My dad and I spent a lot of time together. I was dad’s first child and in spite of him desperately wanting a son, according to my mother, he quickly accepted me. Despite him hoping I was a boy. If my Mother tells it right, it turned out that he realized really quickly the sex didn’t matter, when it was a child of your own.
Now don’t get me wrong, he was proud when my brother came along 6 years later, (which I figure I had a lot to do with because I prayed for him everyday for a year) but your child is your child.
Dad took parenting seriously, if during the early years it was in a drunken haze.
Dad taught me a lot, I was his helper, we built things, mechaniced, planted gardens, and fished, especially after the loss of my sister and while we were waiting on my brother. When I got old enough to start thinking about boys, our conversations were especially lecture like. I usually listened and tried not to jabber because Dad really didn’t like that much. But my memories tell me that when there was something on my mind, he usually let me get it off of there and he would either pay it heed if it was something important or gruffly tell me to stop worrying.
I remember the first time I heard about someone who didn’t believe in God. I was at church camp in Bogg’s Springs Arkansas and one of the prettiest girls there had some kind of meltdown that consisted of audaciously wearing spaghetti straps and wondering if there was a God.
The rumor spread around the bunk houses that she had actually had these thoughts and these dresses and just as quickly, she seemed to have answered all her questions and found Jesus again.
That was really scary and after the next few nights I walked down the aisle.
(For those of you not familiar with reformed religions, this is the time of ‘invitation’ that you accept Jesus into your heart).
I was still trying to get my head wrapped around the fact that it was REALLY important to segregate swimmers based on gender, which is a hallmark social requirement in Baptist theology back then, and now all this spaghetti strap stuff came up and although I had never heard of them, I figured out what they were.
This added to the confusion.
For the life of me I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with skinny little dress straps.
With most of the trauma seemingly over, I fainted on the bus ride home and when I told my Dad that I had been saved, he said “I figured that might happen”.
Okay, so that wasn’t the most reassuring comment.
The next few years would find me openly questioning and for as gruff and as angry as my Dad could be, he was the one I told my doubts to.
I would have told my Mother but Dad was the one who made that comment after all.
Dad was never surprised at any of my confessions. He didn’t give me pat Sunday school answers and sometimes we just talked, but mostly as I think about it, what we did, sometimes without knowing it or believing it would happen, we waited on God to put the answers in our hearts.
Dad called that discovering a “truth”. The simple fact of the matter is you can’t go through life without wondering about things. Questions like is there a God? What happens when you die? Why is life so hard? What difference does it make?
As Dad got older, more sober and wiser, and what I must conclude now, closer to God, after pondering something, he would eventually have a conversation (actually more of a lecture) with me about one of these truths he had discovered.
A discovered truth is something that instantly becomes clear or you make a connection that you had never made before, usually about one of these big life questions.
Here is an example: it’s not God that is surprised we humans question His existence, its only other people who are afraid that if you question God he won’t love you or maybe you are a bad person or maybe it won’t look right if you admit to fears and doubts.
Well I don’t actually know why most people are afraid, but I now the Bible doesn’t describe God in any way that would make you think He would act like that.
With Jake dying, I have thought a lot about Heaven and faith and God.
I have spent a lot of time on my knees and a lot of time asking God to open my eyes to things He would want me to see, to understand, to give me simple truths He wants me to know. When I have been low on faith, I have just asked blindly, weakly and doubtfully.
So I want to tell you about one of the “truths” I have learned only a few nights ago.
One of Jake’s friends sent me a prayer chain for the soldiers. Nothing special about it, I get several a week, but I liked getting it from this friend of Jake’s. It meant a lot to me that he sent it. Especially since my Josh will be heading that way soon.
That night I woke up in the middle of the night and that letter was on my mind and so I began to talk to God. Sometimes praying is hard for me, my intent was to pray for the soldiers, but my mind wanders and I started remembering about the time I met Jake when he stepped off the plane returning from Iraq.
I stood at the tape that kept the 1000 soldiers families from getting to close to the tarmac. They announced when the plane was coming in and we spotted it from long distance off, gliding slowly, bringing those men and women home from a place we had all been in our hearts. I stood freckled shoulder to shoulder with a grandmother whose skin was brown and a little girl of about 6 whose skin was darker yet.
I saw Jake the minute he got off the plane, he was one of the last and when he filed up to the line we made, cheering and waving flags and music playing my heart was so happy, he smiled so big and I was proud of how I knew he had spent his time. He did his time with honor and he did the best job he could and he was glad to be home.
Just then, as many times as I have recounted that memory over the last 2 years, a thought popped into my mind. In my questioning heart of what could Heaven possibly be like, I heard God’s voice.
Well not literally but I might as well have, because it was almost like he whispered in my mind’s ear,
“Janet, this is the way I feel when one of my own comes home, its what I felt when your Jake came home. The heavens rejoice and all of us here in Heaven celebrate. I know you miss him, but rest easy my child, take comfort in this thought.”.
Amazingly, I did and do.
Happy Monday and fight the good fight this week my friends.
2 Timothy 4:7-8 I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.