It was a beautiful morning in New York City. Five-year-old Johnny and his younger sister were excited. Their Mom was readying them to visit their Grandmother, who lived on the other side of town. It was a warm sunny morning, and little Johnny was trying to get his mother’s attention to ask permission to bring his brand new Big Wheel riding toy along with them. If he could only get her attention…
Mom and Dad were in a serious “discussion.” Their exchange was not casual, but serious. However, to five-year-old Johnny, the body language went unnoticed. He earnestly begged for his Mom’s attention until, in utter frustration, she stopped to hear his eager request and responded “Yes!” completely flustered.
Johnny rushed to his room to grab his Big Wheel, when he realized the discussion going on in the living room turned to yelling, then to screaming, then into crashing sounds.
Johnny rushed out to see what the commotion was about, with Big Wheel in tow. What he and his younger sister witnessed was hard to decipher in their young minds. Mom was angry, smashing anything she could find on their father’s head with their father desperately trying to block and stop her emotional frenzy. It all seemed to happen in prolonged slow motion, though it probably only lasted a half-a-minute or so.
Young Johnny’s only thought was that their anger was over him because he wanted to bring his Big Wheel. He rushed back to his room, putting the toy back in its place, and raced to the living room where his Dad sat on the couch. Johnny and his younger sister watched as Dad balled up a sheet of newspaper to soak up the blood running down his forearm. The sharp edges of figurines and knick-knacks that Mom haphazardly grabbed in her anger had done their damage. To Dad’s credit, he never hit or hurt their Mom. However, the pain he inflicted was different, deeper… profoundly deeper. Broken vows and promises not kept. The sort of things a young wife would find unbearable to deal with.
As the weeks passed, Dad would be seen less often. He would not be around. Discussions about Divorce would be had with Johnny and his sister. Mom and Dad would go to great lengths to assure them both that their love for them would never change, despite the change of circumstances. Little Johnny would find some comfort in those words, as much as he could in his young mind.
In the months to come, the weekend visitations began. They began seeing Dad on weekends, and coming back home to Mom on Sunday evenings. Little Johnny and his sister would look forward to those weekends, but Johnny would dread the Sunday night shuffle back home. Not because home was a bad place, but it meant dad would leave again. And again. And again. Until one weekend little Johnny could not bear the pain. He broke down to his dad when he dropped him off. Dad did not understand why the “sudden” onset. All Johnny could explain or understand was that he had “too much fun” with dad that weekend. The truth was Johnny was afraid the circumstances would not change. Life would never go back to what it used to be. In the months to come, Johnny’s fears would be confirmed on the fateful weekend when dad came to pick them up – And take them to his home to meet his “new” wife.
I wish I could say the story above was fictional or even dramatized for emotional effect. However, it is not. Every fact and detail is accurate. It is a true story. It is my story.
Growing up in inner city New York, coming from a broken home was not the exception. It was common in the government-assisted rent districts of the South Bronx. However, the pain and emptiness was still real. Do not misunderstand me; I consider myself to have had a good childhood – pleasant memories. I am certainly not trying to paint a sob story. However, the emptiness of growing up without a dad is a reality I cannot deny. It leaves a sense of loss, incompleteness, and brokenness – to a degree beyond repair. As a young boy, I can remember lying in bed at night questioning my worth. Oddly, I found my mind wondering about God, my “Heavenly Father.” Wondering if I was “good enough” for heaven. Wondering if I would die that night, would I go to heaven?
Those haunting questions would be answered one day when, at the age of 16, I attended an evangelical church my uncle invited us to. That day the Pastor spoke on John 3:16, how God sent His Son to die for our sins and John 3:3, how we can know without a doubt we are destined for Heaven if we were “Born Again.” What was this concept of being Born Again? Becoming a part of God’s family? Growing up in the Catholic Church, the Scriptures regarding salvation were never opened up to me in this way. This was so utterly simple and right out of God’s Word. The realization that my broken past did not mean a broken future was in store for me. The Holy Spirit tugged at my heart in a powerful way that day.
After answering the altar call, I could only explain my experience as “Feeling brand new.” I understood what the Apostle Paul described in 2 Corinthians 5:17 – “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
Later, I would come to find the promise in Psalms 68:5, how God promises to be a Father to the Fatherless. This was a promise that would be profoundly meaningful to me.
Perhaps your journey has similarities to mine. If so, have you experienced the healing touch of Christ? Have you come to know the power of a personal relationship with your Heavenly Father?
He is real, profoundly real. Ask me about it sometime. I would love to share Him with you!
Deacon of Operations