Although this movie didn't get the best reviews... it completely and utterly touched my soul. I left the theater in tears on a winter night in 2014. It was like a version of my life was set on the big screen, and I unexpectedly watched it without knowing or preparing for it. Although filled with a mixture of emotions, including pain, the thing I appreciated the most about this film is that through the pain, you are hopeful of the healing that would eventually take place...the healing you longed for the main character to experience with her dad. The healing that eventually came.
That is the word that comes to mind when I think of Saving Mr. Banks. It is also the word that comes to mind when I think of my dad and my relationship with him. A friend once told me years and years ago as I was struggling through some things, "you will be the one to redeem your father." This thought was never far from my mind when I thought of my dad. Which was often. Redeem him? What did this mean exactly? Spiritually? Literally? How was I supposed to do that? I pondered this for years...literally.
Then a whirlwind of things happened when my dad got sick. Everything happened so quickly, and yet so slowly. Quickly in a sense that I knew the clock was ticking and things felt so unpredictable. Slowly in a sense that it seemed like my dad's suffering was only getting worse and worse. Because it was. And it was so unbearably difficult to witness. It was heartbreaking.
I knew my time with my dad was precious, even though it was so difficult at times. Not because of any tension he and I had. There wasn't any since we had our handful of deep conversations over the years. But it was so hard seeing my dad in so much pain, so thin, starving...and knowing there was nothing that I could do about it. Only listen, watch, and pray.
I prayed about him a lot. I prayed about what to do and how I was supposed to reach him. I prayed for him--that he would have some relief in his symptoms and peace. I prayed that his heart would draw near to God in the process, amidst the suffering. The Bible tells us that God is present in our sufferings and close to the brokenhearted, so I wanted my dad to believe it.
My dad wasn't always the easiest person to reach out to either...and anyone who knows him knows how stubborn and specific he was. Ha. Even in the hospital during his last days here he was giving us all a run for our money. So I did pray that I would figure something out and that my heart would be open in God's timing.
And it was.
I joined a small group/women's Bible study in June 2016 of last year. I told the girls right away about my dad, how sick he was, and how complicated our relationship was. We prayed for him every week together. As time went on, I began asking for prayers specifically about having the courage to invite him to church with me. You're probably thinking, "Church? Big deal...it shouldn't be that difficult to invite someone to church." But I was so afraid of my dad saying no, that it made me afraid to even ask.
Until one day during the Bible study, I worked up the courage and texted my dad. I invited him, and he was surpringly ok with it. I was so excited.
I reached out to my pastor, Father Kenneth, several times throughout the summer as well. Asking for prayers. Asking that God would direct the situation. Father Kenneth was always so supportive. I couldn't wait for my dad to meet him.
Then the day finally came for my dad to meet me for church. Conicidentally enough, he came to church straight from having a CT scan done. The CT scan that would tell us a few days later that his cancer was starting to grow again.
I was so nervous that Sunday. I hadn't been to church with my dad in years. In fact, he hadn't been to church in years. I am not sure how long it had been for him, but I do know that it was his first time attending a service since his cancer diagnosis.
And to be honest, I couldn't even tell you what the service was about. Only that it was important for me to bring my dad to church. That's all I could think about in that hour and a half...that I did it. That I had the courage to invite him. And that he came.
I was asked to lead the prayers at the front of the church that day. And shortly after, my dad took communion for the last time.
Little did I know that in 2 short months this would be the very church that I would organize his funeral at, with Father Kenneth leading his service. The place where my family and I would see my dad's body and touch his hand for the last time.
So did I redeem my dad in this life? The short answer is no. Only God can do that. But like the main character in Saving Mr. Banks who wanted to redeem her dad through the story of Mary Poppins, I am going to do through this blog. That is my plan...to continue to share of God's faithfulness. To share of His goodness in my life throughout time, despite many trials. And to share of His sweet redemption of my relationship with my father on this side of heaven.