God forgave me, saved and changed me. Then I was able to love well, and be a part of God’s pursuit and salvation, of my Dad and Grandpa.
First, my Grandpa.
I was the 1st grandchild so that made me pretty special to my grandpa.
He was THE hardest worker I have ever seen, he’d give his shirt off the back to anyone who needed it. He taught me well in those things. Because he drank too much whiskey, gambled and had a short temper, there were negative impacts too.
I had not really experienced any of that until I tried to talk to him about Jesus when I was in my early 20’s.
He said “STOP right there” with a very stern look and loud tone, pointing his finger,
“I don’t want to hear anything more about it, ever!”
So I kept quiet until a year or so later. I was heartbroken for him thinking of eternity, and him not being with Jesus. I just could not let it go. So I carefully wrote a long letter about how much I loved him, how God loves Him and that we are all sinners and need God – shared the gospel and how he could receive the gift of this life.
He was so angry he didn’t talk to me for 2 years. This was a man who had allowed me to drive his new red Oldsmobile convertible to Florida for spring break with a friend. I was devastated.
I kept my words to myself and prayed and prayed, as my grandfather watched and heard about the stories as God led me through an incredible journey of involvement in the church, music, ministry in missions. The fantastic end to this story is this – he was 96 and in a nursing home in Ohio, not doing well. I called the facility and asked if there was a chaplain who could go talk to him to get things right – I didn’t want him to die without knowing the Lord!
Within a few days I was able to go there. Knowing it would be the last time I would see him,
I finally got up enough nerve to talk to him about it one more time. I didn’t want our last visit to end in conflict, in anger.
“Grandpa, I love you, and God loves you, and…” he interrupted me and I was bracing myself …
And he says, very gently, smiling “oh honey, don’t you worry about that, me and the good Lord got that all worked out. It’s all good!”
Then there’s my Dad.
My parents divorced when I was in 5th grade. He was an alcoholic. As soon as I turned 13 and could make a choice, I refused to spend time with him. I saw him very few times before I went to college. I hated being around him.
I became a Christian when I was a sophomore. Several months later God gave me a very clear message:
“You need to show your Dad at least as much kindness and respect as you would a stranger on the street”. It just wouldn’t go away, so I called him. When I went home I’d stop by for a few minutes. I hated going to his house because he was a nonstop smoker and a drinker. We started to get to know one another but it still felt strange and strained.
Then I got engaged. I found myself wanting him to meet my future husband, and I wanted to know that he liked him and was approving, happy about it – because that’s a Dad’s role. I asked him to be part of the wedding. I always wanted a Dad to be there to do what Dad’s do, and in my mind, this was the ultimate responsibility that he could take care of – no matter what else I felt about him. My sister felt the opposite – if he wasn’t there before he had no place or right to be in that most special spot now. But my heart had begun to soften.
I don’t know if you can see it in the picture, but this moment when he walked me down the aisle, I was so joyous, and for the first time ever, so proud to have my Dad.
My family lived in several different states, but kept in touch by phone.
We visited him when we went to Ohio, and it was a huge deal that we spent the night once after our baby was born. I did NOT want to be there in his environment. But God put it on my heart that it was an important thing to do – so I did. I never talked to him about God, but prayed and prayed, and he – like my grandfather – watched as we walked out our lives, loving, growing, and serving God.
Then I got the call that he had lung and throat cancer. He was having surgery and if he made it through, he would never eat food normally again, and he wouldn’t be able to talk.
I knew I had to go see him. I traveled back and my sister – also a believer – and I went to the hospital.
We had the one and only talk with him about the past. We told him we hated the way things had been, wished it had been different, but we had forgiven him and we loved him. I told him Jesus would forgive him too, if he would just ask. He replied that no, that could never happen, because what he had done was too bad, and too hurtful for a lot of people.
Amazingly, he made it through the surgery and was able to talk again!
A few months later I was talking to him on the phone. I sensed something VERY different about him. Even though he had said nothing about it, I told my husband – I think God has done something, I think Dad is saved!
Several months later I was in an orientation course for Wycliffe. I received a call that my Dad was in the hospital and was not going to make it. I hurried to Ohio to see him. I talked to him about the Lord, and this time he said “Don’t you worry about that, I’m good now! I talked to God, and me and Jesus have it all worked out!” I could clearly see he was different. He rallied and we spent time together. We talked, I drove him to his favorite places, played cards, sang to him (he’d never heard me sing before – ever) and I read scriptures to him. For the first time I felt peace, companionship, love with my Dad. After a week he says, “Maresea, you need to go back to your family and to what God has you doing. I don’t want you to come back here for a funeral because I’ll be home with the Lord, and you’ve just been here with me”. We hugged and kissed for the first and last time. It was difficult and bittersweet as I left – knowing I would not see him again on this earth, but also grateful and celebrating his sure salvation.
Because of God’s grace, power and love, I’ll see them both in heaven and spend more time with them there!