Daddy Issues

The late nineties was a disgusting time in my life. I was seventeen, living with a convicted felon and drug dealer, and was in the middle of a disappearance/homicide investigation in my small hometown.  

On a busy Saturday night, blue lights showed up outside of the restaurant where I worked. A uniformed police officer, hand resting on his holster, sauntered inside and asked the manager if he could see me outside. My stomach was in my throat as he escorted me to the parking lot. My parents waited by his patrol car.

I listened in dreadful silence as he recanted the potential charges that were to be brought against me: drug distribution, obstruction of justice, accessory to murder… It wasn’t news to me, and apparently, it wasn’t news to my parents.

Most people, including the police, believed that I was simply an idiotic bystander, rather than an active delinquent—that was the only reason I wasn’t already in prison.  The badge-wearing-boulder folded his arms across his chest.  ”I’m going to give you two options, Elicia. You can either go home with your parents or you can come back to the station with me and I’ll book you. Do you want to go to jail?”

I glanced from him to my mom and dad who were waiting as silently and fearfully as I was. I surveyed my options. Jail almost didn’t seem like a bad idea considering my last interaction with my family: me punching my sweet, tiny mother in the chest and running from the house with a trash bag full of clothes.

I was sure the nightmares of a jail cell paled in comparison to the wrath my father had planned for me. At the time, you could say I had “daddy issues” of the most severe kind.  However, I decided to brave my family rather than forever tarnish my criminal record, and I obediently got in the backseat of the family car.

It was a long and quiet drive home.

My parents will be the first to admit that they are not perfect, but they—in no way—deserved the horrors that I put them through. The fact that they were even willing to allow me near their home again was nothing short of a miracle.  I had put them through an unimaginable hell.

When we arrived at our house, I silently got out of the car and walked to my room. I gasped at what I saw. It was completely barren.  Everything was gone: my TV, my clothes, my movies, my stuffed animals. Gaping holes in the drywall remained in places my pictures and posters had once hung. My existence had been stripped from my home.

My sister remembers what happened:

I had come home from Nashville to go look for you.  At some point during that trip, right after you’d stormed/gotten kicked out, Dad started tearing down everything out of your room: every picture on the wall, every note you’d written, everything that represented you.  And he walked it out to the fire pile and burned it.

Our brother and I were standing at the last landing of the stairwell, dumbfounded and broken-hearted at what was taking place. I remember feeling torn between stopping Dad and wanting to help him because it was some sort of healing process for him (getting out the anger and hurt). The other side of feeling torn was YOU — I didn’t want your life erased.  

Oh, it was the hardest day of our lives for sure.  It was the hardest day I can remember because it was like we were thrust into grieving the loss of you. Dad and I agreed that if God didn’t intervene, you would be dead within the year.

That night as I stood in the ruins of what had once been my room, a voice came from behind me. I turned and looked at my father. 

My daddy is a strong man, toughened by years of physical labor and yard work. Despite his conditioning, he was never prepared for the endurance test of loving a daughter like me. His cool, blue eyes were tired and bloodshot. They were wet with tears of anger and relief.

His jaw tightened. ”I told myself you had made your bed and now you had to lie in it,” he stated, motioning to the bare walls and empty drawers. He then cast his glance to the bed. ”But tonight, I made your bed, Elicia. And I want you lie in it.”

I deserved to be left in the mess that I created for myself. I deserved to be in jail.  I deserved to be left to rot in the sin I had so willingly taken part in. But in that instant, I was five years old again, running into the embrace of my Daddy. What I had done and who I had become didn’t matter.  I was home. I was safe.

My father’s expression of unconditional love and grace that night was the greatest expression I have ever encountered of the way that God, the Father, loves his children. I was, as cliche as it sound, the prodigal daughter returned from the trough of pigs.

The Bible continually refers to God as a father because our earthly fathers are supposed to be a representation of how God loves us.

We have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! – Hebrews 12:9


There isn’t a person among you who would give his son a stone if he asked for bread, is there? Or if he asks for a fish, he wouldn’t give him a snake, would he? So if you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who keep on asking him! – Matthew 7:9-11

The problem is that in today’s society, the breakdown of the father/child relationship has left many of us—like my dear Mr. Spouse—with empty hands crying, ”Yes, my daddy would’ve given me a snake!”

This is why it is so vitally important that the church isn’t in the business of handing out snakes. Not to worry, I’m not going all “backwoods Pentecostal” on anyone. What I mean is that, as a Christian, I am a direct representative of God, the Father. If I my actions and my loud mouth bite, sting, insult, and injure, I might as well be handing out snakes and claiming, “This is how Jesus feels about you. This is what Jesus thinks you are worth.”

I may be the only Jesus that someone ever really gets to experience here on this earth. I want what the world to see in me a Jesus worth following.

My daddy taught me how to love other people as God truly does: ”Yeah, you’ve made a mess out of everything I gave you and you deserve to be punished. But, for now, I want you to rest and know that I love you and that I will never leave or turn my back on you.”

I love you, Dad.






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