and pulls of the Droshas trying to hang on for dear life while cancer ripped at you all. I had so many conversations with your mom about this very thing. This scared her more than anything. I am so proud of you both. I miss her so much. It goes without saying that all of you do as well. Love you deary

  • http://epistellein.blogspot.com/ Jen Gunning

    Beautiful unfolding of your story and the hard, but critical ability to let go of how we think the story should be written. After more than 10 years, I’m still struggling with that issue, with my mom who was my closest confidant until my husband and I started dealing with my infertility problems. Years of treatments, miscarriages, deep depression and somewhere along the way, a loss of closeness between us…I still don’t understand why she couldn’t share the journey with me, didn’t call to see how I was doing after surgeries, never sent cards when she knew we were grieving. Even when our triplets were born 7 years ago, she didn’t come to see them for over 2 weeks. I love her fiercely today, and yet am still so openly wounded by her coldness toward this very significant area of my life’s story. I know it’s not God’s plan for us to be separated by the past. And I know that my complete healing isn’t continent upon an apology from her. In Christ, I have everything I need. Everything broken is restored in HIm. It’s just such a daily decision to stay under His sheltering wings and not allow the brokenness of the past to be my place of rest.

    • http://www.bethanysuckrow.com bethany

      Jen, I am so sorry to read about the brokenness between you and your mother. It is definitely a daily decision to trust Him with our relationships. Even though my dad and I have come a long way, there are definitely times – and issues – that we just can’t agree on or support each other in. I won’t sugar coat it or say that I’ve been there in regards to your predicament, but I do think that acknowledging our Heavenly Father as the perfect parent can be an enormous comfort when our earthly ones fall short. My prayers are with you and your mom and your family. <3

      • http://epistellein.blogspot.com/ Jen Gunning

        Thank you, Bethany :-) Funny how words from a stranger can be a greater balm than words from ones we have known our whole lives, isn’t it? One of my greatest comforts is in 2 Cor. 1:4: …(God) who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. While I wait for this healing to happen, I make myself available to comfort others who are in similar places. Nothing, not even the brokenness, is wasted in God’s economy. Blessings to you!

        • http://www.bethanysuckrow.com bethany

          I was just reading that passage the other day, Jen! That is the heart of what we hope to do with the stories we share on Prodigal Mag – create community around God’s grace in our lives. Be blessed!

  • http://laurahodgespoole.blogspot.com Laura Hodges Poole

    Beautiful post! Sounds like your dad is a very wise and godly man.

  • http://www.toodarnhappy.com/ Kim Hall

    I am so glad for you that your relationship with your dad has healed. I can only imagine how lonely a life it is being estranged from a living parent who loves you so dearly. 

    Is there any parent who hasn’t had a hard relationship at some point with their child? :-) My toughest was with my youngest. She was more like my hubbie than me. I wrote about our relationship, and described my hubbie and my daughter as more of a risk taker than I was. He would see opportunity for growth in her, I would see danger. I would rise so quickly to the bait she would toss out, but he would see it for what it was, and either ignore it or call her on it. Eventually, we reached a fragile detente, and once she hit 19, we developed a better and closer relationship. One thing I do is let her talk and not judge, and also ask if she would like my advice or help. These helped a great deal. 

  • Pingback: Live Things Sh$t! |

  • http://kingdomjourneys.org/hughroberts Hugh Roberts IV

    “We have to give up on our expectations, because more often than not they are harmfully unrealistic, capable of inflicting decades of damage onto our relationships. When we inflict our expectations on others, we try to rewrite their story and their character, but that’s not our place.”

    Wow, amazingly profound word right there. So good.