did you know that stress can so affect your cortisol levels that no matter how much you exercise, you’ll keep fat on your body? or did you know that your adrenal glands can get so tired, so pooped, so fatigued, so gosh darn worn out from stress, that your body can get sick? did you know that stress can make your hair fall out? stress can make you wake in the middle of the night. they’ll tell you it’s called insomnia, but it’s stress. or call it worry. or abuse.
whatever it is that’s wreaking havoc on your body, like that, it is NOT love.
and tonight, i watched as a daddy laid in to his daughter in the most terrible way. his words. they were so cruel. and intimidating.
i sat in a coffee shop and watched this teenage girl, from behind, just shrink into her chair. and she began to shake as she cried. i heard her dad saying, “what? you don’t like seeing me anymore? what’s it going to TAKE for you to like seeing me? i don’t see you in a month and what? i could’ve come earlier. you could’ve told me. WHAT will it take? what do you want me to do? how much more money do you need? your mother blows ALL the money i’ve given her. ASK HER what her problem is. …”
the onslaught of hatred kept going like that for about 30 minutes.
i sat and squirmed. i stood up. sat down. i wanted to chuck my hot coffee straight at his face. i wanted to walk past him and just smack him across the back of his head. that is GOD’S DAUGHTER he’s talking to with such disdain. that is HIS own daughter. his flesh and blood. the created little baby girl that he was given to nurture in LOVE.
and she just cried. and she was mad. and she was quietly throwing back harsh words. i couldn’t hear hers, exactly, but it was clear that she was put out. her head down, she wouldn’t even look at him.
i sat quietly, praying. come on God, intervene. shut that man’s mouth. break his heart for Your love, Lord. this is just too much.
and then i waited some more. and after the push from a friend to just go talk to them, i did. but as i stood, so did they. the dad walked his daughter out to her car. and i watched as she stood, arms folded, deep sighs of breath and a head turn. she was so rejecting of him. and he was so demanding that she love him.
she is 16.
i know this because i introduced myself to the dad.
“hi. i’m ashley. would you mind if i sat and talked with you for a moment?”
he agreed. we’ll call him tom.
so for 10 minutes, i sat and talked to this man, this broken-hearted dad, about what just happened. this is what the conversation looked like:
i’m going to tell you, from a 16 year old daughter’s perspective, you were really mean to your daughter just now. and i can tell you this, without judgment or anger, that she is mad at you. but she will NEVER EVER stop loving you. she needs you. in fact, she is desperate for your approval. your wisdom. your correction. your affirmation. and i know this because i was desperate for my daddy to love me, all my life. and he just demanded my love. tom, you can’t demand your daughter to love you. in fact, you can’t demand her to visit you or drive her car a certain way or to believe you. and he said, “well, what should i have done differently?” and so i said, “if i hadn’t seen you in a month, and i sat down in front of you for the first time, raised my voice and said, “what?! you don’t even want to see me?! what’s it going to take for you?” how would that make you feel? he began to cry. so i went on to tell tom that his daughter may not want to see him at their visits. and their visits may be hard. and she may push back and be rebellious and angry. but she still needs his love. and the way he loves her, isn’t up to her. she should never be responsible to answer the question, “what’s it gonna take for you to want to see me?” i told him his love should look like Jesus’. stand before Pharoah, accused, but not condemned. stand firm in who you are as God’s son, and let her see you walk in peace and love. and over the months and years, she will learn that you are safe and trustworthy. she’ll be able to conclude her own opinions about you without being influenced by her mother. you have great influence over her life. “no i don’t,” he said. oh yes you do, i told him. you yelled at her, and she cowered. you told her she was ridiculous for spending the money she had spent, so she put her head down. you demanded she respect you, and she cried. you clearly have influence over her. but is THAT the kind of way you want to influence her, tom? you have the power to build up your daughter. do that. tell her she’s beautiful. that you believe in her. that you’re proud of her. who cares if she rolls her eyes at you. keep telling her. one day she will trust you again.
our conversation went like that for a while. i talked. he listened. he talked. i listened. and he cried. it was clear that whatever had happened in his life had so affected his heart that he didn’t know how to love or receive love. he just wanted someone to fix it. he even said that. i just want it to be better.
but when you break trust, like that, you don’t get to just say, “be better!” and it’s all better.
i sat there, talking to a man like i’d wished someone had talked to my own dad when i was 16. i spoke out of love, and compassion and experience. and you know, i initially wanted to walk by this tom and smack him in the back of the head while he talked to his daughter with such disgust. i was disgusted by him. but as soon as i began to talk with him, it was clear that the Lord was NOT disgusted with tom. no way. the Lord had, just as He promised, kept a worker in the field. and He found a willing intercessor in a coffee shop, on a rainy night, and she obeyed.
i may have been a little scared to do it. but i did.
and before tom left, he walked over to me and said, “this is her name. her number. her email address. please call her or email her. i think you know what you’re talking about. you’re good. but she probably won’t want to hear about jesus…” but that’s ok, isn’t it? she doesn’t have to hear Jesus’ name to be able to recognize His love.
there may not be many workers in the field, but the harvest is plentiful. all it takes is one worker to bring in what the Lord has prepped. it’s worth it to be that one worker. work scared. but for God’s sake, just work.
tom isn’t better tonight. and neither is his daughter.
but tonight, tom got to experience Love.
i don’t know that he’ll get it right the next time he visits with his daughter. but one day, he will.
because you don’t have an encounter with the living God and not get changed.
you know, you guys, love is NOT mean. it’s not demanding or selfish. and tonight was clearly not my night to study. but i was exactly where i should be.