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Last week, my father dropped by our house and asked me to step out on the porch so we could talk privately. His opening question was “So Sarah, what about your childhood and me did you not like?”  Um, what? My immediate response was “Did someone tell you to ask me this? Are you reading another self-help book? Are you seeing a therapist? Where is this coming from?” When I let him get a word in edgewise, he explained that he’s been thinking about this conversation from a few weeks ago. Seriously?!? So he was actually listening?!?

So, back to the question: what did I not like about him & my childhood? I took a few minutes to sift through my thoughts, but the answer was pretty quickly summed up in one word — FEAR. I explained to him that fear had ruled my childhood — fear of him, fear of The Church, fear of The Church’s leader, and ultimately, fear of the picture they had painted of a frightening, temperamental, vindictive God. He nodded and listened quietly. When I was done, he said “Sarah, your daddy didn’t know what he was doing. Your daddy was wrong.” As I listened, I knew that after 31 years, we had reached new ground in our relationship… is it just me, or did that sound suspiciously like an apology from my father, the non-apologizer?

Then he continued: “Sarah, I know it’s hard, but I want you to try to separate me and The Church. I didn’t know what I was doing, and I made some mistakes raising you, but The Church is right and you need to believe that.”  And, for the first time in 31 years, I responded honestly: “No, I CAN’T separate you and The Church. And The Church is right for you, not for me. Maybe things will change one day, but right now, I can’t be a part of The Church.”

And then he nodded. No argument, no accusations, no pushing or coercion of any kind. I told him about my talk with Dr. McK. About how Dr. McK had never acted like I was a lesser person because I’m a female. That he’s never even once treated me like I’m stupid or disrespectful for questioning things. And that it’s refreshing and just what was needed at just the right time.

I’ve never, ever, not even once stood up to my father about The Church. This is the first time in 31 years. It may seem like a very small thing to others, but to me, it feels groundbreaking… a really big freakin’ deal. I said no. Go me.

And yesterday, after much, MUCH deliberation, Bobby and I joined the church we’ve been attending during the morning service. My stomach was in knots, but I know that it was the right thing. During the opening hymn, Bobby reached for my hand and whispered “This is it, sweetie, this is the right place for us.” And he’s right… for now at least, it’s the right place for us.