Father’s Day Without My Dad, 2012

If I say I don’t miss my father, it sounds as if I hate him now, or have forgotten all about him, but neither is true at all.  It is true, though, that I really don’t miss my father this Father’s Day.

To miss him would seem to me as though to say that I want him here.  But I don’t.  I have long since realized I cannot possibly tell God when to give life and when to permit death.  I truly, in my heart, believe that God has purposed the world to follow a course so that as many people as can come to salvation in Him will come.

If my father were still here this Father’s Day, if we were eating a meal at our favorite steakhouse in Springfield which nobody else in my family seems to properly appreciate as the best steakhouse–it would be a fun meal, no doubt.  I always loved my father.  I try to hold as little pretense about my past as possible, so I won’t say that I respected him.  I never really did.  If I were to carry my regrets on a load on my back, that would be a heavy one.  It wasn’t because he wasn’t worthy of earning my respect.  It was simply a terrible choice on my part.  He was very gentle with me, and I looked on that as a sign that I didn’t have to.  When I see children disrespectful to their fathers now, I wish I could take off the glasses of what I see when I look at the past and hold them up for them to look through.  And when I see a daughter deeply respecting her father . . well . . I grieve what I did not give my father all those years he blessed my life.

Since Christ has thrown all my sins into an everlasting grave, thank God, I don’t have to carry my inadequacies with me forever, or even down the next street.   Though I failed my father miserably, I did deeply, dearly love him.  And we loved to do things together.  So it is no stretch of the imagination to suppose that we would be eating at our favorite steakhouse together on Father’s Day.

If we were, and if there had been a coupon out for that steakhouse any time in the recent past, I’m sure my father would have procured it.  He was very good at enjoying coupons.  I have to chuckle, because I am the exact opposite.  If someone gives me a marvelous coupon, I lose it or forget to use it before I ever benefit from it.

I say that I really don’t miss my father because, if we could be sitting in that restaurant right now, if he hadn’t gotten sick, if he hadn’t died . . there is no reason for me to believe I would be much different now than I had been then.  I would almost certainly have married in college if my father hadn’t gotten sick–that’s just sort-of a hunch I have–and who knows how else my life might be different in manner of where I live or my career . . but I would, most likely, have the exact same heart I had then.  A heart that thought it understood the things of God but was nothing more than a database of page after page of unholiness, with my attempt to modify each sheet and make it holy, alter the data and make it swing in the favor of righteousness I couldn’t possibly have.

If we were sitting in that restaurant right now, I would most likely be completely lost, sipping on sweet tea, and not more than a slight bit aware that my soul might be on its way to Hell.

I have been known to say this before, and it is really true: My father always prayed he would be healed.  But a far greater prayer he had was for my life to reflect Christ’s.  I don’t think he could have imagined that God might lead me on a path of salvation through my father’s own devastating journey with Lou Gehrig’s Disease.  I am sure that my father rarely, if ever, saw in his time of suffering a glimpse of any victory that could possibly come from his body being laid waste.  If you have ever seen an insecticide slowly kill an insect, the effects of ALS are something like that.

I say ‘rarely, if ever’ . . but I do think there might have been a time he got a glimpse of the glory God was working through his seemingly inglorious decline of health.  It was in the last week or two of his life.  I was up in our attic, looking down on him, because there is an indoor window in that house that looks down into the living room, where his hospital bed was.  He could see me, and he would sometimes look up to see if I was there when he knew I was upstairs.

He smiled at me.  I waved at him.  He waved at me.

Like a man with a big suitcase in his hand, a big clean suitcase with lots of room for stickers from the many countries he plans to visit.

No one grieves for the man with the suitcase, because he’s going away to wonders that those staying behind have never seen, to landscape and landmarks and lunches that no one in his community has yet experienced.  The going away bears with it a little grief; after all, it may be a long time before we see that man again, and when we do, he will be a world-traveler.  It may be a little intimidating, even, to see him again after all his travels.   But we look forward to the reunion just the same.

I will either see my father when Christ returns or, if I die first, then I will see him in a land he will be far more familiar with than I.  I think he’ll be quite proud to show me around, and I know he’ll be honored that I finally understand and practice respect for him, the kind of respect illuminated in God’s Word.

And because of all that, I can’t say that I’m disappointed not be sharing a steak with him today.  I can’t say I’m sorry he’s not here, when God has used his journey to blaze the beginning of a new trail for my life, one that led away from Hell.  I can’t say I’m sorry we’re missing conversation over a baked potato with a little cheese and a dollop of sour cream and sprinkles of bacon bits (and a pad of butter for him, but not for me).

We have plenty of time to catch up, and it’s going to be far better than in a crowded steakhouse.  It’s going to be in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Until then, I’m working to bring stories to Heaven of the evidence of God’s change in my life.  These will be stories my father has never heard from me.  He may already know them,

but I’m sure he’ll want me to tell them anyway.

He is, after all, my father.

Thank you, Jesus, for setting up this world to have fathers, that, when they follow You in their fatherhood, we may know a little of what our Heavenly Father is like.  I pray all who read this have met or will meet You as their Father.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. (2 Corinthians 1:3, NLT)

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