“You are a beloved child of God” – with these words I started my journey to forgiveness.
Liz or as my MBA classmates from Smurfit know her, Elizabeth Kiathe, presented me with my first Bible after I shared with her the story of my father and I. She knew that it has been 12 years since the last time I spoke with my father following his separation from my mother. I suppose guided by this information, she wrote these truly magical words on the first page of the Bible. I had a pit in my stomach the instant I read these words and felt tears coming to my eyes. I read over and over again – You are a beloved child of God – and gradually realised that I am not a fatherless girl or an abandoned child but a human being filled with love of the higher power.
We were an average three-person family living in Almaty, Kazakhstan’s most beautiful city famous for its picturesque mountains. In late 1990’s my father together with many other fathers and husbands left Almaty for Astana, a new capital built on a previously abandoned land in the middle of the country. The city was unpleasant and cold with -40 degrees in winter and it was only understandable that the government promised lucrative salaries and newly built apartments to those willing to participate in building a new capital. My father was among many men willing to take the once in a lifetime opportunity. He took it and a few months later my mother and I joined him in our new big apartment in Astana. To this day I remember the shock I experienced from how large my bedroom was. I never previously saw anything that spacious. This newly acquired wealth did not come without downsides. From where I come from we say that three tests must be taken before any relationship could be considered successful. So, these tests are fire, water and copper pipes. The copper pipes represent success and money. Our family was blessed with both but unfortunately none of us has any idea on how to use it to make us stronger. Instead we fell apart.
I remember the day that turned my life 180 degrees. My father and I met over dinner at one of the cafes located on Arbat, a local high street in Almaty.
I knew something not good was coming. How did I know that? My dad used to bring me presents for every occasion and this time he came empty handed. Well, he did have some money to give me. To this day, I wonder how he think that it was a good idea for a father to give his teenage daughter money after announcing that he had another kid. I took the money. I also ran away from him. I will be on the run for the following 12 years until something in my heart will tell me that it is time, time to forgive.
Forgiveness did not come all of a sudden. It required work, a lot of work from myself. Forgiving my father was more than just accepting my father’s apologies. On the contrary, it meant forgiving him before hearing him apologising. It also meant letting go of anger and anxiety that accompanied my life to one extent or another ever since that conversation in a cafe on Arbat. How did I do that? How did I manage to forgive my father? Well, I started by putting myself outside my comfort zone. It meant embarking upon a challenging MBA program in a foreign country and being open to new experiences. One of the experiences was falling in love. Given the fact that my heart was broken into million pieces when my father left our family, I was struggling to fall in love with anyone in my life, myself included. I was only trying to protect myself from having a broken heart again and the best way to do that was not to let anyone in it or so I thought.
Allowing myself to love again and to use my heart again was the ultimate way that lead me to forgiving my father and myself. Privately I was thinking that he left our family because I was not good enough or because he did not love me enough to stay. It was time to let that go when I realised that love is in me and it starts with me. I allowed myself to love and allowed myself to love myself so much so that I forgave myself for thinking my private thoughts where I questioned my worthiness.
I also forgave my father, because I felt that my heart was so big that there was plenty of space, including a space for my father.
I did not just forgive myself and my father for what happened in the past, I also decided to take real action. I let him know that I forgave him. Last year a week before Father’s Day I asked my mother to send me a few photos with my father and I from back in the days. The nudge that I needed to act on my intention to use those photos, happened on Father’s Day. Liz and I were at Ignite that Sunday morning when we saw Belinda asking a man what he is wishing for on this day and him replying that he is wishing for his daughter to give him a call. Hearing this brought tears to my eyes. Upon returning from the church service that morning, I Instagrammed the photos saying the following:
“Happy Father’s Day, my Dear Mr. Bakhytzhan Konkashev! You taught me life lessons that were outside my comfort zone and which I was too young to fully understand, but you made your point and let me figure it all out on my own. Am I happy? Well, I am now. Am I loved? I believe I am. Am I succeeding? I sure am! Have I forgiven you? I am happy to say I have. Do I miss you? Sooooooo much!!! It’s been more than 10 years since the last time you hugged me, since the last time I said the word ‘Dad’. I found my peace now and I’m ready to face you and all the pain I put myself through for your and the love you took away from me by leaving our family. But Dad, I’m strong enough to find it in my heart to love you. #hopeful”