3:30 in the Morning

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I never let anyone father me.

It sounds weird to say, and it’s even weirder to write.  Especially because I didn’t even know that about myself until recently.

The weekend before Thanksgiving my wife Rachel and I had a chance to have dinner with the Pastors from an amazing church in Pasadena called Epicentre.  They asked me to share a little about myself so I started sharing my testimony, and about my family.  

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I told them about how I had grown up in a broken home.  How my parents got divorced when I was only 7, and then my dad left three years later, and I never saw him again.  How my dad died when I was a freshman in college, after eight years of not speaking with him or hearing from him, other than random birthday cards from time to time.

As the night went on, we moved on to other topics, but the Holy Spirit was ministering to me in that time and had prepared something special for me to experience.  Even Rachel admitted later that the Lord was telling her as she was sharing her own testimony that the night was really about me, and she should let me go deeper instead.

Eventually Pastor Evelyn asked me a seemingly unrelated question.  ”What inspires you,” she said.  ”What makes you come alive?

I was intending to respond about my passions, about my personality, and my drive for people and for the kingdom, but this was the first thing that came out instead:

“I never let anyone father me.”

It came out of nowhere, completely out of left field.  It even surprised myself.  Eventually I got back on point and properly answered her question, but it struck me in my spirit that God was trying to loose something in me, something I didn’t even realize about myself.

A while later, Pastor John was illustrating a point about God the Father by sharing a story about his relationship with his own fifteen year old son.  He was sharing about how he loves his son so much that sometimes he just goes into his son’s room at 3:30 in the morning, when his son is already asleep, and just puts his arm around his son, whom he loves.

As he was sharing, the image hit me deep in the heart.  I could feel the tears welling up inside of me.  I tried my best to suppress them.  How embarrassing,  I thought.  This is my first time sitting down with these pastors, and what are they going to think of me if I start crying?

But I couldn’t help it.  Something in that image – of a father who loves his son so much that he goes in to see him sleeping at night, just to put his arm around him – something about that touched on something deep inside me, a deep longing I had always had for love from own father.  Love that I probably had, but never felt because he left when I was so young and never came back.

I started to cry, right there at that dinner table at Saladang Song above our mixed seafood tom yum soup.  At first muffled, then full on tears.  Big tears.  Tears of a 7 year old boy who never felt loved, never felt like he knew what a dad’s love felt like.  To experience that tender care from a father.  That arm around me at 3:30 in the morning.

After our dinner and our goodbyes, I was deep in it when I went home.  I remember I prayed that night “Father God, I want that tenderness, I want to experience that 3:30 in the morning love from you.  That you will just visit me like Pastor John visited his son.  I want that encounter of intimacy and love from you, my Heavenly Father.  I want to experience that.”

When I couldn’t sleep that night, I got out of bed around 2:45 in the morning and went downstairs to watch some TV.  I remember thinking in my head, “it’s almost 3:30.  That’s when it’s going to happen.  That’s when the encounter will come.”

3:30 came around, as I eagerly watched the clock.  I got into my holiest position.  My fervent, palms up, ready to soak and receive position.  I was ready.  I was ready for the Father to visit me and give me that love I had never had.  To heal my broken heart.

But nothing came.  I felt His presence, but nothing hit me.  I didn’t have a falling off the horse blind moment, or a big revelation, or a “break through.”  ”Didn’t I have enough, faith?” I thought.

After a few days, I had forgot about that prayer.  Rachel and I drove up to the Bay Area for Thanksgiving to see my family.  But when we got there, I suddenly started to feel very sick.  I was so cold that I was shaking.  No matter what I did, I couldn’t keep warm.  I would find out later that I got extremely food poisoned from some dim sum earlier that weekend.

So I spent all of Thanksgiving break bed ridden, unable to eat.  Anytime food would come in, my body would reject it, and a chill would overcome my body head to toe.

One night, I was up tossing it turning in fever chills.  My wife Rachel was up dutifully serving me, bringing me medicine, or water, or whatever I needed.  But it was really late.

All of a sudden, there was a knock on the door to our room.

“Who could that be?”  I thought.  ”At this hour?”  I remember Rachel and I looking at each other in confusion.

She got out of bed, and opened the door.  It was Nang, my stepfather.  He came in and stood over me as I was laying on the bed.  He put his hand on my forehead, checked my temperature, then gently pressed my stomach to see if I had any pain.  Nang had been a doctor for his whole life, but recently retired.  He was dutifully checking on me.  When he put his hand on my forehead to check my temperature I remember I felt peace, and I felt safe.  I had no idea what I was sick from, I was suffering, I was scared, but his hand there made me feel safe.

After he left, I asked Rachel, “what time is it?”

“3:30 in the morning,” she said.  We both smiled because we had just seen God at work.

The next morning, I asked Nang why he had come in to check in on me.  ”Were you up late?” I asked.  I figured he had just stopped by on his way to bed.

“No,” he said.  ”I woke up in the middle of the night for some reason and decided to check up on you.  I was worried about you, so I got out of bed, got dressed, and came to see you.”

I think God hears everything that we pray.  But I know that sometimes He knows better what we need than we do ourselves.  I had prayed for one thing, but He gave me one better.  He showed me that I do have a father, even here on Earth.  And not just a father, but one who loves me, and who has that tender care for me as a father that I always thought I was orphaned from.  That when God had sent me this man to be my stepfather at age 10, he was providing me with a father, that I was never as orphaned as I thought.  That I had experienced a father’s love, I just never allowed myself to receive it.  Until now.

Image Credit: flickr / E.K. Reyes