Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live .. Isaiah 55:3
You can’t mistake lightning. When it flashes across the sky you take notice. Even if your back is turned your eyes pick up the flicker of light causing you to turn your head and take a look. There are times when we pray God’s voice would be as obvious and bright as lightning in the sky.
I was struggling with one of those requests a couple years ago. My biological father had a family member track me down in 2008 and bio father started sending letters. You see, he is in prison serving life (or so we thought) for kidnapping, raping and brutally murdering a 17 year old girl in the 80’s.
Not someone I want as part of my life. Which hadn’t been an issue because my mom and stepdad had told him he was not to contact me until I was an adult shortly after he went to prison. As an adult, I could then decide for myself if I wanted to correspond with him.
I knew the day would come. I had expected it when I was a young adult but he waited until I was 31 to finally find me. I checked the mail before taking the kids to a birthday party at the bowling alley. When I saw his name and return address on the envelope, bile rose in my throat. I couldn’t bring myself to even open it.
A Christmas card was our first contact. Doesn’t seem very menacing. I did think his suggestion for me to allow him to call me collect was a little presumptuous (not to mention those calls are expensive!). So I did what most gals do when something tough comes up and I called my mom.
“Mom, I feel like I am betraying you for even having this contact with him. I don’t know what to do.”
“Honey, you are not betraying me. No need to feel guilt over it. He is your father after all and if you are curious and want to contact him, it won’t upset me.”
I knew she was saying what a good mom would say, it didn’t really make me feel any less guilty for being curious about the man whose DNA courses through my veins. But how can you really move forward knowing what this man did to an innocent girl? How do you feel okay “befriending” the man that seriously abused your own mother?
I’ll tell you, you don’t. However, I had no idea about this man’s family history or medical history. I wanted to know about those things so I wrote back and told him that for now, I would allow contact. And I felt guilty the whole time.
We wrote back and forth for several months. It never got easier. Every time I saw the return address, my stomach would do flip-flops and feel ill. From the second letter on, he would bring up how my parents kept him from me (when the facts are, he kept himself from me by his own choices). I informed him that I completely agreed with their decision (and actually I remember my mom asking me if I wanted to continue contact with him after he went to prison, I said no) and that I did not care to continue to discuss that issue further.
After that, he sent me a card my mom had sent him in 1987. Yes 1987! In its original envelope, in perfect condition along with a poem called “The Backpack”. The poem was about all the baggage we all carry around and collect through our lives and I guess he was unloading his backpack and passing his baggage onto me.
He’d saved it all these years? I found it odd and unsettling. My gut instinct said it was manipulative. Did he save this card for 22 years so he could prove to me that my mom had kept me from him? Hmm… My next letter to him asked him as much.
“I just wanted you to know I was telling the truth.“
We’d already established this months before that I knew and agreed with my parents choice but he didn’t want to let that go, even after being asked in every single letter I responded with.
This is where the battle of what to do came in. Had I made a huge mistake in the first place by ever responding to him? Was I wrong about his motives? If so, why did my body scream in protest every time I thought about him? As a Christian was I obligated to accept him into my life, despite his past and how it made me feel to correspond with him? My mind wanted to explode from the turmoil. There seemed to be no right answer. I was frustrated and no clear answer was coming to me. I prayed constantly over it.
A few days later I was driving home from Wally world, while talking to my mom on the phone.
“Mom, I don’t know what to do. I really don’t want to have anything else to do with him. I have asked him multiple times over the months to respect my wishes to not discuss you and Dad, but he just won’t stop. I just wish God..”
It is not your job to save him.
This loud and clear message interrupted my thoughts and stopped me mid-sentence. Like lightning, God spoke like a jolt to my mind.
“Mom, I think I just got my answer!” and I proceeded to tell her about what I had just heard.
I got home and wrote my final letter to him and let him know that I no longer cared to continue corresponding. It just wasn’t in my best interest.
That summer our family was alerted that he was up for a possible parole hearing! We were stunned and then more details came in. He had to have family lined up to support his possible return to society.
The reality of it all hit me hard. He had written to line up family he might be able to stay with and have support him. He’d finally taken his anger management classes, joined NA, and a few other things he’d only started in the past two years in order to look good before the parole board.
I have to admit, finding this out hurt. There was a small part of me that stung because my bio father hadn’t really contacted me out of love (it might be a part of it but he always wrote that he cared about me, never that he loved me) but out of trying to manipulate the board so he could get out of prison.
I’m thankful I listened to my instinct. From the beginning it screamed, “Manipulation!” and I could never quite put my finger on why. I could just feel it. W/o going into gory details about his past, this fits his typical M.O.
God doesn’t always speak this clearly to us but when He does, we better listen up! God knows my fragile heart. He knows I’ve been hurt so deeply in life that I really couldn’t handle more. What I really wanted was to do what God wanted me to do. I truly believe if his attempts had been sincere, the message I received that day would have been very different. I do forgive the man for the things he has done but I don’t believe in inviting toxic people back into my life unless the Holy Spirit prompts me to.
Do you listen when the Holy Spirit speaks to you? Have you had a time where you ignored Him? Or a time when you were clearly spoken to you and you listened? I’d love to hear your stories. Thank you for taking the time to read all of this. I know it’s a lot but I wanted to share it.
PS – Just to be clear, I will NEVER refer to this man as my Dad. So if you see me reference my Dad, I am speaking about my stepdad who is the only father I’ve ever had. And he did not get out of prison but he is now eligible to go before the parole board every two years, but he has not done so since the first hearing.