March 13, 2005, a Sunday, was like so many Sundays in the 2003 – 2007 period. Well, every second one. After picking my daughters up on a Friday afternoon I’d return them to their mother on a Sunday afternoon.
It was always hard.
Without exception, having helped settle them in with Mum, including a healthy handover chat, I’d leave either forlornly accepting of what was (that they couldn’t be with me fulltime), or, especially in the case of longer stays or absences, I’d leave and only be a minute down the road and in tears.
Those times I was in tears, I would pray to God and just be as earnest as I could be. It was like an immediate sense of separation loneliness gripped me, for the umpteenth time, where I would once again learn that God was all I had. He took me to desolate nothingness so many times. Yet, I never really got used to it.
I came to a place each and every time that acknowledged, with my Lord, I could endure this.
I don’t know how to explain how my relationship with God grew so much in a season of such anguish. It sounds wrong to say God was all I had, but truly there were so many occasions where I found myself dropped literally into that agonising pit. And there, in the bottom of it with me, was my Lord.
Church certainly became a distraction and serving in leadership was one way of getting me to focus on something positive, but there was nothing to distract me on that thirty-minute drive home, and on many occasions, I simply lamented what I was missing out on, and especially how my daughters might be missing me. This latter thought often haunted me, but I was always reassured to know on phoning them later that they were always okay.
On the day in question, my journal tells me that my youngest daughter glanced back, and I seriously questioned, as it says, ‘Where I’m at!’ I simply mention that saying goodbye that day was ‘very difficult.’
Long stays were different. Having my daughters for a week during the holidays was great, but a strange thing would happen the day before I took them back – I would always be emotional. Sometimes moody, mostly pre-occupied, always reflective. It was just another iteration of a grief I experienced hundreds of times back in that nearly-four-year season, just more intense. It would be nothing for me to be sullenly depressed for two or three days or before I saw them again.
It was a tragic irony for me that I probably took my three daughters for granted whilst I was in my first marriage, but then when it was over, having fallen in love with them in a fresh way through their frequent absences from my presence, I just didn’t know how to adjust, other than to go deep into God – to say it was a saving grace would be a cosmic understatement.
Why do I write this sort of thing? A love letter to my daughters – Dad will always love you. A reminder to myself, that though I’m through that season, there are people doing it tough like I was, but now. An encouragement to those who relate not to give up; you’re not alone. That this love letter might open the eyes of hearts that God destines to see it, especially husbands like I was, taking the very blessings before my/our eyes for granted.