“For this is what the Lord says:
‘Even the captives of a mighty man will be taken,
and the prey of a tyrant will be delivered;
I will contend with the one who contends with you,
and I will save your children.’ ” Isaiah 49: 23 Holman’s Christian Standard Bible
It was quite amazing how having a daughter, the responsibility of a child, began a process that changed my attitude about many things. Now it was more than just Joni and myself needing care, food, a place to live, clothes, doctors visits, toys, and all the other stuff which goes with having a munchkin in the house!
The most definite change came as a surprise to me. Attending church had become a non-priority over the years, you know, because of all those hypocrites who were there! It took coupled of decades for me to finally understand that the whole world is the domain of hypocrites! So that reason or excuse will not fly, carry water, float, or any other cliche you would like to insert.
Back to the original point before I so rudely started bursting bubbles.
It became important to me for my daughter to attend church. I have no reason why; literally I do not know what possessed me. Well, maybe I do. I’m pretty sure it had everything to do with the One who had been pursuing me for my entire life. There was a condition to this extreme decision. Joni had to agree. If she said no, it was all over, it was a done deal. For those who have known us nearly forever, you may know this story. Unknown to me, Joni had also been considering the same thing I was thinking. Joni wanted to return to church for our daughters sake, too. She had the same condition in mind, if I said no it was all over. We would go together or drop the whole idea.
So here is something I want to point out, in case your attention to detail is like mine—Extremely Global—unable to see the trees for the Forest! If there is no God, who arranged this amazing coincidence? The circumstances leading our return to church were only the beginning of plans God in His Grace had for us. If anyone had told me then where we would be in 10 or 30 years, I would have said there was no way! Not too long ago at a wedding I had just officiated, a friend from high school days commented, “Ron, there was no way any of us could see this coming!” And he was absolutely right, the most surprised person being me!
Six years after munchkin #1 joined the family, along came prize number two. Now there were two munchkins God was using to teach me about His love, while I experienced love for my daughters. As they grew, it seemed my learning process lagged woefully too far behind, especially as they moved into the years when they were becoming adults. Even before then, our life circumstances changed drastically.
Our finances took an A-bomb hit. Joni and I both found ourselves in training, in essence having received calls to different careers. These transitions were preceded by some rather overwhelming health issues demanding the changes in our careers. The transitions also left us with incomes below poverty level, requiring more than minor changes our in lifestyle. Friendships changed. We were unable to join in social activities, as we had “none of the ready” (British slang for broke, no cash).
During this time there was one damaging difficulty affecting my relationship with our eldest daughter. She was attending the same high school Joni and I attended. God had been providing her tuition and payment for her voice lessons, and whatever else she needed for school. When parents visited on weekends or special occasions, certain assumptions were the norm regarding said parental visits.This typically meant getting your student off campus with their friends, and usually consisted of trekking into Watsonville to one of the eating establishments providing refreshment for all. And as a father it was a source of embarrassment not to be able to meet expectations.
Unfortunately I was so freaked out concerning our finances, my fear communicated to my daughter a message of rejection. I didn’t know that was what she was receiving from me. I was unaware that my fears were hurting her, that they were saying to her I hated coming to see her, placing on her a weight of rejection, the pain of rejection. It was a message that told her she wasn’t as important as the money it cost to come see her.
What I wouldn’t give to go back so I could change what she heard through the words I spoke, how the words sounded, what my body language was telling her! What I longed to have her hear instead was how much I loved her, and how very proud I was of her. Years later when I finally found out what she had thought, it broke my heart. Because of my inability to relax into the reality of God’s providence, I had built a wall that I cannot go back and tear down.
As for each of us, I live with choices made nearly 20 years ago, choices that are impossible to alter now. However, I am also learning to depend on what I refer to as God’s Damage Control. There is nothing I can do about the past, but God is not restricted by time. God can change whatever He desires, including the impact our past has on our present and on our future. I wouldn’t even be surprised to find He could even change the past!
I share this because like so many parents, I find myself in the woodshed whacking myself with a willow switch. I’m there beating myself for everything I did wrong, everything I said wrong, the things I missed completely, and for all the ways I was a terrible parent. Except, what did we expect? Really? Our parents did the best they could with what they had, just as their parents, and their parents before them. And if we go back far enough, we will be in a Garden with two perfect children who chose to rebel against the most perfect Father there has ever been, continues to be, and always will be!
Honestly, how could we expect to out perform God as parents? That’s rather an arrogant attitude don’t you think? You and I cannot out parent the Ultimate Parent, God Himself; it’s impossible. We are not able to save anyone; only God is equipped as Savior. Therefore when God says He will save your children, which part of what He says is a lie? We can’t save them; we can’t save ourselves. Just in case we have forgotten, Salvation isn’t based on how well you or I perform. (See Matthew 7:21,22) Salvation is based on accepting the Gift of Salvation from Jesus who has given, is giving, and will give to anyone who wants what He is offering! (Check out Ephesians 2:8-10.)
And parents, this includes your children you worry about so very much! I understand, as a parent I do understand. Jesus gave us several commands: “Love your neighbor as yourself,” “don’t worry,” “turn the other cheek,” “go the extra mile,” and “if you believe in the Father believe in Me.” Each day is another opportunity to learn, to experience reliance on God’s promises.
It’s not easy, I know. The last five years have been some of the most difficult in my life, the most confusing, guilt ridden, shaming. I’ve been dealing with loss and grief on a vast scale.
This is what I am able to relate about what has been in these last years, God has been Faithful. Even when I have struggled with emotions, feelings, even crawling at times through “the Valley of the Shadow of Death,” God, Jesus, and the Comforter have always been with me.
Grace teaches us the passion and intimacy God has for us, revealing His pursuit of us, showing us He tracks us down while doing all that is within “the rules” to save us from ourselves. I know He is actively seeking my girls, your girls, boys, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and every relative you can and cannot think up. Remember this, because He loves them in ways we will never comprehend. Keep praying so you will remember your loved ones, remember to treat them with Grace, Mercy, Gentleness, Patience, remember them with joy, and seek every opportunity to tell them of your love for them.
Grace, makes it all possible, Grace encompasses it all, the simplest way to address the whole amazing process is this, Grace is everything and we are given what belongs to Jesus because He took what belongs to us.
And remember God’s promise, “I will save your children.” Isaiah 49:25
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