The photograph above sits on my fireplace mantel. In it I am laughing, head back, delight and joy in every line across my face as I dance in my father’s arms. I love this photo. It was taken on my wedding day, nearly 7 years ago. It was a day filled with quiet confidence, pure love, overwhelming gratitude and confident expectation of the future.
My Father and I stood behind two large closed doors, waiting. Waiting for that song, a beautiful melody of piano and guitar that would beckon us to walk…his hand in mine…only to give me away. We look at each other smiling, nervously he squeezes my hand, tears welling in his eyes, his lip quivering, fighting back the tears he whispers, “I remember when you were just a little girl…” Deep breath in as if to pause time and stop the tears from falling… “I have always loved you”. I squeeze his hand tight, look into his big brown eyes and know it is true. He loves me. We stay still, waiting and I know I have to pray now…I have to thank God…I speak calmly and certain, declaring the faithful love of God for me, my dad, my husband to be, the joy that we have in Christ, the power to love well, forgive and find ourselves more grateful today then we ever could have imagined …and then the music fills the space, the doors open…we take another deep breath, look at each other one more time, the unspoken words linger between us, we smile… Yes, my father loves me.
That day in 2010, my wedding day, was a day of redemption. A day all about second chances and new beginnings, about grace and love, hope and fulfilled promises.
Eleven years prior to this day, I had walked down another aisle, wore a different white dress, dreamed of a different future and prayed a different prayer. My father would not walk me down that aisle. He would not hold my hand and give me away at that ceremony. I didn’t ask him to.
My heart was filled with hurt, anger, bitterness and unforgiveness. In my experiences and encounters with my father as a child, I was left longing. Longing for the affection, attention, and intimacy that any and every young girl desires. I wanted to be “daddy’s little girl”. In my mind, and in my feelings, I was not loved. I was not valued. I remember broken promises and in their wake I was left with a broken heart.
My dad had his fair share of hurt, anger and disappointment as well. I now know more about his story…and yet, at that time, I only had eyes and ears for my own story. I did not know the depth of his pain. His longing. His story. And it is not mine to tell here. All I know is that I spent my life, over 30 years, carrying around the weight of the pain and I had to blame someone…so I blamed him. With an unrelenting spirit to defend my brokenness and in an effort to find restitution, I made him pay for his brokenness. The brokenness that ripped into my heart and created in me a defensive, disrespectful, spiteful attitude. An attitude that cut into his broken heart and deeply wounded both of us in the process.
So, that day, in 1999, I decided he had not earned the right to walk me down the aisle. He had failed me. He had hurt me. He had not loved me the way I longed to be loved. So I put up my walls. I chose to hate. I gave ultimatums and spoke harsh words. I did not care about his feelings, only my own.
The reception was no different. I don’t know if I said 2 words to my father. Not sure if I looked him in his eyes. I certainly did not dance with him. As we prepared to leave that evening for the honeymoon, I saw him. Waiting to the side, his body tense and uncertain, I knew he wanted to say goodbye, maybe even hug me. I avoided his gaze and slipped into the car leaving him there, wanting him to know, “You don’t deserve my love.”
Writing a New Story
In order to hear new words and write new chapters in my story I had to be willing to let go of the stories I was clinging to, the stories and the words they spoke that were defining me. In letting go and telling the truth about where I had been, what I had done, what I had believed, and ultimately confessing that these stories were defining me…only then could I be carried away to a new truth. To a new story.
Being swept away in the river that was my story was frightening. My irrational fears told me that if I let go of my “truths”, those branches on the side of the river that I was clinging to for dear life, I would surely drown. The truth is, by holding on to those branches, those faulty thoughts and twisted truths, I was slowly drowning myself. And the fight was exhausting.
These “truths”, as faulty as they were, were my identity. As broken as I was, it was all I knew. And I just knew that if I let go, I’d die. The familiarity of those stories and my feelings about them were my reality. In them I found a strange sort of comfort, an unrealistic sense of control and a certain responsibility to hold them close. I felt unloved. I felt rejected. I felt unknown. I felt alone. And if I let go, the massive weight of these words and their perceived power were sure to drag me under and suck the life out of me. So I clung to the shore, grasping for air, fighting the current, my strength to hold on being challenged with every wave that washed over me. My will to live, slowly eroding.
I called out to God. Over and over. I called out, “Save me! Rescue me! Help me!” All the while clinging to those little branches. It never occurred to me to let go. It never crossed my mind that if I let go of the story I was telling myself I would be carried away to a different place. That maybe the river of His grace, like my story, could hold more than turbulent waters and crashing waves. That maybe the river, like my story, could carry me to calm waters and resting places.
His promises came to me. Timely words in the middle of my mess. Words that would redefine the story I was telling myself about my future, my worth, my purpose.
I will lead you beside quiet waters and when you pass through the waters I will be with you. When you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. Psalm 23:2 and Isaiah 43:2
In the midst of my hurt and brokenness I was not going anywhere. I was stuck. I wasn’t moving. I was clinging, holding tight to the truths that I had named, blaming God for not rescuing me. Blaming God for the pain, the hurt and the haunting words that filled my mind. And as I wrestled those waves, he was patiently waiting for me to let go. Through his word He reminded me that when I pass through the rivers I will not be swept away but rather I will be held and led to quiet waters, calm waters, restoring waters.
Letting go, it’s more than just loosening your grasp. It’s trusting that when you do, God’s going to hold fast to you because of who He is. Usually when we hold on to our past, it’s stories and voices, it is because we are not really sure about the character of God. We are not altogether certain He is good, loving, kind, and forgiving.
You can only trust God as much as you know you are loved by God. -Brennan Manning
The journey of letting go of your old stories must be accompanied with a new reality. A new truth. A new journey. The journey of embracing and becoming your truest self is directly linked to your response to God’s offer of grace. The gift of life with Him. He took the first step by sending His son, Jesus, to the cross and accepting you exactly as you are. He is good and can be trusted with the decisions of your life. He is loving. He will sustain you, hold you, help you, protect you, grow and empower you. He will never leave you. You can let go now. His plans are for your good. When you trust Him, He fills, satisfies, leads and provides.
And the hard stuff, He will use it for your good.
And the voices of shame and condemnation, He will replace them with words of kindness, compassion and love.
And the determination to protect yourself, He will be your rear guard and your front guard, protecting you with his mighty hand.
And the uncertainty of the future, He will lead you and guide you in all your ways.
But we have to let go.
Once we determine that we are going to let go, we are also admitting that we are not in control. The future is unknown. The twists, bends, and turns on the river ahead are uncharted territory. To us. But not to God.
Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God. -Corrie ten Boom
There is no need to be afraid. We have a guide, a captain, Jesus.
His promises are certain. A solid place for us to land. Bedrock under our feet. Steady and sure.
He will never leave us or forsake us. He will lead us by his righteous right hand and no matter where we turn, whether to the right or the left, we will hear a voice behind us, saying this is the way, walk in it.
Nicole Edgmond is a mother to two daughters, and a wife to Jason. She has counseling experience working in both the church and clinical setting. She holds a Master’s in Education (Southwest Baptist University) and a Master’s in Clinical Counseling (Liberty University). She is the director of Embraced Ministries and has worked with clients in her private practice since 2011. Her passion is to meet individual needs for authentic connection, intimacy with Christ, emotional healing & to help people in the pursuit of their God-given purpose. Nicole leads a City Group on Tuesday nights called, “Stories,” and hosts “Gather,” a time for women to come together and grow together in Jesus. To find out more about her City Group and many others, click here.