Never Really a Child

Craig DaliessioBy Craig Daliessio10 Minutes

Excerpt taken from An Orphan in the House of God by Craig Daliessio

Chapter One

Never Really a Child

“Nathan … I don’t understand what it really means to be a child of God, because I’ve never really been a child myself. From the time I was about four years old, I had to be a grown-up.” The words poured out of me like water from a burst pipe. It almost felt like someone else was saying them and merely borrowing my voice. But it was me saying it. It was my heart, crying it out.

I should have written down the date. If I had known it was going to be the beginning of a spiritual journey, the likes of which I’d never undertaken before, I probably would have. But I didn’t. I only know it was a Tuesday. I know it was a Tuesday because that was the day that a coworker and I met for a Bible study. It was also sometime between August and May because we worked at a college, and it was during the academic year.

It wasn’t really a Bible study because we weren’t studying the Bible. We were reading Henri Noewen’s Discernment: Reading the Signs of Daily Life and discussing it as we went. I was familiar with Nouwen and, while I don’t line up with him theologically on many points, I think he offers helpful insight into a contemplative approach to God.

I know my theology, so I am unafraid of exploring someone else’s theology. (For the record, theologically I am a Baptist, who believes in the activity of the Holy Spirit more than most of my Baptist brethren. More like an Assembly of God practitioner but who believes in eternal security.)

I don’t remember which chapter we had read. I don’t recall the topic of our discussion that week. I only remember Nathan (my coworker with whom I was doing the study) asking me one of the questions at the end of the chapter, something to the effect of “What did God reveal to you this week that caught you by surprise?”

My answer shocked me because I had not thought about it until he asked. Or perhaps I had but had not formulated it in words. I choked back tears as I suddenly spit out: “I’ve never been a child. Not ever in my life. I never had the luxury. I have parents, but I grew up an orphan. And it has determined every day of my life. And … I feel like an orphan when it comes to God. I know He is my Father. But I only know it because He says so. I have no archetype whatsoever that I can look at and think: ‘Being His child must be like this …’ because I was never just a child. It’s not that I don’t see Him as a father … it’s that I have no idea what it looks like to be His son.”

I am an emotional man, but I prefer to cry in private. Shedding tears that morning, in front of another guy, was hard for me. I also despise excuse-making. I hate trendy psychological double-speak that makes excuses for bad behavior. I am still of the mindset that a kick in the pants is far more beneficial than a psychologist finding excuses for my behavior. But maybe that’s just the orphan in me.

We ended with a brief prayer in which I didn’t participate. Nathan was understanding when I said I didn’t feel like praying and he should just pray for us as we concluded our hour together. The revelation had been startling and unnerving, and praying was the last thing on my mind. The moment broke me, but only—as I would find out later—on the surface.

The real breaking and the real deep dive was coming later. I wasn’t ready for the full-strength medicine yet. God was taking His time. God knew what He was doing. This was to be a long road.

I went about my day on that momentous Tuesday with halting steps and a distant look. I had my job to do but inside, I was churning like an angry sea. Memories flooding my soul and the concept of being an emotional orphan was being dissected and examined in my mind. For the next few days, in my quiet moments, I would return to this revelation and think about how it was affecting my life.

But then, as happens with so many seeds left unwatered, I shuffled this card to the middle of the deck and went on with life as I had been accustomed to living it. I was busy with work, busy with being a dad, trying to buy a home, and trying to continue the rebuilding process after I had endured so much loss in the years prior.

In March 2019, I bought my home. The third home I’ve ever owned. The first home after having been homeless for almost six years. In June of 2019, I left my position at Liberty University to re-enter the residential mortgage industry. It was a scary step, going from the safety of a salary (albeit a scant salary) to the world of straight commission. But I had done this job before, and I was exceptionally good at it. What happened in 2008 was not because I wasn’t working hard, or because I wasn’t good at my job. I was among the best. 2008 was an economic collapse that I could not control or avoid.

So, I reasoned that it was a different time and place, and I was not going to end up as I had before. I’d stayed at Liberty long enough to rebuild my life and qualify to buy a home. That was one of my goals and I accomplished it on March 15, 2019.

My house is a nice little split foyer “raised ranch” located in a neighborhood built in 1990 near Timber Lake in Lynchburg, Va. The house was a foreclosure and had been sitting vacant for six years before it went on the HUD auction site. Even winning the bid was a miracle and unmistakably the hand of God. It wasn’t my beloved house in the country in Tennessee, but it was my beloved home after being homeless and it meant more to me than perhaps any other home I ever owned.

My daughter got the biggest bedroom because that made sense. I got the next biggest and I laid claim to the third bedroom for my work-from-home office. My first year back in the mortgage industry I worked from home, which I like but I prefer having an office to go to. It makes me focus.

In the tiny middle bedroom/office was a closet with an odd bump in the wall. It was built that way because the HVAC air return is in the hallway directly outside that closet and they had to frame a little offset for the ductwork and the air filter. So, on the one side of the closet, it provided a little twelve-inch-deep shelf of sorts. And that’s where this journey began …

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