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Filling the Void From an Absent Father

Heather was raised by a single mother. When she was 12 years old, Heather found out who her father was. Even though he was never around, Heather longed to know him.

“Although I had a really loving family, there was a piece of me that was missing,” says Heather. “I wanted to know who my dad was. I wanted to have a relationship with him. I remember being a kid and watching other fathers interact with their daughters and it was something that I always wanted for myself.

Several years later, Heather finally got a chance to meet her father.

“I was 18 years old, very excited that this man wanted to attempt to have a relationship with me. And so when I knocked on the door, an aunt answered the door and looked at me and said, ‘This isn’t a good time.’ And about that time I saw my father walk behind her through the hall, look at me, and continue to walk by. And for whatever reason, he didn’t want to see me and after that night I stopped trying. And it began to spiral all of these feelings that I had bottled up for years, just feeling like I wasn’t good enough, like I wasn’t worthy to be loved. The feeling of being rejected. And for me it was really the turning point in my own lifestyle. From that point I didn’t want to feel anything and I really turned to drugs and alcohol after that point just to be numb.”

Heather had grown up in the church, and learned about God’s love for her. But her drug and alcohol abuse had blinded her to what she knew to be true.

“So I didn’t have to deal with the hurt or the brokenness or even deal with all of these emotions about my father, just feeling inadequate. I liked the way that drugs and alcohol made me feel because I didn’t have to feel anything.”

Heather got pregnant, and had a son, Jonah. Even though she was a single mom, her lifestyle still revolved around drugs and alcohol. One night, after smoking pot and excessive drinking, Heather was riding in a car with her friend. The driver, also drinking, crashed into another car, killing those two people instantly. Heather was charged with DUI by allowance.

“And I remember the investigator looks at me and he says, ‘Do you have any idea what happened here tonight?’ And I said, ‘No.’ And he took the couple that passed away, he took their driver’s license and he threw them at me across the table and he said, ‘You’ve murdered these two people.’ And that’s really when the weight of, the full weight, the reality of what had happened, that’s when it hit me. And I remember looking down at this couple’s face that I’ll never know, and knowing that because of me and my actions, that they weren’t going home to see their family.”

The accident threw Heather into a deep depression.

“I had the audacity to be angry at God, throughout all of it, because I was angry at Him because He took them and He left me. And I knew I didn’t deserve to live.”

A week later, Heather’s mom asked her to go to church with her. Heather agreed to go.

“I think that in that moment I finally heard the Gospel with my heart and not my head. And I realized that the weight that I was carrying was this weight of sin. But, you see, Jesus had come to take that weight so I could be free. I walked down to the altar and it was – I was a mess. And a woman at the front, she stepped out and met me and brought me back with her and helped me walk the rest of the way. That day, for the first time in my life, it was as if I finally got it, that God loved me with this unending, never failing, all-consuming love. No matter how hard I tried to run from Him, He pursued me. He never gave up. And I really started thinking about what kind of love would go to those kind of lengths. And then it dawned on me - the kind of love that would die on a cross.”

Heather asked Jesus into her heart that day. Women from the church loved her, and taught her what it meant to be a Christian.

“I had a woman who was patient with me, and she just began to walk with me and break things down like repentance and baptism. And little by little, God was shifting things and I was changing. And I didn’t even realize that He was doing it. It wasn’t that I had to strive or try, it was just the more that we got in the Word, the more He just began to renew me."

A year after the deadly DUI, the case finally went to trial. Heather pled guilty to felony charges and had to serve one year in prison.

“We began a Bible study there in this maximum security facility every day and we grew to almost 30 women. And the entire atmosphere in that place began to shift. We saw signs and wonders and miracles. And I saw as one by one these women began to give their lives to Jesus.

Heather also learned to forgive her father, who had passed away years before.

“Forgiveness is a hard thing because it wasn’t letting him off the hook, but it was just really kind of taking back the power. It was a really healing moment. And the truth is, unless we forgive them, how can God forgive us? And who are we to hold anything against anyone?”

Heather never knew her earthly father, but her heavenly Father was there all along.

“Every little girl wants a hero, a knight in shining armor that will rescue her. And it’s the beauty of God, you know, when you begin to understand the father heart of God. And really, He is the father to the fatherless. And He heals all things, all wounds, and He fills every bit of emptiness with His love.

Today, Heather works for a campus ministry called Every Nation. She says the leaders of tomorrow are on the college campuses of today. Heather loves to share the gospel of Christ with students whenever and wherever she can.

“My spiritual journey has been more of just really, this story of restoration. I know that many times we think about the cross, we just think about salvation. But see, the thing is, the cross doesn’t just bring salvation. It brings restoration. And looking back at my life and the mess that was there, the one thing that sums up what Jesus has done is He has restored everything that was broken.”

Email Heather at Heather.Heck@everynation.org.

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