A number of years ago, our daughter moved 3 hours away to take a job. She went through all the firsts that new employment entails keeping us posted with many phone calls and texts about her experiences. Along the way, we often joked about the challenges of "adulting" with a real job with real responsibilities.
However, as the days turned into weeks, the intensity of the circumstances she was sharing was not diminishing. And what I had first passed off with a light chuckle of, “Well, welcome to the land of adulting, sweetheart” turned into red flags that prompted more strategic and intentional prayers, in this daddy’s heart.
As the days passed, our conversations confirmed her deepening discouragement. Having just left a 16-year run in ministry, I was grateful for the time to be able to just pick up and go visit her. Texts were fine, phone calls were better, and FaceTime was better still… but none of those connections alleviated the sense that there was more going on.
She was in a meeting when I got to her place of employment, so I found her workspace and took advantage of the opportunity to spiritually house-clean. I slowly walked through every place I knew she set her foot, listening and discerning, then anointing and praying.
After a while, she came into the room, walked directly toward me, fell into my arms, and began to sob. As I held her, my heart broke realizing that nothing about this employment scenario was healthy.
We grabbed some dinner, made a Walmart run, and then got back to her apartment. All along the way, the slow and painful revelation unfolded that she had been protecting us, sanitizing the reality of what was transpiring every day. Alone in the refuge of relationship with her dad, she began to open up.
We sat on the floor in front of the couch and she just leaned into her dad. We spent the next few hours talking and praying, and crying. She patiently answered a million questions as I tried to wrap my brain around the situation. As it grew late into the evening, we decided that I would just spend the night and head home early the next morning when she left for work.
After she went to bed, I cleaned her kitchen, packed her lunch, and straightened up the apartment. My mind was racing and my stomach was churning. I could not fathom how my brilliant, articulate, creative, outside-the-box thinking daughter was just completely shut down, trembling with fear, dry heaving with anxiety-driven nausea, not eating, not sleeping, and barely able to speak more than a sentence at a time.
Finally settling into a chair, I spent what remained of the night interceding for her, intermittently dozing, and honestly, trying not to be consumed by the seeming hopelessness of the situation. I felt helpless and powerless.
When she got up the next morning and began to get ready, I gathered her things together. Before we both left to go our separate ways, I hugged her, affirming her true identity in Christ and speaking words of hope and life into her.
She locked up the apartment and we both got into our cars. As she drove off, I pulled away from the curb and began to sob. Okay… I bawled like a baby. I cried out over and over again, “Oh God… please God… please, please, please… have mercy… please… oh, God, oh God, oh God…”
Right in the middle of my ugly, snotty, and loud lament, a thought dropped into my mind. “I am NOT a pauper. I am a son. Here I am, begging and pleading with these Oliver Twist prayers to the orphanage master, hoping that potentially, He would do something. But that is NOT who I am. I am a son. And my daughter? She is a child of God, Beloved, Apple of His eye... His Chosen Treasure."
With an infusion of Spirit-granted Grace into my weakness, my prayers shifted to, “Thank You, God. Thank You! You are the Master, the Sovereign God of the universe. ALL authority is Yours. ALL power, ALL glory, ALL honor belong to You. You are omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. You are Lord of everything. You are in control.”
As begging and pleading shifted to thanksgiving, my heart began to settle. And as the deluge of tears continued, God began to speak to me. “Son, I am the Potter. I know how hot the flames are and I know how long she has been in the fire. She is not out of my sight. I shaped her and I formed her, and I know what she can endure. I promise you, she will not be destroyed by the flames. Would you trust Me?” And just as she leaned into me the night before, I leaned into the Father on that drive home.
A few weeks after that incident... (very long weeks to this daddy's heart), she was able to resign her job without repercussion, honor early termination obligations on her lease, and return to the refuge of our home.
Knowing she was physically, emotionally, and spiritually depleted from the trauma, Pam and I fervently prayed for her restoration. We walked gingerly, cared tenderly, and loved patiently - not wanting to push too hard and yet not wanting to create an unhealthy co-dependent situation.
Internally, I was agitated by fierce anger. Continually rehashing the events that led up to and fueled the situation, I was furious with her employer, outraged by those involved in the circumstances and bitter toward her real estate agent. As a dad, I hated the fact that my daughter was targeted in spiritual warfare and resented myself for being so initially oblivious to what was truly going on.
Externally, we continued to walk this emotional tight rope of not wanting to pry and press for details, yet wanting to monitor her emotional, spiritual, and physical condition. We wanted to protect her vulnerability and yet didn't want to baby her. Ultimately, we felt helpless, longing to see the daughter we once knew be resurrected.
Torn and restless, I found myself praying a simple prayer. "Show me how to love her and care for her. I don't want to get in the way and undermine the healing that is taking place. Just tell me what you want me to do." In many ways, it was like Jairus's prayer, falling at the feet of Jesus, "My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she would be healed and live" [Mark 5:22-23 NIV].
Looking up that passage and beginning to read the story, I wept. I saw my own brokenness, helplessness, and desperation in Jairus. "Keep reading," the Spirit gently whispered. Through my tears, I continued to verse 40. "He took the child's father and mother and the disciples who were with him and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, 'Talitha Koum!' (which means, 'little girl, I say to you, get up!'). Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around. At this, they were completely astonished." My tears articulated my prayers as I asked Jesus to simply take my daughter's hand and speak to her.
"Keep reading," the Spirit tenderly whispered. "He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this and told them to give her something to eat" [v43].
I was at a bit of a loss. Part of me was like, "Jesus, what are You saying? I am too tired to play games... just tell me what you want me to do."
Like a scene out of The Shack, I sensed the fullness of the Trinity with me. Gently, the Father asked, "When Jesus went up to the room, who did He take with Him?"
"The mom and the dad," I weakly replied.
"Isn't that amazing?" He smiled warmly. "He could have left them downstairs. But instead, He brought them with Him so that they could see her healing."
"Son," He tenderly said, "It is not your responsibility to heal her. It's mine."
Jesus, softly interjected, "I will heal her... and you will get to watch Me do it. Your only responsibility is to give her something to eat."
With a deep sigh of relief, I exhaled the heaviness I had been feeling. That crippling sense of helplessness began to dissipate as I finally had some clarity about what I was supposed to do in all of this. He was going to heal her and our only responsibility was to provide a safe place where that healing can take place.
With a knowing smirk, the Holy Spirit added, "And you don't need to make her bed anymore. And she can take her own stuff out to the kitchen... you just give her something to eat."
I can testify that God has been faithful to the promise He gave to that broken-hearted father sobbing in the car early that one morning, "She will not be destroyed by the flames." Thriving in a new place, we have joyfully watched her go from death to abundant life. He has magnificently catapulted her to a place of extraordinary creativity, a deep passion for the welfare of students, and a relentless pursuit of educational innovation.
May I speak a word of encouragement to you? I preface this with a hearty "Eat the meat and spit out the bones," for your situation...
While I know that every situation is different... and every child is unique... and there are no cookie-cutter parenting styles... perhaps there is a word of hope, freedom, and direction to you as a parent in what I have shared. If your child has been through something traumatic and they have ended up back in your home, may I speak those very words to you? It is not your responsibility to heal them. Jesus says to you, "I will heal them. You just give them something to eat." Love them, nurture them, and provide a safe environment. Listen to the Holy Spirit who will counsel you on when you need to listen, when you need to speak, and when you simply just need to "be." And as you do, I believe that you will have the extraordinary privilege of watching Jesus be Jesus in their life step by step, tear by tear, month by month, and year by year.
Precious one, the healing will come... and Jesus will be the one to do it. And you? You just give them something to eat.
Perhaps this may be a blog entry in itself, but I needed to confess... just in case I have somehow painted the picture that this was a tidy, linear process. Rest assured it wasn't. As much as God was loving our daughter to life, He was also mightily at work in this daddy's heart. Knowing that I would be eaten alive by unforgiveness, anger, and bitterness about what happened to my daughter, I was urged by the Holy Spirit to take a solo trip to her former place of employment to declare words of forgiveness in a seven-lap-Jericho-march style drive around the building. I did the same around her real estate agent's office. Empowered by grace, I spoke words of forgiveness, words of release, and words of blessing. And as corny as it may sound, I also engaged in drive-by spiritual warfare through her old neighborhood and city. It was a step of obedience... and I believe was the start of the healing process for me as a father.
I also wanted to share an original song of encouragement the Lord gave during this experience. Clay appears to be abandoned to the fire of the kiln, yet the potter is meticulously engaged throughout the entire process. So it is with us. Praying "Trust Me in the Kiln" will remind you that when you’re in the fire, you’re not out of the intentional care of the Potter.
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