In the Fortress of My Father

Because of my own situation, I write from the perspective of a mother supporting a son. But my friend Jessica writes as a daughter seeking to help her father as they both cope with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). She reminds us that all of us need caregiving, and that in reality, God is the one who cares most, best and always.

In the Fortress of My Father      By Jessica Schaeffer

I told myself I should be able to fix it. At the very least I thought I was not only capable of giving my dad the ability to dial back the unceasing obsessions that overtook his thoughts and the compulsions that hijacked his actions, but was responsible to give him relief as well.

After all, I live with OCD too, and I like to think I function pretty well. And, who better to help him than someone who understands how obsessions continually pester the brain, constantly nagging like a pair of earbuds that can never be taken off? I was determined to help him turn down the volume as I’d learned to do. I was prepared to walk the tightrope of being a respectful daughter while imparting my hard-earned success secrets to the man who raised me.

When health challenges amplified my dad’s struggles, my sense of urgency heightened. His need to check and quadruple-check suddenly had potentially life-and-death consequences as he delayed his treatment for the sake of being sure. In an effort to encourage him to ignore the nagging in his mind long enough to move forward, I wrote the following verse in artistic script and presented it to him, framed:

“Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.” Psalm 62:1-2

How little I realized my own need to embrace the truths of this passage I was proclaiming as a beacon of healing. While I fully recognized my dad’s need to find rest and stability in the Lord, I grossly underestimated my own desperation. In my earnestness to bring my father relief from my standpoint of relative stability, I’d begun to obsess over his mental state; but even worse, I’d forgotten the truth of these verses for myself.

I had failed to acknowledge that when my mind spins without my permission, the Lord gives me rest. I’d neglected to recognize that in my deepest struggles He has never failed to be my salvation and rock. I’d forgotten that when obsessions cause my mind to tremble into an ever-tightening spiral, He promises a fortress where I will never be shaken.

I’d forgotten that every “advantage” I have in dealing with my own rogue mind has been a gift of grace. I was blessed to discover I was dealing with obsessive-compulsive disorder decades earlier in life than my dad had, when my brain was relatively pliable. When I was barely an adult, I was blessed to learn strategies to help me recognize and override intrusive thoughts. I’ve been blessed with a husband who consistently, effectively and kindly points out obsessions that I don’t recognize or that have bored more deeply into my brain that I realize. I didn’t work for those gifts. I wouldn’t even have known to ask for them.

I’m am no one’s savior, no one’s fixer. Not my own. Certainly not my dad’s.

What an amazing gift of grace. I’m not responsible to turn down the volume of my Dad’s obsessions or give him freedom from his struggles. While I care and provide support, I’m not his ultimate caregiver. The same Heavenly Father who so lovingly and perfectly steadies me is also the only rock and salvation for my earthly father.

I still desperately want to fix it. I continue to seek to draw from my insights as one who understands the struggle to help alleviate my dad’s suffering. But, I do it as one who just as desperately needs to dwell in the fortress of my Father.

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