July 29, 2013
“As He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”…And Jesus said…”You know the commandments…”
And he said, “Teacher, I have kept all these things…”
Looking at the man, Jesus felt love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack; go and sell all you possess and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven…And come, follow Me.” But at these words the man was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property. From Mark 10:17-22
“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Matthew 18:21-22
When the Wind Blows
He was born in a tiny dirt-floor house on North Nineteenth Street across from the Waco State Home, an orphanage for dependent and neglected children. As the youngest of five children abandoned by their father to an uneducated mother who was left to care for and to support her children, he and his family struggled to survive in the years of The Great Depression. The fear of being removed from their home hovered over all the children’s lives…and the ominous structure across the street reminded them of the imminent threat. If anyone knew that the children spent the days alone while their mom walked miles to work in a school cafeteria and then miles back to her home, certainly they would have been removed on grounds of neglect. But for them, their mom was the most beautiful and loving person in their lives.
As World War II broke out and America declared its commitment to the world, thousands of young men flocked to serve their nation, and he convinced his mother to sign for him to join the Navy at the age of seventeen. And, war became a reality, it became the mission, it became the school of thinking for many young men, changing their lives forever.
My father returned home to complete his high school diploma and finished with promises of a college education at the generosity of the U.S. military and that of a civilian sponsor.
But as we all know life happens…our best made plans change… The Fair Factor does not exist. And with this realization, the best of men and women feel abandoned by a parent, or by fate, or by God…
It was not the possession of riches that precluded my father from trusting Christ with his life and his future…I believe that it began in his poverty…and it was his tenacity to possess every tool and every resource for survival…It was his fierce independence…his self-sufficiency that seemed to trump his mother’s simple faith of trusting God in the face of desperate circumstances. I believe that he viewed this as weakness and vulnerability because he did not know or understand the love of a father and saw how easy it was for him to walk away from his family…and he found it difficult to trust His Heavenly Father…
“What must we do to be saved?” The question has been asked since creation…and our loving God has told us, He has written to us and He sent THE WORD, His only Son in the flesh to come and dwell with us…to tell us, to show us, to die for us, and to live for us…
Several of you readers expressed appreciation for Driving Miss Sylvie only to share that your experience is so opposite of mine. You have parents who were or are angry and resentful of their circumstances, who are perhaps difficult and challenging at the least. My heart’s desire is to encourage you from my experiences…to come along side of you and to spur you on…May I share a story…
I was an only child and was blessed to have two parents who loved me incredibly. However, they each had their challenges and their struggles, each one having suffered from an alcoholic and absent father. They both bore the scars; they both yearned for something better but life took its toll as my father turned to alcohol to ease his stress and his anger was released in our home. My mother chose to retreat from the relationship and consequently, the home environment was extremely difficult and peace- less much of the time.
Both of my parents had been reared by mothers who took them to church whenever possible. My parents believed that “religion” was a private matter and should not be discussed, although my mother did share her simple faith with me as my father took on the challenges of life independently.
I always loved them, tried to understand them as I became the child mediator and arbitrator instead of them seeking counseling and assistance outside of our family. The secrets in our home were devastating for me and for my parents who isolated themselves in many ways. Through God’s grace, I always knew beyond a shadow of a doubt, that they did the best they could in their own human strength.
My father was incredibly wise. He taught me valuable life lessons: To ALWAYS think before I spoke, to formulate my own opinions based on fact, to look everyone in the eye, and to never put off to tomorrow what I could do today…NO procrastination….and he would say, “Then you can sleep when the wind blows.”
One year after Bill and I were married, my father was stricken with what we thought was a heart condition, but after extensive tests, it was determined that he had acute leukemia. After making an emergency trip to M.D. Anderson, the only hope, other than a miracle, was an experimental protocol. He was one of ten to begin the program.
I cannot imagine the shock of such a diagnosis and prognosis. And yet, we all have either had such information presented to us about ourselves or about a loved one. I am certain that many factors determine one’s reactions to such news. But I must say that my father had every imaginable response to the news. He was incredibly courageous to face the enemy head on…and was willing to engage in whatever battlefield necessary to survive…
However, desperation set in, understandably. He was still working at a job to be able to provide an adequate retirement for my mother and for him. And he realized that a premature death would have a dire effect on her ability to survive, especially with her disease of Multiple Sclerosis. Although their marriage still was peace- less, there was a deep commitment on his part to provide for her and to care for her.
His emotional reactions became difficult and challenging! Anger at life! Anger at God! Anger at himself for letting himself down. And the anger often transferred to me because I was safe…
And truthfully, he was desperate. I stopped by the home that I grew up in as he was packing for them to move closer to Bill and me so that we could help them more easily. His anger reached an explosive level as he began to hurl books across the room rather than placing them in the packing boxes. I saw in his face, anger, frustration, and fear. He had no answers…he had no faith…and he had no hope…He faced treatment after treatment…drug after drug…His anger raged against life…against God and against himself…and once again, I was safe…he was angry with me.
One day, I was walking into the grocery store to do their shopping, and I got a call from my father. I decided to answer, even though I knew that the conversation could have been a difficult one, but his voice sounded soft and thoughtful. “Angel, “a name he had called me all my life…”Angel, how do you know that there is a Heaven?” I was shocked and could have been speechless, except by the grace of God…I realized that at that point, my stubborn, angry, frustrated, wise father, was afraid…he was terrified…he was not afraid of the disease…or of treatment…He was afraid of death. He was afraid of God. And the conversation began. I was able to look and to see what had made him strong as a man…and what had made him weak as a child of God. My father’s father had abandoned him…and my father had abandoned God…
The road back was long…the anger and resentment began to subside slightly…as his days began to dwindle.
He was blessed to have two grandchildren born and was given time with them.
He had been able to work long enough to acquire the necessary retirement benefits for my mother and he retired in June 1989, after ten years of fighting a raging battle.
As Christmas drew near, my father’s condition weakened. He knew that he was no longer in remission, but we did not talk about it; we all knew that the third time was the last time…
He insisted on doing his own Christmas shopping and I later found out that he drove himself to a department store and found a chair and a helpful salesperson went to each department to gather items from his list. She wrapped the gifts for him and helped him to his car.
The week before Christmas when the tree was still undecorated, he finally accepted my help. I carefully assembled the little tree with ornaments that had adorned their tree each year. I watched his expressions as I would hold up an ornament and place it on the tree. Memories flooded his face. I gently placed the angel on the top of the tree and stepped back to admire the handiwork. He spoke the familiar words, “Angel, I believe that this is the prettiest tree yet.” This time, I agreed.
We celebrated Christmas in my parent’s home. Adam and Christie climbed into their grandfather’s lap and giggled as he opened his gifts….and they squealed with delight as they opened theirs. My mother sat quietly, watching. It was one of the most peaceful days that I could remember. Christmas Day came to a close, and my father gathered a few items and placed them in his suitcase, without discussing his destination, but we all knew… He asked Bill if we would drive him to the hospital, but he wanted us to drive him in his own car. We helped him into the car, handed him his favorite baseball cap which he wore tilted to one side of his head, and his favorite canned soda. And we began the drive. What a beautiful serene Christmas night, as Christmas carols played on the radio.
My father spent thirty days in the hospital as his body gradually began shutting down. He would not let any visitors into his room with the exception of Bill and me and two pastor friends. I arrived in the morning…I read and prayed and had short conversations with him as he drifted in and out of sleep. Each evening I would pack my things and slipping out…wondering. He was more cooperative and less agitated, but the storm still stirred in his heart…
One evening, he sat up in bed, propped up on his pillow and asked for me to bring Bill into the room. I ran to the waiting room, and there Bill sat…waiting…He hurried to the room with me and we found my dad…sitting…grinning at us…He talked briefly about Adam and Christie and then abruptly looked at Bill and said, “I love you both.” He turned his gaze toward me and said,
“I love you, Angel.” And that was that. He slipped down into his bed and went back to sleep.
Bill and I were completely baffled as we left the room. Neither one of us really knew what had happened or how he had been able to converse as he did.
He continued to linger…sometimes being difficult for the nurses, agitated and angry…but, he had become peaceful during my visits. The doctors could not understand how he continued to fight because his body had shut down. I knew…he was a mighty warrior and he was facing a defeat that he feared…
On a Saturday afternoon, I sat in the chair by his bed, watching his chest as he breathed…his face was ashen, and I wondered what storm was raging now…As I sat there, a voice whispered into my consciousness…”Pray, aloud!” Oh no I thought to myself…How could I speak words of a prayer over my father when he still considered “religion” to be a private matter…
“Pray, aloud.” Again the voice whispered. I picked up my father’s warm hand…I felt the soft skin, the gentleness of his hand…I thought about the love that he did not have in his life…and the love that he had received. He was loved by so many people…at work…his grandchildren…and in a funny way, my mother loved him and had forgiven him…and I loved him…and then I felt inexplicable warmth as I began to pray aloud,
“Lord Jesus, I stand here holding my father’s hand and I ask you to come and take his other hand in yours. You love him. You have always loved him. You never left him. I release my father into your love and care and I know Lord that you are here for my mother, for my family and for me. Please, Jesus, take his hand so that he will not be afraid.” Amen.
I left the room. It was time for me to go and to take care of my mother who needed help, a husband who had been so patient and so strong for me, and two little children who had been faithful to love and to help, even when it was difficult to do. My father had business to attend to and I did not want to interrupt. He slipped away with Jesus thirty minutes after I left his hospital room. I have no doubt that our loving Savior had escorted him home.
My father had always taught me to “take care of business today and not to procrastinate”……On that day, he set aside his fear and accepted the love of a Heavenly Father who had been at His side all along…
And I finally took care of the business of gently leading my daddy back to a love that was always there…And in doing so… we both could “Sleep when the wind blows.”
I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep; for thou, Lord, only maketh me dwell in safety. Psalm 4:8
Daughters of Truth:
In the face of a difficult, angry, resentful, ornery parent, spouse or family member, please ask yourself these questions:
What past circumstances have shaped their world-view?
What circumstances shape their behavior now?
What is their relationship with God? What are their fears?
How can I better serve them?
How can I pray for them?
Have I forgiven them? Have I asked for their forgiveness?
We are called to serve each other (whether we think a person deserves it or not)…Life is not about ourselves and our self-interests as much as it is about reaching into each other’s lives to walk with them on the journey of life…But remember that we are not responsible for their choices of how they think and respond to their life circumstances. We can only do our part…and that is helping when they need help, loving them when they need love…telling them the truth in love, and then giving them opportunity to make their life choices. Do not let anyone ruin the joy that you receive from serving them…because ultimately, you serve as unto the Lord!
We are called to tell one another about God’s love. I struggled having conversations with my father because I feared his angry outbursts and disdain for “religious” talks. Perhaps, had I not procrastinated because of intimidation, my father might have found peace and love more quickly. I also know that we are given free will and that we ultimately have to take the responsibility of choosing to leave the past behind and to not allow it to control the present and the future. And, I know that only God knows the perfect timing of our encounter with Him and of our final destination. So, I will leave it at that. I know that God has a purpose for every life…every day we live…and for every breath we take…
Finally, pray for the person…pray and pray more…Forgive the person of any and every hurtful word or action against you…pray and pray for yourself that you truly forgive…For this is possible only by the power and the grace of the Spirit that lives in you.
Be encouraged, be strong and be fearless! And if your sweet precious loved one never gets over anger, resentment, and orneriness…then count it your joy to love them, to serve them and to tell them about God’s love… and forgive them…and forgive yourself WHEN you fail to be gracious. (It happens to all of us sometimes) Ultimately, their disdain is not directed at you and your efforts…it is a storm that rages inside of them…as they wrestle with God.
Rest in the knowledge that your loving heavenly Father will sustain you, protect you, and grant you grace, courage, strength, stamina, patience, the ability to forgive, and will forgive you when you fall short…
Then…you will be able to “Sleep when the wind blows”, knowing that you did your best…
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord…”