The Apple and the Tree
The Apple and the Tree
Not sure how to begin this one, so I'll just throw it out there. Last week, my biological father died. When I first heard the news, I felt indifferent, almost cold towards it. At that moment, the information ranked no higher than someone telling me it was going to rain or that the neighbor's supper had burned. But, truth be told, it was as if someone had stealthily put a grenade in my back pocket. Not two hours later, I was leaving to go pick up my oldest from school and it hit me. I don't really know what hit me, just that the proverbial "it" had hit me, and had hit me hard. I was sobbing so hard, I had to pull the car over because I couldn't see anything but a sea of blur.
Over the next few days, I would cycle between indifference and desperation. What was going on with me? My closest friend here even asked me, "Why are you so sad, you didn't even really know him?" It took me a few days to understand my emotions, where they'd come from, what was happening to make me so emotional and on edge. I began to realize that I wasn't feeling just one emotion. And, of all the emotions I was feeling, sadness was ranked rather low. I was angry. I was scared. I was bitter. I was embarrassed. I was remorseful and lamenting. I was confused. Why was I so confused?
Let me give you a little back story. My dad left when I was about 3 months old. I have a vague memory as a toddler of him visiting on a borrowed motorcycle. After that, there was no contact until a few weeks before my eleventh Christmas. During those years in between, I prayed literally every single night to meet my dad. I longed for a father to love me. So, when my mom happened across his contact information at her work as a telephone operator and made contact with him, I was ecstatic. I remember her giving me a letter from him - my first communication with my "dad." After a few letters, he planned a trip to see me a few weeks before Christmas. He brought me a bicycle. I imaged going to stay with him over summer and us doing the things that dads and sons do. Maybe camping, or possibly a road trip. The next month I saw him again for my birthday. He brought me a stereo. Life was turning around, I thought. I had my dad back in my life. Yet little did I know at that point that within the next three months he'd fade away again, leaving me for a second time feeling rejected, unwanted, and worthless. I decided I'd be a better man than he was.
I looked for ways to help people, particularly single moms and fatherless boys. I served and I invested and I sacrificed. I got married and adopted three beautiful children, and fostered another. I became an educator and inspired, taught, and encouraged young people. I worked at church in a ministry to inner city youth, advocating for their families and providing help in anyway that I could. My decisions made into a person with little regard for myself and a great love for other people. I've had a gun in my face for visiting a family across the tracks in great need, rescued a family from a human trafficker wanted for murder, helped smuggle a man and his daughter across the border to see their dying mother in a Brownsville hospital when their visas were taking too long to be approved. I've put myself in countless difficult situations in an effort to help, to defend, and to serve. Not because I'm so great. Not because I'm brave. I realized this week that I've done so much in my life as a way to make up for the sins of my father. I began to feel like a fraud.
In the light of this, my anger at him for leaving, my embarrassment of him for his drug/alcohol addiction, my resentment towards him for not giving me a better heritage, my indifference as an adult towards his absence - all these emotions surfaced. And in the midst of these emotion, I became angry at myself for feeling sad. For missing a person I really didn't know. When I was 27, he somehow tracked me down and called me. He sobbed on the phone asking for forgiveness telling me he loved me. Again, I was indifferent. Cold. I was a man now, a husband, a father. Why was this man calling me now in an attempt to know me? He begged to see me. So, I gave him one lunch and a few phone calls. When I found out that he was still drinking, still looking at porn, and a few women had come forward to admit that he had raped/molested them, I disowned him for good. I had daughters to protect after all. I blocked him on Facebook after sending him a long message of disappointment, calling him to repentance. I was content in my "righteous indignation." But now, hearing of his death, I felt utter remorse.
How was it that I could lack so much love in dealing with this man? I work with so many people here in Bolivia that spit on the help we give. I've given so much for people who really didn't deserve it. Running after teens making poor choices over and over again pleading with them to change their ways, give their hearts to God, submit to Him. And, I've seen the fruit of such labor here. Yet, I couldn't extend that same grace, energy, and hope with my own flesh? I felt like I failed both my father and God. And at the same time, I was frustrated for feeling these things. Did he really deserve my tears, my remorse?
This week has been a roller coaster of emotion and confusion. If I'm honest, I have had a mini identity crisis. Who am I? Am I simply "Tony's son" or am I "Gale's son" or am I "Ashley's husband" or am I something more. Do I really love the people I serve or am I making up for my father's sins? I realized that the answer is yes. Simply yes. I am all of that. God used all of that to make me what he wanted me to be, and he continues to mold and shape me. This week, spurred by my circumstances, I preached on three passages about hope in our trials. Incidentally, the one from James wasn't included. Let me finish with a summary of those inspiring passages of Scripture.
John 16:33, "I have told you these things so that in my you will have peace. In the world you will have many tribulations, but take heart, I have overcome the world." In Jesus, we have peace that is beyond our circumstances. He tells us, "look, you'll have difficult times, but I've overcome whatever you'll face. You will be victorious in me." No matter what we face, Christ is our anchor and our hope. He has already overcome it.
Romans 8:28-30, "We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God and who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified, he also glorified." Paul's encouragement to the church in Rome was, "No matter what happens, God will use that for your good and for his glory. The trials and difficulties you face are meant to make you look like Jesus with the end result being your justification and later glorification. Trust God with all the difficult moments, even the ones that are your fault. God can even use your failures."
Galatians 6:9, "And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." Sometimes in light of all the hard times, we would like to surrender. Sometimes our circumstances make us lose sight of the goal, and we just want to give up. But God says that we are to keep doing good. Keep holding on to hope. And in the proper time (His time not our time) we will reap a harvest.
We hope in Christ, our anchor and peace. We trust that God is using everything we go through to make us into who he wants us to be. And, we don't give up, we trust in His timing. So, be diligent. Pray for me. Pray for others. I pray this will encourage and spur you. God bless.
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© 2017 Seth Powell