My Dad: Champion of Hope
Challenging times call for champions of character to rally beside us and wake our hope when it grows weary. Words like “determined” and “advocate” describe my dad well, and it has been his relentless hope that so often championed me through my most challenging seasons.
I had a beautiful childhood, complete with close friends, adventures with my brother, and sweet memories with my loving parents. I was a healthy child. The first obvious signs of illness didn't come until I was twelve years old. During my teenage years, my symptoms grew and accumulated. I still had the strength to attend school and participate in extracurricular activities, but medical emergencies were becoming more common. My family and I learned how to deal with each situation as it came, as well as how to press on with our lives once each emergency came to an end.
When I began to receive my diagnoses, my dad’s determination became my safety net. This character trait developed over the course of his life. As a child, he dreamed of becoming a pilot, and he was willing to work hard to make that dream come true. He paid for flying lessons with the money he earned from odd jobs as a teenager. He earned a Bachelor's degree in Physics, entered the Air Force as an officer, and later earned two Masters degrees in the sciences during his 25 year military service.
His role as a Dad changed when my illness became more severe. He went from coaching me at home in the sports that I played and helping with homework to fighting for adequate healthcare and educating himself on medical terms. Instead of cheering me on from stadium bleachers and taking runs with me around the neighborhood, he cheered me on as I made progress in physical therapy.
Today, he cheers me on as I persevere to the end of my college degree and he pushes my wheelchair when I'm too weak to continue. There was even a time when he was my greatest advocate with my professors. When I was discouraged and ready to quit, he fought for me and helped to negotiate a clear path to finishing. He stayed in my college town, 7 hours from home, after a long hospital admission. He went with me to the library, took me to and from classes and tests, and helped me to wrap my mind around difficult concepts. He washed my hair when I couldn't do it myself, allowed me to lay on his shoulder and cry during hard moments, and made sure that I was given adequate nutrition and sleep. He gave me the perfect balance of gentleness, care and tough love. I was able to complete that semester with excellent grades because my dad wasn't ready to give up on me, even when I thought that I wasn't capable of finishing.
He has lifted me up during times of weakness, and spoken truth over the lies that clouded my mind. He has reached into the dark places and shed light on them. He has dared to dream for a brighter future for me, and inspired me to have more hope than I deemed "safe" to have. He whispers, "just a little further,” when I think I can no longer continue. He believes in me deeply, and reminds me of who I am when I forget my own worth or potential. He helps me to find my smile when I think that it's gone, he makes me laugh, and he holds my hand on the hardest days. He encourages me with thoughtful phone calls and voicemails when we're far apart. He helps me to live a little braver and stand a little taller.
Because of him, I pushed beyond my comfort zone and dared to have more faith, to pray bigger prayers and to believe God for more. He helped me to see that sickness does not have to be the end of my story, and that greater things are ahead. The Bible describes faith as, "confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see." My dad possesses the kind of faith that goes beyond the logic of my medical records and the doctor's prognosis. He trusts God, even in the midst of the pain that our current circumstance brings. He is a champion of hope in my daily battle, like a highly-motivating coach on the sidelines, cheering on his players and beaming with pride.
I believe that God looks at each of us in this way. I believe that He pays close attention to those who are sick, overlooked or forgotten. He knows your pain; he sees the tears that you shed. He saw you when you received sobering news in the doctor's office. He knows the courage that it takes to face each day, and He is proud of you for continuing to choose life in spite of the pain that you feel.
It breaks my dad’s heart to see me sick or hurting. If the hearts of parents break when they see their child suffer, how much more does God's heart break when he sees his children suffer? God, who describes himself as our Heavenly Father, loves each of us even more deeply than our parents are capable of loving us. God's heart breaks when He sees you suffering because He loves you. He isn't indifferently waiting, unaffected by the delay in your improvement, breakthrough or healing. When you hurt, He hurts. When your heart breaks, His does too. He hurts like a parent hurts for their child.
And God's love is unconditional. You are fully known, and you are fully loved by God. He is here during our lowest moments, our best moments and all of our in-between, ordinary moments. He doesn’t love us any more or less because of emotions that we have or mistakes that we’ve made. I often fool myself by thinking that I'm hiding a piece of my heart from God, but He sees it all and He loves me fully. Not only that, but He never leaves me. Appointments and procedures that were stress-provoking became peaceful when I learned to ask Him to come with me. Painful nights in my room all alone, became nights that I spent with Him, feeling loved. The pain didn't go away, but His presence came and it is so sweet. Psalm 34:18 says, "The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." I personally know this to be true.
I often thank God for giving me a Dad who reflects His character and love for me. It would be much harder to believe in a loving God without a loving father here in the world. I realize that I am in the minority when I talk about having a father who loves me and is present in my life. If you have a strained relationship with your dad, if your dad walked out on you or chose not to be a part of your life, or is no longer on this Earth, I'm incredibly sorry for your pain and loss. I want you to know that you have a Father in Heaven who loves you. He is not disappointed in you. He is proud of you and wants to spend time with you. He wants to hear about the details of your day, and He always has the time to listen. He wants to know you more, and He wants to show you more of who He is. He has a beautiful plan for your life. Your story is not over! There is so much hope for your future. I encourage you to grab your Father’s hand and let Him take you on the adventure of a lifetime!
Written by: Lauren Taylor
Lauren is one of our People Hope Tribe members living in Texas — the land where everything’s said to be bigger, and apparently that includes hope! She’s a boss on both our Connections and Support Teams, but she’s not too cool to admit that petting a giraffe is definitely on her bucket list. Between bites of chips and salsa and daydreams of traveling, you can find her studying to finish her Bachelor of Arts degree to become a Child Life Specialist. Yes, it’s clear to see that this special lady is already a world-changer. Now, if we can just find her a giraffe…
Photos of Lauren and her dad are courtesy of our friend SydneyBPhotography.
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