I went Christmas shopping one day, just a few days before the holiday, and I picked up a book for a friend called Grace Abounding by John Bunyan – I hadn’t read it, but I have read a few of Bunyan’s books and knew it would be a good read for said friend. They, like myself, love reading and love books written by preachers from years past. It seems like they have so much more wisdom and reverence for Christ. They write more seriously, they take God seriously, they are careful with their words and much more poetic. Most of my favorite books have been old classics. I forgot to send it, however, so it sat on my dresser, in the bag from the store, waiting to be wrapped and sent off. (I should say that the friend didn’t go without a gift, despite my forgetfulness with this certain book..) I was cleaning last night and rearranging some things and found it again, flipped through a few pages, and was nearly ready to prepare it to finally send. Better late than never, right? But I kept feeling like there was something there that I needed to read. A reason why my plans to send it kept backfiring on me. So, I sat down and started reading. I’ll say that I had already been convicted majorly that week, because my birth father is in the hospital. He had been on a ventilator, and in ICU. (he is now off the ventilator and doing well, still in ICU for a bit though.) I hadn’t made any contact with him since our last meeting a few months ago, when we had an argument. My father, as most of you all know, is a drug addict, and very hard to get along with. He wasn’t always this way, but I don’t remember the times when he wasn’t. He is depressed, rightly so, and pretty quick to anger. He gets agitated very easily, and, well, I have a bit of a temper. I like to debate, I will fight back, perhaps more than I should. He said something hurtful, something that I shouldn’t have taken to heart, but I did. And I cut ties with him. And since doing so, I’ve been calmer on some things. It’s been nice in some ways, not having to read the messages from him that he’d send, not having to talk with him. I expected it to relieve me of all worry, but it didn’t. It made things worse. The worry didn’t go away – in fact, the worry and stress got heavier on my shoulders. It’s a stressful situation for my whole family, and I was trying to be hard. I was trying to remove myself completely, and act as if my father was a stranger.
In reality, he’s not.
I’ve never been close to my father, he’s never been a true father figure for me, but for a reason that I can never find, I love him. Right now, if he were to straighten his life out, even if it was just for a day before he passed on, I would accept him back into my life in a second. I would love nothing more than to have him, to have him see who I am, and what I want to become. He doesn’t know me, and that breaks my heart more than anything. I was dead set on removing him from my life as if he was something that I could change, and I was dead set on not caring about him, or what happened to him. And it worked for awhile. My heart got hard, I’d hear news about him and I wouldn’t feel any kind of emotion. But God convicted me of it, and the guilt for that was worse than anything else I’d felt for him. God kept reminding me in subtle ways, that if He was here, and He is, He wouldn’t give up. He wouldn’t turn His head and decide to stop caring. He can never stop caring. Did I forget who I serve? Did I forget that the God I claim is my Savior is the same man who wept for Lazarus? Who forgave the thief on the cross beside him? Who put others before Himself, who was willing to die for the very people that mocked Him and hated Him the most? What my father has done pales so much in comparison to what they did to Jesus. And yet, I want to throw a pity party and say, woe is me.
One of the first pages of Grace Abounding talks about John Bunyan’s early life (which was quite similar to my father’s.) and he began to write about how God had shown him the way towards salvation. How God’s grace saved him from destroying his life so many times, how many times he’d been an inch from death – literally – yet God stepped in, for that is the only thing that it could’ve been, a miracle from God. How many car accidents has my dad been in? How many times have the drugs come so close to killing him? How many health issues has he endured? And now, to be on a ventilator and in ICU and out of his mind one day, and then eating and off the ventilator and doing well the next? I talked with my mother one night, and felt so convicted over how I’d been acting. I claim to be a lover of Jesus, a lover of His ministry and evangelism. I claim to have a fire in my soul for lost people, yet I had so little regard for my own father’s soul. The book continued on with Bunyan’s story, about how many trials he’d faced on his journey to having peace in his salvation, and I felt God begin to tap on my shoulder, saying…remind you of anyone? It reminded me of myself. Too much of myself.
And God reminded me that He saved me from the same pits of Hell that He could save my father from. And He humbled me. And He set me on the right track.
“Oh, the remembrance of my great sins, of my great temptations, and of my great fears of perishing forever! They bring afresh into my mind the remembrance of my great help, my great support from Heaven, and the great grace that God extended to such a wretch as I.”
― John Bunyan,
For the first time in months, I prayed for my father. And I became willing to do what God asked of me, not what everyone expects me to do, or what some people say I should do. I’ve decided to stop putting my emotions first, and put a lost soul ahead of my own feelings. I’ve been told by a few friends that he doesn’t deserve the attention, and I don’t deserve the stress he brings me..but then in again – Jesus didn’t deserve the cross, yet He took it on for lost souls. The lives that He has saved from Hell did not deserve the grace He gave them, yet He gave it anyways. What good is grace if we aren’t willing to share it?