How a Beloved Bible Helped Her Forgive Her Alcoholic Father

Finding her treasured childhood book allowed her to let go of her resentment.

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Posted in , Oct 15, 2020

Illustration of a white bible

Growing up, I didn't understand what alcoholism was, how it can smother the goodness in a person. I only knew Dad's drinking meant tears for my mother and insecurity for us kids.

And it meant we shouldn't expect anything special.

Christmas was the exception: We could ask for the one thing we had been longing for all year. When I was 10 years old my Christmas wish was for a white Bible with a zippered cover. A girl in our church had one, and I thought it was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen.

When Christmas came, though, there was no white Bible. Doesn't Dad care about me? I thought, blinking back tears. I looked at him, but he wouldn't meet my gaze.

A neighbor dropped by later and asked if I'd gotten my wish. I couldn't stop myself from telling her. "Every time I go to the store," she said, "I'll bring you back the change. You'll have your Bible before you know it." The day I reached my goal, I ran to the bookstore and picked out the Bible I wanted. I even had my name printed in gold on the cover.

I used that Bible until it wasn't white anymore and the binding had to be taped. When I went to college, our church gave me a new Bible, so I tucked my old one away at home.

While I was at school, Dad's drinking binges escalated. My mother and younger siblings had to flee the house and leave everything behind. I refused any contact with Dad after that. I couldn't let go of the hurt and anger I had toward him.

Some years later, I received a phone call telling me Dad had died. Apparently things had gotten so bad at the end that he'd been living out of his car. Now, on top of the hurt and anger, there was grief—for the man lost to drink, and for the loving father I wished he could have been.

After the funeral I went through Dad's few remaining possessions. Inside an old box carefully tied with string, I found my white Bible. I unzipped the cover. Snapshots spilled into my lap—pictures of my mother, my brothers and sisters and me, smudged and dog-eared.

I flashed back to the Christmas morning when Dad wouldn't meet my eye. Maybe holding on to my Bible and our pictures was his way of making up for all the love he had wanted to give us but wasn't able to.

It was time to lay the past to rest. Hugging my old white zippered Bible to my chest, I released my hurt and my anger and my grief and gave it all to God, the Father who loved me when my earthly one couldn't.

This story originally appeared in the December 1999 issue of Guideposts magazine.

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