My grandma – Grams – was a lion in the faith. She grew up during the depression with an alcoholic father and no money. Having an alcoholic father brought more shame upon the family than any other circumstance in her life. She also grew up in a religious atmosphere where salvation was earned by good works and the grace of Jesus was non-existent. Grams talked about the fear that was part of her home growing up, how she and her sisters would hide under the table in fear of what her dad would do when he came home after drinking too much. At one point, her father abandoned them and Grams spoke of how she remembered sitting on the porch, watching him walk away. Loss, confusion led to the question of why she wasn’t enough to make him to stay.
After moving in with family in another town, they were able to find some stability in her dad’s absence. She had an uncle who would always come over and tell the kids Bible stories. Her mom warned him to “stop with all that Bible talk”, but Uncle kept on coming with his Bible and guitar. Grandma said she always loved hearing the stories and it wakened a deep hunger inside her – a knowledge that there had to be something more.
When Grams was about 12 years old, her mom agreed to let her and her sisters go to a Bible camp with this uncle. It was at this camp that she experienced a Father’s love for the first time in her life. Not from her uncle, but from the O.G. of fathers. The one who never abandons. The one who casts out fear. The one who freely gives grace and salvation. The one who formed her and called her worthy of staying. She remembered meeting Jesus and the feeling of overwhelming peace and cleanliness that came with that encounter. It filled the hole that had been left by the abandonment and lack of fathering by her father.
Fast forward a few years. The experience from her childhood felt like a distant memory as she was immersed back into the religious views of works-based everything. She had met and married her high school sweetheart and had her first two daughters. The hunger in her heart had returned and no amount of good works was making it go away. Discouragement was a part of daily living as she knew there had to be more to life than just working and striving all the time. She cried out in desperation to the Father she met in her childhood. He met her, just as He had at that campground. Grams knew her life would never be the same and made choice to walk away from the religion that held her captive. It wasn’t easy and it took bravery. For walking away meant becoming an outcast. She was no longer invited to neighborhood gatherings. Her once friends would tell their kids they couldn’t play with her kids. It wasn’t easy. But ignoring truth was no longer an option. Once you encounter the Father, life is forever changed. Once that reckless love has grabbed hold of your life, nothing can come close to taking its place
Today – Father’s Day – is not always a happy day. Some of us may not have had a father or the one you did have may have hurt you so deeply that the whole idea of fatherhood seems forever tainted. If this is your story, I have no words and the only thing I can think to say is, I’m sorry. Though that will never be enough, you are not alone in your pain. And there is one father who never leaves or forsakes. One father who is willing to light up the shadows, climb up the mountains, kick down the walls and tear down the lies just to be with you. One father who makes you brave.
For our family today, we are grateful for the fathers in our life, but we are still feeling the ache of my Grandmother’s absence. She left us only two days ago and all of that feels raw and heavy. But thanks be to the ultimate Father, she is finally free from pain and in the arms of her Jesus. The Father who called to her heart at such a young age and planted the hunger for something more deep inside her heart. The Father who wanted to change not just her legacy, but the legacy for generations to come. Because of my Grandmother’s bravery to leave all that she knew and pursue the longing in her heart, my family has experienced true freedom in Jesus.
“Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.””
Matthew 11:28-30 NLT