“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.” Philippians 4:8 (NIV)
As I trace my fingers back across the timeline of my life, I can remember times when spiritual and emotional emptiness left me vulnerable. The shape of my lack was the absence of a biological father.
He took with him so much more than he ever could have imagined. Those few suitcases and brown boxes didn’t just contain ties, old trophies and dusty books. Somewhere in between his Old Spice and office files were the shattered pieces of a little girl’s heart.
Now I’m not a big fan of pointing to hurts from my childhood and saying, “All my issues can be linked back to what other people did to me. Let me cut open my hurts and wallow in all that leaks out.” Everyone has hurts from their past. And everyone has the choice to either let those past hurts continue to haunt and damage them or to allow forgiveness to pave the way for us to be more compassionate toward others.
My dad’s abandonment was so huge, so draining, that it caused me to fill my mind with only negative memories of him. In my mind, he never loved me at all.
And you know what? Maybe he didn’t. But parking my mind only on negative thoughts about my dad left such a sadness in my heart.
Sometimes I could brush off this sadness with a little sigh and recitation of who I am in Christ. But other times it made me angry. And defensive. And deeply unsatisfied.
Then one day God surprised me in the most unusual way. While my dad still made no effort to connect with me, a sweet memory of him changed my dark perspective.
One winter I traveled to Vermont, where I woke up one morning to stare at what an overnight snowstorm had brought. I had never seen such snow in all my life. But what really caught my attention were the gigantic icicles hanging from the roof line. They were glorious.
As I stared out at them, suddenly a memory of my dad flashed across the screen of my mind.
I grew up in Florida, which meant no snow ever. But I remember praying for snow.
One night the temperatures dropped surprisingly low and the weatherman called for a freeze, which was a rare thing in our area. How tragic there was no precipitation. It was the one night snow might have been possible.
It broke my little snow bunny heart.
But the next morning, I awoke to the most amazing sight. There were icicles everywhere. Gleaming, dripping, hanging, light-reflecting, glorious icicles were all over the trees in our backyard.
It was magical.
We were the only house on the block with this grand winter display.
Because I was the only girl whose daddy thought to intentionally put sprinklers out on the one night it froze.
I don’t know where this memory had been hiding for too many years. But what a gift. Somewhere in the deep, mysterious, broken places of my dad’s heart, there was an inkling of love.
While this certainly doesn’t solve all the complications of being abandoned by my dad, it gives me a healthy thought to dwell on where he’s concerned — one of those good thoughts Philippians 4:8b tells us to think about: “… whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.” I like to call this “parking my mind in a better spot.”
It’s so easy to park our minds in bad spots. To dwell and rehash and wish things were different. But to dwell on hard things keeps us in hard spots and only serves to deepen our feelings of emotional emptiness.
This icicle memory gave me a new place to park.
Do you have something from your past that causes emotional emptiness? As a first step toward healing, ask the Lord to help you think of one thing good from this past situation or something good that’s happened, despite the pain.
Dear Lord, You know the hurts I have from the past that still drain me. Please show me a good place to park my mind when the pain stings me again. And when good memories are hard to find, remind me I can always focus on the hope and truth of Your Word. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Psalm 34:18, “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” (ESV)
Are you in the midst of a heartbreaking season? Do you find yourself wondering if God really cares about what you’re going through? Download “How to Hold On to Hope in Your Most Devastating Seasons” — a free resource from Lysa TerKeurst — here today, and be equipped to stand strong in the face of devastation as you cling to five core truths we must believe and live out.
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REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Have you been rehashing an old hurt? Ask the Lord to help you find one thing good from that situation or something good that’s happened (in spite of the pain) to dwell on instead.
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