Kisses From My Father

by Denise Beck

“My father told me that when I was a teenager he only ever kissed me when I was asleep.”

I wrote these words down this morning after they were spoken by a Romanian pastor at a conference I’m attending in Eastern Europe. 

He went on to say that the saddest part of hearing this from his father was remembering that being a teenager was really hard. He was trying to be brave and hold things together, and so instead of leaning into affection from his father, he pushed it away. 

How very sad that during these really hard growing up years, the number of people who can show you affection decreases at a time when you can’t ask for it but really need it. 

And now that his earthly father is gone, he wished he could have the memory of all of the kisses he doesn’t remember getting.

A grown man. The privilege of perspective that age brings. The generousness of his honesty. 

Something about this combination made me want to slather my now mostly adult children with kisses and praise them in public and support their craziest ideas. 

I bet you’ve never had anyone make the comparison between your life as a global worker and the affection-deprived teenage years. Well, let me be the first.

There are the newsletter moments, and there are the moments we hold in our hands behind our backs. The moments that encourage support and new teammates, and the moments we can’t tie a pretty bow on. 

And these awkward, unkempt moments are the ones we wish our kids would bring to us, when sometimes they don’t. Because if they did, we would gently place our hand on the top of their head and let it fall down to their back ever so slightly. We would lean our cheeks close, next to theirs. And we would be the felt presence of 100% unconditional love. 

Is it a stretch to think Jesus had awkward, unkempt moments? Moments of pure anguish? Imagine if he kept them to himself. How in the world could he have done the hard things if he didn’t take his moments to his Father?

We won’t ever have that story to read because he did take the good and awkward moments to his Father. Among other places, the Mount of Olives was the place where Jesus brought his hands out from behind his back and asked his Father to lean in close.

Maybe, just maybe, you’ve been collecting some hurt. Some pain. Some things you are holding behind your back. Maybe you are feeling the same lonely “I should be able to handle this” feeling we fight in our teenage years. Maybe you need some time in an olive grove with your Father.

This year, the 2024 Velvet Ashes online retreat is entitled “Olive: Receive the Tending of Jesus.” And you are invited to do just that. Experience the connection and renewal He has for you. Explore themes of healing and forgiveness and abiding trust. As always, this totally downloadable retreat comes with everything you’ll need for a meaningful time away. You choose a time and location that works for you. Retreat by yourself or with a group. Your lifetime access opens April 1. Join the global community April 19–21. 

Someday, I pray we will all have the privilege of perspective that age brings. And from there, I hope your story doesn’t have you longing for the affection and presence of a Father that was just waiting for you to come to him with everything you were bravely trying to hold by yourself. I pray you always have the memory of kisses from your Father. 

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Being shaped by her years in S. Sudan, Denise’s heart grew for women who take the unknown and carve out beauty in all its forms. When she was introduced to Velvet Ashes, she found a place that celebrated that beauty as well. Partnering with this team to provide connection and courage for women in their cross-cultural lives has been another reminder of the beautiful gifts God gives. Her favorite places to be are anywhere her four kids are, next to her husband no matter what country, and anywhere that gets her close to the feet of Jesus.

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A Life Overseas is a collective blog centered around the realities, ethics, spiritual struggles, and strategies of living overseas. Elizabeth Trotter is the editor-in-chief.

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