Yesterday (Sunday) was Easter, the day we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Saturday marked the 24th year since my father passed away. So, needless to say, this has been a busy weekend filled with emotion for me.
I’d like to share something terrible I did when I was a child. Something I wish I had never done but I learned something about it because of my dad. The story goes like this:
My dad worked a day shift job and my mom worked as a nurse for the 3rd shift. So, for a good part of my childhood, my siblings and I would spend our time at home with my mother. She would, of course, sleep for part of the day and then she would wake up and get the house in order.
My dad got home around 5 pm, sometimes a little later and my mother would head out to work shortly afterwards. Needless to say, I spent more time with my mom.
As a young child, I liked having my own way. Who doesn’t right? I got into trouble every now and then and I’ve faced my share my spankings, getting grounded and being sent to my room. What can I say? My parents believed in discipline.
There came a time in my life though that I learned something and to be honest, I cannot tell you how I learned this. Maybe it came from a TV show or something I picked up at school or maybe, just maybe, I taught it to myself.
What I discovered is that if I got into trouble and faced the consequence (being grounded or losing a privilege like watching TV), I could begin to whine about it, which made matters worse. But I could insert a phrase that changed the direction. During my spoiled brat phrase I would begin to argue with my mom and if I wanted to get my own way, I would simply tell her, “I don’t love you anymore.”
That phrase was my golden ticket. It got me out of trouble every time because it broke my mom’s heart. Whatever privilege I had lost was returned to me. On a number of occasions, my mother would go off crying.
One day though, my mother had an unusual work shift. She was either covering for someone or pulling a double shift. Whatever the case was, she was gone and my dad was home. Being the problem child I was, I did or said something that got me into trouble. My dad punished me by taking away a privilege or grounding me (I don’t remember what it was) and I began to get upset about the whole ordeal.
During my pouting, I realized that I had never used my “Golden Ticket Phrase” on my dad. I realized in the middle of my own argument that I could use that against him and it would break his heart and I would win in the end. I had to fight to hold back the smile that was beginning to emerge.
My dad finally told me that he had enough and I needed to go to my room. This was my opportunity. So I stomped off as loud as I could and began to ascend the staircase, making my way to my room. With each step I took, I hit my foot to the stair louder until I was almost out of sight. Then, I had only one more step to take and I looked over at my dad and began my closing arguments to win this battle.
Me: You know what, dad?
Dad: (Who is watching TV) What?
Me: I don’t love you anymore.
Dad: (Mutes TV sound & looks at me) That’s okay because I still love you.
My dad taught me a great lesson about my Father. For the life of me, I don’t understand why my dad allowed me to live after I told him I didn’t love him anymore. Looking back on that, I would have been less than gracious but in that moment, my dad showed me a level of grace I have never seen nor experienced before.
I said something quite similar to my Father years later while I was serving in the US Air Force. I had been going through a really difficult time and I could not see God working in my life at all. I thought and I truly believed that God had given up on me. After all, he was allowing terrible things to happen to me and I was losing my sanity. So, I told God I didn’t want him to be a part of my life anymore.
I never saw God working things out during my time in the Armed Forces. I was angry and depressed. I was just like that spoiled little brat, stomping around the house trying to get my own way. When I realized I couldn’t get that, I yelled out in my own frustrations, “I don’t love you anymore God.”
Over the past few years, God has continuously shown grace. During one my darkest hours, he was there, listening to my cry, even though I didn’t believe he was. He intentionally and purposefully placed the right people in my life to guide me through.
But God still loves me. God still loves me even when I don’t understand what he is doing. God still loves me even though I feel like he is neglecting me. God still loves me even when I think he is blessing my friends with material possessions or church opportunities and I am suffering in isolation in either no ministry roles that I see or struggling churches.
God still loves me even when I tell him I am sick and tired of sinning and then I turn around and continue to live in sin. God still loves me even though I mess up again and again and I fail to keep promises. God still loves me even though I fail.
God still loves me and nothing is more important than that.