Thursday, March 3, 2016

A Father Lost; A Father Found

I've been thinking about my dad for a long time. He died several years ago. When I was little he was my hero. It really wasn't until I had my own little girl and saw Mike's love for her, that I realized my dad was not who I thought he was.

My parents divorced when I was about 4. I was beside myself with grief. I only saw him every other weekend and for summer vacations. I became a very angry child, often getting into fist fights. My older sister and I became latch key kids which really wasn't a thing yet so there, shame began to invade my life.

When I was in 4th grade my mom married someone I had never met. Turned out he was a mean, abusive alcoholic. He moved us out of state the next year. At that point my dad decided that his job was done. He never contacted me or answered any of my letters. He was a party guy and his life didn't have room for 2 little girls. I was heartbroken and in my mind it was all my step dad's fault. After all, my dad could do no wrong. I found him a few times when we would go back to CA to visit my relatives but not without the help of my cousins who were in law enforcement. He would be surprised to get a call from me and meet me for dinner. But I soon gave up on that. After I married I really wanted to find him again and have him meet my husband but it wasn't until we had children that we actually saw him again. He was still the same, married several times over, living the party life in Mexico and only thinking of me if I contacted him.

When he was 80 years old I got a letter in the mail from my latest stepmother. In it was a flyer announcing my dad's baptism in a little Baptist church in Mexico. We were shocked. By this point I had given up on him as a dad but I had been praying for his salvation. When they moved to Georgia I flew out to visit him. By thenhe was almost completely blind and was sick from cancer. We sat and talked about the past. He shared his testimony. He grieved his life and the people he had hurt. He was sorry he had hurt me so much. It was surreal to be having this conversation with my dad. Even though I had been praying for this man for all these years, I didn't really expect God to answer it. But he did. We went to his church on that Sunday. He introduced me to his pastor and then we sat down. I don't remember much about the service but I do remember standing next to my dad and singing about Jesus. Together. Me and my dad. Wow. I remember looking over at him and crying tears of joy. God gave me a gift that day. A gift of worshipping Him with my dad.

He began calling on a regular basis. Asking about Mike's ministry and chatting. He was building a relationship with us and it was very cool.

He eventually moved to Texas for medical reasons. When he was 89 he was hospitalized. He was dying. I went to see him and we got to talk some more. We talked about Jesus and what a miracle it was that my dad was a believer. On my last day there he told me something. He said he didn't feel like he had ever done anything for God because he was sick the whole time he was a believer. He felt such regret for "wasting his life." At the time I told him that God was using his story in so many other people's lives, giving them hope that it really is never too late for someone to become a believer. And that was and remains to be true. But now, this side of my understanding of grace, I wish I would have told him that its not about what we do for God, but about what God has done for us. But he knows that now. :)

-Susan

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