I was almost thirty years old when I received this message:
“Hi, you don’t know me but I believe that I am your half sister. If your older brother is John Rutter and your fathers name was John Paul Rutter, than we share a father. I would love to talk if you are ok with that, let me know. Thanks.”
Life comes to a screeching halt.
I could write about my sister and the other half-brother I learned about that day. I haven’t built much of a relationship with either of them other than some minimal contact on Facebook. (If either of you are reading this, please know it’s nothing personal: I’m just as bad about keeping in contact with the family I’ve known about for thirty years longer.)
I could write about the confusion of hearing my father had passed away after a fight with cancer.
I could write about the tinges of jealousy I felt toward two people I had never met — through no fault of theirs — that whatever their relationships with him, they got to meet and know our father in some way.
I could write about so many things that I felt that day, but I don’t want to, and the one person that I truly wish could read this, never will.
A while back there was a letter making the Facebook rounds to “the man I never knew,” or something of that sort. The author wrote about forgiving his/her father for not being there, even though he missed this/that/the other. It felt honest and raw, but it felt somewhat snarky as well. I couldn’t help but wonder, has the author REALLY forgiven him, or have they mistaken forgiveness for acceptance and moving on?
This is not that post.
Because I want to thank him.
I want to thank my father for partnering with my mother to create myself and my brother. Make no mistake, his relationship with my mother was not a healthy one, but I thankfully acknowledge that I would not be here without him. One half of my genetic code is his: I wouldn’t be ME without him.
I want to thank him for leaving: not because my life is better off without him, but because so many things could be so different if he hadn’t. I have two half-siblings to be thankful for. Regardless of my relationships with them, there are at least two people on this earth that might not exist had he stayed. My mother is now remarried, and while my parents’ relationship may not be perfect, they are growing daily and I am blessed with an abundance of family to love (and still not keep in touch with).
I want to thank him for making me stronger: for giving me the opportunity to pursue wholeness out of a broken place, to prove myself better than I ever should have been, and to recognize even more the grace of God that sustains me daily. I learned to fight for the things I want, and while the methods with which I fight are (mostly) no longer of this world, I am a fighter nonetheless. He helped make me fierce.
I want to thank him for giving me the opportunity to have a deeper understanding of love and forgiveness. It would be easy to be angry, to express my hurt and frustration with an absent father. But those are far outweighed by the peace of being able to forgive the person who has perhaps hurt you most, to “love your enemies” so to speak. The truth is, he was never my enemy. He was just a man as broken and in need of forgiveness as I am.
I don’t know my father’s position in regard to his faith. Honestly, I don’t know that I need to know. Does it make a difference to my own? Would it validate or void any call to forgiveness that I have been given? I don’t remember Jesus teaching us to forgive seventy-times-seven times, except “that guy.”
I am not going to pretend to speak for my brother, my half-sister, or my half-brother (whom I was also surprised to learn about that day). I have no right to invalidate their feelings toward myself or my father. These thoughts are my heart and mine alone. I hope that they are not misunderstood. I very much recognize that my father hurt me emotionally in a way that it would take thirty years to recognize, and God only knows how many more it will take to unpack it all. He abandoned me.
But from the deepest wells of my heart, I am grateful for him. I hope that he eventually found the happiness, joy, and peace I believe God wanted for him. Unfortunately, he never got to hear it from me, but I would want him to know he was forgiven. I hope he knew it.
I hope to see him in Heaven one day, perfect, healthy and whole as he was created to be. I don’t believe that the memories of this life will have faded, but instead, the glory and magnitude of God’s forgiveness in the face of the hurt, pain, and sin will be shown all the greater. I really do hope he’s there.
I really want to tell him I love him, and that I’m glad to meet him.