What's going to matter most when it's all said and done?
It's not lost on me that I live an incredibly fortunate life. I'm not even making mention of white, middle-class privilege or that I live in one of the most diverse, free, opportunity-ridden nations in the world. There is a currency for the soul whose value is far greater still. There is a gold that all the money in the world cannot buy.
I am referring to the fact that I have a father who was consistently present in my family growing up and who has invested in his relationship with my mom for over 35 years now. I have memories of sleepily wandering into the kitchen on Saturday, ready to eat the bacon and pancake breakfast that my dad was cooking for my two sisters and I. I remember the doll house he built for us. Now as a "busy grown-up", I recognize the cost of time that he paid. It goes way beyond money; he must have spent hours cutting out small scraps of carpet and wallpaper to line the miniature rooms of that three-story masterpiece. I remember my fifth birthday party and the moment when he revealed the Mickey Mouse cake that he had baked and decorated for me.
How can a kindergartener really say "thank you" adequately for that kind of thing?
Later, when I was about 10 years old, he arranged with a local pet grooming shop for me to come and "apprentice" for the day because he knew that my dream was to work with animals one day. I don't even know how he did that. I'm guessing that he cold-called the place? All I knew was that my dad believed in me and my dreams. After a long day of stress-filled work, he would linger at the dinner table with our family, laughing, telling stories and listening to his wife and three daughters. I had a sense that we were his joy.
Now, I'm a thirty-three year old with five children of my own, but he still invests in me. Just last week, he arranged to take me out for a belated birthday breakfast out at the Blackberry Kitchen. We sat over omelettes and potato skillets, reflecting on what God has been doing in our lives. He shared and listened wholeheartedly.
Statistically, my life is a rarity. I know that throughout all the nations of the world, there are daughters longing for the investment that I've experienced. My privilege is not lost on me.
For years I wrestled with feelings of guilt because of this disproportionate level of care that I have known. Sometimes it stifles me and I don't know how to talk about my reality and life because I feel like my existence causes pain in others. Maybe that is true. Some people have discredited my opinion because they don't suspect that I could empathize or have relevant wisdom to share. Some may think that everything has always been easy. That some people just have it easy.
If you'd allow me, I'd like to briefly share with you the true story of a Canadian man whose name was Lloyd. He grew up in a large family, with a mom and dad who often took him to church. He believed in God and spent his early years in simple happiness, but as a young man he began to push against authority and morality, and to find comfort in alcohol. He married in his late twenties; together with his wife they had 5 children but his struggle with alcohol only increased. Eventually he found it difficult to even sleep without a bottle beneath his bed.
As his dependence on alcohol increased, this man could no longer provide for his family or give them the relational stability that they needed. For years and years, he made desperate attempts to break away from his addiction, spending time in recovery programs, but nothing stuck. He would try for a while, only to escape away on drunken binges for a week at a time, leaving his young family feeling abandoned and alone.
Through it all, his wife continued to pray and hope for a miracle.
On one such binge, he stumbled drunkenly into a church meeting, begged the crowd for help, but then fell asleep on the back pew of the church. One of the men later drove him back to the shack where Lloyd was hiding away. In the early morning hours, in a state of hopelessness, Lloyd decided to kill himself by stepping out in front of the fast moving traffic on the highway. He was located near a busy trade route, so anticipated that a semi-truck would come by soon enough. He waited and waited, but no vehicles came.
Little did he know that God was orchestrating events so that freedom could become his new normal. Mid-morning a couple men from that church came back for him. Lloyd's strength was gone, but he leaned on them as they lifted him into their vehicle and drove him to the church where a handful of men gathered around him to pray.
As they prayed, he felt the power of darkness break off of his life. For thirty years, he had been dependent on alcohol, but now, all desire for alcohol had vanished. The power of God revolutionized his life.
He went home to his wife that day and never left again. He sat with her at the kitchen table and explained what had happened, while his children peered in from the other room. Then Lloyd took his wife grocery shopping. Something so suspiciously common was actually a miracle. He never drank again for the remaining years of his life and dedicated himself to sharing his story and bringing hope to others caught in the trap of alcoholism.
I have only one vague memory of a visit with my grandpa Lloyd.
He passed away when I was only about 18 months old, but his story is part of the foundation for mine. My aunts, uncle and dad all speak of him with great honor because though he spent his early years in despair, his latter years brought healing and restoration.
My own dad never experienced a picture-perfect childhood with a present father; he had his share of pain and struggle through it all and had his own miraculous conversion when he was a young man. The Holy Spirit transformed his life too and linked him in marriage to my mom; together they worked very hard to create a family life founded on the Lord Jesus Christ. One that neither of them had known as children.
We all get one life to live. We can either sit and wonder why we were given what we have, or we can take what's in front of us, welcome the Lord God into it, and see what He can do with it. There is a generation coming after you that is waiting to inherit the choices you make.
What's going to matter most when it's all said and done?
Instagram notoriety? Financial success? Fortnite conquests? Physical appearance or the applause of crowds? Our collection of "toys"? A travel bucket list or sustaining a life of comfort?
We all ache to know that we did what was right for our families, even though our days may be scattered or suffocated by regrets and failure.
Listen to me, dear reader. The story is not over yet. Grace is abundant and you have no idea what great inheritance you are building for your grandchildren to write about one day.
How could we not see that the will of God for our earth is for the reviving of the family? For the re-establishing of sanctuaries within the walls of our homes? No matter what your houses may look like, you are empowered to fill the space with safety and blessing. That your children would inhale our validation and exhale the discouragement of the day. Oh Father God, help us. We have so much growing to do and so much humility to learn to walk in with the people we claim to love the most.
But no matter where things are at, nothing is impossible. A life of surrender to the Spirit of God can course-correct generations of dysfunction. One right, hard choice after another, mixed with the supernatural power of God can re-establish family.
May grace be poured out on you as you walk in radical obedience to the Lord.