One of my biggest pet peeves is getting calls from unknown numbers. An even bigger thorn in my side is when I get phone calls from unknown numbers and the caller doesn’t leave a voice mail. Maybe they are under the impression that I recognize the number but truth be told, I only know maybe four numbers by heart: mine, my grandmother’s whose had the same number since maybe the 70s, my aunt who has had the same number since the 90s and my job. Anyone else, sorry but if I were to lose the contacts in my phone, Facebook and email would be our only form of communication.
Most people avoid phone calls from strangers for only a few reasons. Either its a bill collector or its someone who has not been deemed worthy enough to be saved in their phone. Those have been the reasons for me in the past but lately, avoiding the ringing phone from an unknown number is based on one thing: unforgiveness.
At least once a week, I get a phone call from some unknown Mississippi number. I am about 99% certain that the caller on the other end is my father. My mother has confirmed numerous times that my father has been trying to reach me but I never answer the phone.
I have my reasons.
I get calls from this number at all times of the day and night. This has been going on for a couple of years and to this day, every time I see a Mississippi number I don’t recognize, my anxiety level rises and I swear my heart stops. For those few seconds that I am staring at my ringing phone, a war is raging in my mind. It’s a never-ending battling over whether I should answer it or whether I will let unforgiveness keep getting the best of me.
Before I know it, the ringing stops and unforgiveness is victorious yet again.
In my mind, growing up without a father was nothing traumatic. It’s hard to miss something that was never really there so to me, growing up with just a mom, siblings, grandmothers and a host of aunts was my normal. I’ve always known him and would brush off his feeble attempts to get to know me when he would try to worm his way back into my mother’s good graces. For a couple of years when I was in middle school, he lived with us in an attempt to reconcile with my mom. But by then, I was an emotional and angry teenager that refused to respect my absentee, alcoholic father who would fight with my mother behind closed doors. I broke up my fair share of fights between them and regularly threatened to call the cops if he dared speak to me or my younger siblings. I was ashamed at having such a horrible person as a father and was somewhat envious of friends that had “normal” two parent families. After many sleepless nights, violent outbursts and emotional meltdowns in private, it became clear to me that his absence was much more beneficial to my family and my sanity. He eventually left our home and pretty much floated from here to there with a six pack of beer in tow. He never amounted to much and last I heard he was living with his mom working at a car wash. My fragile spirit was left more empty and broken than when he arrived. There were no uncles or other male figures to affirm me, protect me or love me unconditionally and I didn’t realize how much I needed that until it was much too late. Those very things that I needed from an earthly father, I sought in one bad relationship after another.
After numerous mistakes and sins under my belt, I finally surrendered my broken life to Christ. It was then that I started to understand the heart of my heavenly Father. To this day, I sometimes have trouble processing His boundless love for me mainly because the love of a father is still such a foreign concept. I know in my head how His love is unending and timeless. No matter how rebellious and sinful I have been or will be, His love is not contingent upon my reciprocated emotions. Sometimes, my heart isn’t always so quick to catch up.
I’ve reached a crossroads with the phone calls that I still cannot seem to bring myself to answer. God is doing a serious work in my heart regarding my unforgiveness and the conviction that comes with each unanswered call is mounting. I am well aware of as a Christian, I have no room for unforgiveness when God has forgiven me for my host of sins. It’s a daily struggle to kill my flesh that says “remember all the hurt he caused” when my heart knows that all those hurts have been nailed to the cross.
Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. – Colossians 3:13
It’s a slow process that requires many baby steps for me to answer a simple phone call and listen to the person on the other end. There is still a hurting daughter who never knew what it was like to love and be loved by her father. Hearing anything besides “I’m sorry” may be more than she can take right now. Yet never answering the phone robs her of the chance to hear “I’m sorry” and robs him from the chance to truly be forgiven.
I will keep waiting for my phone to ring, praying that one day soon, forgiveness will be victorious.