My Endless Love- What my dad's homegoing continues to teach me in life (Continued)
#2. Forgiveness is NOT optional
This is potentially one of the hardest lessons for humanity to grasp and for Christians to exercise in a sin driven world. This is a lesson that I have struggled with but not for the reasons' one migt expect. My biggest struggle in forgiving others was never the act of forgiving iself, it was the backlash I had to endure from people in my life who saw forgiveness as a weakness, as an undeserved gift being given to someone who hurt me, or as a way to continually get hurt. It's also ironic to me that the deepest oppositions to fotgiveness has come to me from both those who had I not known the capacity of forgiveness taught to me by my father, I would not have them in my life and who have not accepted the biblical mandate to forgive.
My parents held very different life philosophies of life and although both protested Christian origin, only one consistently coincided with what the Bible says. I say this because I have been raised and habituated in one philosophy and then had to make a conscious choice to seek and learn the biblical philosophy so in choosing one, it felt like I was rebuking the other. To clarify, there does exist an acceptance and a rebuke but this was of the philosophy, not the parents themselves. This was a distinction that was never understood by my mother. To this end, the closer I grew to God, the further I grew from her. I believe this was because she never saw my father leading me to Christ, just me choosing him over her (which of course I never would do). My dad was relentless on this topic and he did not care about how it appeared to others, whether it seemed right or wrong- it was what you are required to do to be considered God's own so you did it-period. My dad was extremely cut and dry in retrospect but it showed the depths of his belief and that he didn't force or push on anyone else yet it was contagious.
A large part of my dad's philosophy in forgiveness included "let go"- pain wasn't something you dwelled on or constantly spoke about, it was something you surrendered and endured. There was never an excuse to hold on to pain, which I believe is the number one reason why we find forgiving so hard-the pain associated with the offense; but my dad would remind me of Paul's suffering for Christ, or the crucifixion and immediately my perspective would change. My dad's perspective was biblical- forgive so you can be forgiven. My dad reminded me constantly that no matter how wronged I may believe myself to have been in any situation, I am still a sinner and need forgiveness from Christ for my own sins. In this scripture is clear; if we do not forgive others, God will not forgive us our sins. (Matthew 6:14-15) My dad would remind me that danger in believing forgiveness optional. He would say, "Just let it go..." this sounds so simplistic but he knew the eternal damage in the inability to do so.
My father did not see forgiveness and engagement as synonymous. Forgiveness could mean praying for my offender, refusing to allow the actions of my offender to harden my heart, trusting God for my vindication, or simply refusing to hold the offender hostage to their offense once they have asked forgiveness. What my dad needed for me to know and truly understand was that forgiving wasn't an act of human greatness but Godly resemblance. If I wanted to receive Christ- I would need to receive his words and actions as my own and push through whether or not it made common sense and instead respond in likeness to my heavenly counsel.
#3. Worrying Undermines Faith
Many of these principles may seem obvious but I promise you they did not come to me easily. My father believed wholeheartedly that worry and faith should never coexist at the same time in the heart of the Christian. Now he was fine if you worried and understood that you were standing outside of faith but he would not let you think for a minute that you were being faithful in your place of worrying. We would have some of our funniest disagreements here because again, he was cut and dry and anyone who knew my dad knew phrases like, "case closed" or "period" as some of his favorite ways to speak volumes using limited words. Although I am the product of a man of very few words, I talk (and write) a lot- I have a profound appreciation for my dad's ability to say so much using so few words. I could visit with my dad and get into a hour rant about my relationship with my son and afterwards, he would look at me and say- "You can't control other people. You either believe in scripture or you don't....case closed." Now the scripture my father would often reference to me regarding my oldest son was Proverbs 22:6.
For my dad, worrying was about the most unbiblical thing a person could do. For one thing- it changes nothing. Worrying about relationships won't mend broken ones, worrying about money won't give you financial freedom and worrying about a diagnosis will in no way give you a cure- for dad, all problems had one answer and its name is Jesus. Some people may think that this is naive or simpleton way to think but it couldn't be more profound. I believe that it may be in its simplicity that most overlook its power. In Matthew 6 Jesus clearly instructs the Christian against worrying. My heart always travels to the part when Jesus states that worrying is the act of the unbeliever. (v.32) Whether it was about my son, my mom, my job, my ministry, my marriage, or my health- the answer from my dad was always the same-"...you don't have to worry." The ability to rest in Christ is a gift wrapped present many Christians leave unopened from God. It's funny how on Christmas morning we tear through the wrapping paper and open gifts making sure to get the most out of the presents but many of the gifts of the cross we leave wrapped, under the cross.
My dad was a firm believer in getting things off your chest and out your system but worrying was a place to visit, not a place you can live. I'm very grateful to have been under the guidance of such a powerful example of resting in God for any outcome as my dad. Even while diagnosed with stage four cancer, my father saw himself victorious. He never complained or worried about the outcome because he knew that he was in a win/win situation having chosen Christ. In my dad's perspective, if he was healed and lived to a 100-"to God goes the glory"; but if he would die instead at 76-"I'm going to be with God in glory." I learned that when you live for Christ, and in Christ there is truly nothing on this earth we can justify worrying about.
#4. Leave it alone! (God already knows)
I don't know if you can relate to this or not but I'm about to make a confession- being right is one of the hardest things for a Christian to be because of their natural desire to prove others wrong. This is how it was for me and probably a perpetual thorn in my dad's side regarding my behavior. I once wrote an article on this website dedicated to my dad when I finally grasped what he had been trying to teach me for years...which is- other people have a right to be wrong. I was one of those people who believed that an argument was won when the other person concedes and/or admits they were wrong. The problem with that self-righteous desire of the flesh is 1. It rarely happens and 2. As Christians, we shouldn't need it to. The desire to be right or to win an argument is unbiblical and does not in the least resemble Christ.
My dad would often remind me, "Just leave it alone. God already knows so what are you still talking about it for?" I hated at the time that he'd allow me to go on and on with my incessant determination to prove the other person wrong before shining a light on the immaturity of my own spirit but in retrospect, I'm better for it. One of the lessons my father was determined for me to get before he left here was that I didn't need to present my case before God or constantly tell other people that I was wronged, hurt, betrayed or forsaken because God sees all things. God knows all things.
My dad was quick to humble me whenever I felt like I had to go on a "proof collecting tangent" with words as fews as , "Why do you act like God doesn't already know this...leave it alone." It was this philosophy that has given me the most peace in the most difficult of circumstances. At the risk of sounding like one who plays the victim, I feel like I have lived through my fair share of hurt. What has been the most difficult for me to grapple in this regard is that my most consistent sources of pain are the people I thought I loved and who loved me the most. There were moments when the pain I experienced seemed so deep, I thought I couldn't recover from it. My dad would always listen but then silence my restless spirit with simple commands- "...don't judge, don't condemn-just let go, leave it alone- forgive and show love. God will do the rest" I would know it was the right thing to do because I could find the same advice in Luke 6:37! This is why I say my father's love was simply biblical- because he has never poured one word over my life that I did not come across in God's Holy Word. In the month's before my dad's passing I can remember a time we shared that in the moment shocked me, even hurt me a little and now in retrospect I understand it completely. I was doing one of my Florence Nightingale visits and somehow got into the topic of my oldest son. That was easy because pictures of his children would adorn my parents home and I had never really seen them. This was a thorn in my side sort to speak- how my mother could step into my place and claim the role of grandma to great-grandkids as if I were in the grave and she felt responsible to close a gap in my absence. I must have reiterated the story to my dad from the dad my son introduced me to Christine, to her horrible statements to me in their house making my youngest cry all the way to the article I wrote after being seperated for years and I don't remember stopping to breath. As cool as a cucumber my dad looked at me and he said, "Let's make a promise right now- we will never speak of TC again..." I was shocked, taken aback really but in retrospect I can see how my refusal to "let go" must have hurt him so when he was so close to going home. It seemed as if my dad said in that moment, if you can't do it for yourself, do it for me-and I did. We spent countless hours together after that but never one more about my son. In releasing that topic, I was able to share my vision and hopes for my ministry and see how proud and amazed my dad was with what I had accomplished so far. He was always thinking about my spirit and the condition of my heart. I'm grateful that my dad was so protective of my spirit, that he knew the one I needed protecting from the most was myself.
#5 Complaining Solves Absolutely Nothing!
My dad's homegoing service was amazing for many reasons but perhaps one of the most memorable parts of it for me was seeing how many people- friends, family, church members included knew my father based on the quality of his character. People spoke of various experiences and situations with him but no matter how diverse the story, the themes were the same- my dad was a humble man; he endured much, and did so without complaining. Sometimes, complaining feels as natural as breathing to me. I never have enough, I'm never loved enough, and my life does not put out what I believe I put in, I can really own the "Woe is me" phase but I refuse to! Assuredness in God's righteous can aggravate the hell out of non-believers. I'm not talking about out of atheist or agnostic folks who say they don't believe or are unsure...No, I'm talking about the Bible toting, "Nobody love the Lord more than I do" folks who say it but when faced with challenges of faith don't have an ounce of faith to stand on. I never wanted to be that kind of Christian or person in general. I always wanted the confidence of faith my father had but it's not always as easy as he made it seem. For one thing, complaining gives attention to your problem. If you are an attention seeker and live off of the approval of others and crave their consolation over your circumstance, then you will most certainly be a consummate complainer....but if you don't need the opinions or approval of others, if you can look at your hardships and say in utter quietness, "Lord, I know you got this" then complaining becomes pointless.
I can remember hearing the words pancreatic cancer and wanting to box with God. At that time, I didn't even know it was terminal and I was still ready to go at it with God. For one thing, the immediate thought of "he of all people doesn't deserve this..." came so quick to my mind. I was almost certain that Satan had found the one thing- the anguish my relationship with my mother and son couldn't produce in me which was unyielding anger towards God. And then I noticed almost immediately that had I complained, had I allowed hurt, anger and resentment towards God or this world enter my heart because of this diagnosis, I would be doing it alone. When I tell you that from the day my father was diagnosed until the day he went home, I have NEVER heard him complain once. It made me think back to my life with him, to examine times in which he could have complained or should have complained and I was still drawing a blank. I thought to myself- why doesn't he say something or do something and each example rendered humbled quietness. I remember thinking...This man doesn't complain and in asking him why, his answer was simple- Complaining solves absolutely nothing. It was that simple.
To my dad, complaining was a waste of time that could be better spent in prayer, quiet, contemplation, or peace but it wasn't an action that bought you any closer to God. Some of my favorite memories of my dad in general is listening to his retelling of the Bible. He may change a word or two but never the context or the meaning. Whenever he watched Moses or the Ten Commandments, he could shake his head and go on about those "Cotton pickin' complaining jokers (the Israelites)" and how God could have have ju