I thought I’d to do something a bit different this week with Father’s Day approaching. I’m going to share with you some extracts from a piece of writing I submitted for teaching college when I was nineteen years old.
Back when I was given the single worded assignment title ‘Childhood’, my blank canvas was a typewriter.
Today, on the anniversary of my grandad’s death, I sit with my laptop, fully amazed at the peace I have as I re-type the words for this blog.
I’ve grown a little since then – these extracts are the unedited child like reflections of a girl with much to learn. Although the words haven’t changed, my relationship with my Father has.
As you read, I’d like you to think about all the meanings of the word ‘Father.’
It may be a little difficult for some people to relate to in places, or it could touch a nerve. Please do get in touch if you’d like to talk about any of this. My intention is not to arouse negative feelings, but to help you think about your maker, protector and way maker.
Early yearsChildhood (by Sarah Chambers 1996)
My life began when I was five years old. At least that’s as far back as I normally allow myself to remember. From what I understand, the early years of my childhood were a living nightmare. Fortunately, I recall only flashes of that chapter of my life.
In a self taught attempt to unpick old scars through writing, I remember arguments, crying and hiding. A male figure pushes me on a red swing in an overgrown back garden. In the same moment I see him smacking my younger brother because he toddled onto the neatly mowed front garden.
When I recall my brother and I sitting on the same man’s knee listening to the story of ‘The Boy Who Cried Wolf’, I also remember being rushed off to my grandparent’s home. We were away from my mum, who was in a van with flashing lights. We were also away from that man, whom I never saw again.
My next memory is seeing mum and not recognising her. She was thin and pale. Her clothes looked different. Later I was told of how that man had lost his temper with her for the final time. A scar remained from where she had lost her spleen and nearly died from blood loss.
As I sat with my typewriter reflecting on childhood, I was also filled with nostalgia and wrote about happy memories too.
Touching all senses
The smell of grandma’s baking when it was her turn to spoil us for the night.
The sound of older children playing in the street whilst wishing I was old enough to stay out late.
Before bedtime, seeing beautiful colours of red and orange slowly falling behind the hill until morning.
The taste of tears when I had fallen off my brother’s skateboard, trying to tackle the big hill.
Then the warmth of a motherly hug which seemed to make things so much better.
Every image and feeling so vivid, and every experience so new and exciting- sometimes scary, but always exciting.Childhood (by Sarah Chambers 1996)
Most important of all the men in my life was my grandad. The most special and loving man that ever lived. The smell of his cigar immediately conjures up feelings of love and security. On Christmas Eve I used to look out of my bedroom window and wish that Father Christmas existed. But when I looked at my grandad’s white hair and rosy cheeks, at the same time feeling his hand stroke the back of my neck as I drifted off to sleep, I knew that I didn’t need to believe in magic. I had someone I could feel and smell and love who loved me everyday, not just at Christmas.Childhood (by Sarah Chambers 1996)
As time went on, the inevitable happened. Everyone and everything around me began to change. Complications and difficulties started to creep up on me. Life was no longer simple.
On the surface, ‘childhood’ is generally a word that represents laughter and fun and a chapter of life that is carefree. By exploring my own personal experience I have realised that memories of childhood can conjure up very different thoughts and feelings.
Childhood is not just about enjoying yourself. It’s also about learning to live. When we look at childhood as one big learning experience we realise that it can actually be the most confusing yet most important time of a person’s life. It makes us who we are today.Childhood (by Sarah Chambers 1996)
During my adolescent years I became aware that life was not easy. All of a sudden, I realised that my best friends could also be my worst enemies, and that teachers and adults could be a help or they could make your life a living hell. To my astonishment I also realised that not everyone could be trusted. Sometimes your closest friend did tell your most intimate secrets and they didn’t always stand by you when others bullied you. People were not perfect. They could be selfish and they could be cruel.
Thoughts for today (Father’s Day 2020)
Having read back now what I wrote as a nineteen year old, I realise you never stop needing a father and that a father comes in many different forms.
At nineteen years old I had a lot to learn. I still do.
I thought that parenting was only really important whilst you’re still dependent on someone. Once you’ve flown the nest, learnt some life skills and gained your independence, crack on girl, you’ll be reyt!
How wrong was I. I needed protection, love and guidance in the form of a father and still do.
Some words that my Auntie has sent me over the years now have more meaning than ever:
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.Jeremiah 29:11
In this world there are many father figures, for which I am thankful.
Mum – Single mums often have a dual role to play. Mum was a true inspiration and continues to do everything she can to demonstrate unconditional love. But I lacked male guidance in the shape of a father.
Step-dad – John was a loyal friend to my mum and later married her. Step fathers don’t have to love you, they choose to. There’s something very selfless about that for us to learn from.
Grandparents ‘Gramps’ was the closest I had to a father figure, but he died. I’ve placed him on a pedestal all my life, but he couldn’t replace the hole in my heart, just like Father Christmas couldn’t.
Leaders and teachers – I’m thankful for our church family leadership team and have developed respect for male leaders who have lived in a different generation. Many things change over the years, but life’s lessons generally don’t. I often think of the silver haired man described in Proverbs whom I have much to learn from.
The silver-haired head is a crown of glory, If it is found in the way of righteousnessProverbs 16: 31
Father of the fatherless… (Psalm 68:5)
Throughout my life I wasn’t able to relate to or even use the word dad. I learnt to be self sufficient. The thought of depending on anyone, particularly a man, made me cringe. It was engrained in my mind that if my dad could abandon me at five years old, anyone could.
I believed in God, but thought he wasn’t really that interested in me, he had other things to do. And then one day a stranger in Tescos handed me a card saying these words and it began a journey of knowing my true father:
…nothing can separate you from the love of Christ
Romans 8 verses 31-39 have been in my memory bank my whole life, but the simple facts of these words came to life when I most needed it. What has been most enlightening, empowering and healing for me since that day, is the realisation that our creator doesn’t just love the world. He loves me, and he loves you, personally and eternally.
Our heavenly father is with us. Today and always.
…He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever- the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be with you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.John 14:16-18
Over the past few months I have found peace that defies all logic in the present circumstances and comes only from being dependent on a living God. Our heavenly father’s love will never die and he provides a way to draw near to Him.
This Father’s Day, for the first time in my life I can say with a thankful heart that I am my father’s daughter. I pray that if you don’t know God as your father, you will hear his gentle loving voice and feel his warm embrace.
Happy Father’s Day!