Tag Archives: forgiveness

Forgiving the Naked Lady Tattoo and the False Teeth Abandoned in a Tuna Sandwich

forgiveness quotation quoteMy childhood nemesis: Roberta Sherard.

She flaunted perfection, from the house next door to mine, twirling polished pirouettes, a blonde ponytail floating in slow motion behind her. I tried to keep up, spinning and stumbling, bedecked with scabbed knobby knees, red hair doomed to frizz, by a Tony home permanent gone awry. Roberta spoke softly, poise oozing out her pores, a finishing school graduate. I reeked of awkward, spewed hillbilly slang like Warshington, gonna, and I-dunno, and I carried the mantra, “Debbie, settle down.”

Roberta’s father wore a suit and tie, called her princess, bored my family with tales of her delight fulness. My dad yelled, wore Big Mac striped overalls, told me to pipe down.

“No man is gonna marry a girl with big feet,” he’d say, pointing a greasy truck driver finger at my bare feet.

I coveted Roberta’s family, but I loved mine.

The McFarland’s were not without charm. Summers we’d put on neighborhood shows, an amazing feat, performed completely without the benefit of talent. No musicians, singers, dancers or actors, just raw desire to be the center of attention, and the guts to charge for it… a silver quarter per show.

Saturday’s we ’d canvas the block passing out hand written invitations, for Sunday afternoon’s back yard performance. A typical show, featured my lip sync to Ricky Nelson’s Traveling Man, sister Nancy’s loud version of Peter, Paul and Mary’s Kumbaya, accompanied by imaginary guitar strumming, and our star, little Danny, singing most all the words of Sukiyaki, a Japanese pop song from the 1960s. We served popcorn and lemonade for a nickel, and gave away taffy, because we didn’t like it very much.

By midsummer our crowds always dwindled, leaving sticky face Johnny and his whining sister, Margaret, alone on the grandstand of grass. Unwillingly to fold up the makeshift floral sheet curtain, we spawned an idea for an act, no child of the 1960s could resist.

“Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the dancing naked lady…”

naked lady tattoo US Navy
My dad’s genuine United States Navy tattoo.

Our risqué, bare bottomed star, a genuine United States Navy tattoo located on Dad’s forearm… and she could dance. Quarters jingled, filling the jar. We had it made. That is, until a power wielding censorship group of one, cancelled the dance, insisting Dad roll his sleeve back down. Mom never did have a sense for business.

One day, Roberta’s family packed their perfect possessions, and moved to a wonderland of princess worthy neighbors. Around this time, Dad’s toothless gums and the tattoo, turned from an attraction to an embarrassment. I grew to hate his stories, and loathe my one time heroine, the dancing naked lady. To my friends, NOT asking, he’d share the demise of his toothless grin.

“I left my teeth at a café’ on highway 99, stuck in a tuna sandwich.”

Thanks for sharing Dad.

Resentment seeded, bitterness took root. Like many families walking the tightrope between alcoholism and recreational use abuse… stuff happened… words carelessly tossed, lies slung, shame spilled, fists bristled.

When I looked at my dad, I saw nothing… except who he was not. The dad I loved for his loud voice, silly jokes and Popeye grin, disappeared. I forgot the man who provided for his family, fudged paperwork miles, enabling longer shifts. The good forgotten, leaving only the bad to define; a man who hurt the ones he loved with neglect and fists.

Over time, the naked lady tattoo shriveled and sagged. Her one time peppy, flirty dance, was at best, a sluggish, sway. Our relationship deteriorated, along with the tattoo. Bitter years of forgiveness proved too much to carry, spilling over, slopping onto my other relationships; husband, children, friends, co-workers, even strangers.

Alas, God moves ever forward, albeit seemingly behind the scenes, but oh so powerful! In His perfect timing, knowing the moment my heart reached ideal compliance, help came knocking in the form of a class called Surrendered Hearts. There I struggled, alongside three other women, clinging to ancient justifications for stacks of resentments. I listened… they listened… to tales of rage… to pent up screams. We cried.

For me, graduation meant forgiving my dad. I said the words, sincerely wanting to mean them. I forgive you Dad. I forgive what you did and what you did not. I mourned the dad I thought I wanted. I thanked Jesus for forgiving my judgments and bitter vows.

Shortly after the class completion, my mother died. That meant spending time with Dad. I wanted to be a good daughter, a comfort for my dad. My willingness to forgive, bought some patience, but not enough. Daily, I spent hours on the phone, listening to him complain. Nightly, I begged God to help me forgive him. Each day a clean slate, ending, soiled with new found rage for his latest rant attempting to justify wrongs done to my mom and siblings. If he’d just keep his mouth shut, maybe I could actually forgive him.

I don’t know how or when God removed the stain from my heart. I didn’t notice it getting lighter or less. One day, on the phone with him, I realized I cared. I felt love for the man he was, right then and there. The dad, the man with skin. While he talked on about what a good guy he was, God flipped the forgiveness switch in my heart. At least, that’s the best explanation I have.

More years passed, at least once a year he nearly died, springing back each time leaving the doctors shaking their heads in wonder. Driving his scooter, oxygen tank at his side, dad pressed on, losing the family home to gambling, nearly blowing his face off smoking Chesterfield’s while hooked to the oxygen tank, and getting slugged by a miscellaneous woman he somehow offended. Same old dad, but something was different.

That would be me.

Forgiveness benefited me. I was free to love and care for Dad, AS IS. Did I condone his actions? No. Did he sometimes make me crazy? You bet. But I loved… I love… I love my dad.

At some point, he quit justifying wrongs and attempted to right what he could. He died, with the faithful naked lady tattoo, loved. He left this world broken, forgiving and forgiven. He left, a dad, I’m proud to say is mine.

 

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HAVE YOU MET WITH JESUS AT THE WELL?

well imageThe Samaritan woman? You know, the one from the Jesus at the well story? We could be great friends. I picture us meeting at Starbucks…

Hurried, face flushed, she places her Venti nonfat caramel macchiato on the table where I’ve been waiting, wondering why she’s late.

“You’ll never guess what happened to me this morning,” she’d say. “I met a man who knew everything about me. I can’t explain it. He knew the details of my past and present without me saying a word. He spoke and I walked away changed.”

“Yes, I know Who you’re talking about. I know Him too,” I’d say.
We’d be great friends. And boy, would we have some stories to swap. Yes, indeed. No, not the bourgeois ugly stories of our past. Why bore each other with those? Instead, we would share that glorious encounter with Jesus.  Like how she felt when Jesus spoke and asked her for a drink. A lowly woman, Samaritan at that. Not worthy to be near this man at the well, let alone serve Him a drink. Then, this stranger engages conversation revealing that He knows … her darkest secrets.
So similar is my encounter with Jesus. Alone, ashamed and broken. He beckons for me to approach. He points to a mirror reflecting all, even what no one else could know. Shifting my eyes from the mirror to Jesus, I stand awaiting shame, condemnation, certain death by smite. Instead in His eyes, I see something unfamiliar, new and life giving. I see GRACE.
If He had not revealed the soiled reflection in the mirror, would His love have worth? If He loved me only because He did not really know me, would that love matter? The power of my grace encounter comes from knowing that even with secrets revealed, He loves me. He silenced the nagging, gnawing words in my head that scream “you are unlovable!”
Like the woman at the well, I’m told to go and sin no more. And like her, my heart’s desire is to do as He says. Will I succeed? Yes, sometimes. Will I fail, yes, too often. But, when I do, Jesus will be there, at the well, asking for a drink. My prayer is that I will always be willing to serve Him, whatever He may ask of me. My gratitude for His Grace is undying.

 

John 4
Jesus Talks With a Samaritan Woman
Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John— 2 although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. 3 So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.
4 Now he had to go through Samaria. 5 So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.
7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)
9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.[a])
10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”
13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”
16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”
17 “I have no husband,” she replied.
Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”
19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”