Writer Shakira explains how her father's love and support brought her closer to Jesus, even though he wasn't a practicing Christian.
I love you because you're mine - Romans 5:6-8
From a very young age my Dad took great care in telling me how wonderful I was. I was convinced I was his favourite, yet as I got a bit older I realised all of siblings felt this way. We really were all his favourite.
When I did well at school he was pleased with me. When I didn’t win a race he was pleased with me and reassured me that I was faster than the year before. It really felt like there was nothing I couldn't do, nothing I could say that would stop him from being my biggest fan. Even when he disciplined me, it seemed to hurt him as much as it did me as he softly asked for a hug after correcting my defiant behaviour. Being this was all it took for him to love me, and since that was never going to change, I was on cloud nine, safe and secure in my Dad’s love.
Even when my dad disciplined me, it seemed to hurt him as much as it did me as he softly asked for a hug after correcting my defiant behaviour.
I believe it was that love that made me completely oblivious to being bullied at the age of four for being black. Though I thought it strange that the little girls didn’t want to play with me for having chocolate brown skin, it seemed like their odd problem rather than mine. I had a love that shielded me, a love that never changed. What could be greater than that? When I began to read the scriptures at seventeen it wasn’t hard for me to accept a God that loved me despite my sin, a gracious God, a God that cared, it felt all too familiar to the dad I knew.
Having stuff isn’t enough - Matthew 6:19-21
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Matthew 6:19–20.
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Every two or three years my family would take a trip to Jamaica to see relations and we absolutely loved it. We would spend some time staying with family and then some time in a hotel. We were all too scared to explore without a chaperone, though we had the same complexion as everyone around us, we were "foreigners"; our clothes, sunglasses and entire way of being highlighted the fact that we didn’t "belong".
Before each trip we would go shopping with mum and pick out our clothes for the holiday. I absolutely loved it and revelled in being able to pretend the cobbled streets of Montego Bay were my little catwalk. But then three weeks later, when it was time to go back home, none of these things would be coming back with us. Every time we went to Jamaica, we left what we had… in Jamaica. Having worn each item two or three times our clothes would then be distributed among the local children. It pained me. In that short time I would grow attached to my newly selected outfits and would sulk, pleading with my parents to hold onto a few items.
I remember my dad smiling with joy, the joy of giving. I remember him sitting with me to explain. He said: "Shakira when we go back home to London it won’t be very warm anymore, and all these clothes will go back in the suitcase and sit in the attic for another year." I nodded quietly knowing it was true. "But here it’s always warm, everyday these clothes you’ve given will be used, being worn, being enjoyed. Isn’t it better that way that they are used, and not just stored away? I don’t think their families can get them new clothes Shakira, isn’t it nice to help?" I nodded again, he was right.
Dad said: "I don’t think their families can get them new clothes Shakira, isn’t it nice to help?"
Within a few hours those clothes were forgotten by me, but treasured by those little children who had "clothes from England". Those Caribbean summers were teaching a young "fashionista Shakira" that it was better to give than to receive and that the joy of belongings was always going to be temporary, a lesson I am still learning today.
When I’m gone you represent me - Matthew 28:18-20
"Then Jesus came to them and said, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.'" Matthew 28:18-20.
I remember it like it was yesterday. I was ten years old, my mum and dad called me into their bedroom. I walked in hesitantly with a knot in my stomach, already knowing what I was about to be told. It was August and I was getting ready to go back to school for year six. While my friends were preparing for the 11+ exams I was watching my dad’s health deteriorate. And finally what I had dreaded was being confirmed. It was 50/50 whether he would make it to Christmas, the cancer was back and spreading rapidly and dad wanted to spend the rest of his time at home with us. For such devastating news, I don’t remember it being a dark or somber time, I sat next to him on the bed with mum watching over us both. He wasn’t big and strong anymore but when he spoke he was dad; full of authority and conviction.
He wasn’t big and strong anymore but when he spoke he was dad; full of authority and conviction.
I listened as he told me my list of dos and do nots for when he was gone. "You represent me now," he said. "Look after your brother and sister. Work hard. Do your best. Know that I love you."
I am sure there were other things he said, but I just remember how fiercely he reminded me that our family should always remain close. It was something he had often said over the years and I saw his unrelenting love of family through his relationship with his siblings who seemed to take much more than they gave. It served as proof, you must love even when it’s hard. He had modelled this for us all and now he was calling me to imitate him, to obey his last words just as Jesus asked his disciples.
Even though my dad never spoke about having a faith in the God of the Bible, the eleven years I had him, were instrumental in building my faith. For that I’m forever grateful.