Last Tuesday I sat before my father's casket, hands outstretched, while the serviceman placed my father’s flag into my hands. My bones felt heavy from grief. I ached at how final death is. I didn’t want to get up. To be honest, if I can be so candid, having a background full of victimization and abuse, my heart often struggled to attach fully to his. My dad and I didn't have the privilege of knowing each other until I got into my early twenties. Though we often talked and text on the phone, we had not seen one another for a good long while. Dad lived in Missouri, and I lived in Texas. Additionally, we had both landed on hard times the last few years. He had his junk he was dealing with and I had mine.
Nevertheless, God who is rich in love, grace, and mercy has a mighty big heart for restoration. To my joy and His rich compassion, the Lord saw fit to give back plenty of stolen ground in our final week together. In the days prior to my father's death, I cannot tell you how lavished I felt by his fatherly love. If my dad said it once he said it a thousand times, "I love you with all of my heart." The twinkle in his eyes and his silly grin delighted me also to no end. Not only did we have plenty of lovely moments together, we also had an abundance of hilarious moments, too.
For instance, one of those hilarious moments happened when his alarm for his blood pressure, heart, and oxygen monitor was going off. As serious as he could be he quipped to me, "The phones' ringing! Answer it and tell 'em to hang on a minute." Good times, folks! Good times indeed. Another time was when a new ICU nurse had come on shift. While she and I stood over his bedside—she on one side and I on the other—Dad suddenly furrowed his brow, looked at her sternly, and pointed to me and said, ”She knows what she's doing. You need to listen to her."
Me? A better nurse? Yeah right, Dad! I can hardly handle mere throw-up!
I had to press my lips together to keep from laughing.
So as I sat that Tuesday, before his casket, my heart ached for more of those kinds of times. Erin and I planned on bringing him to Houston once his doctor gave us the go-ahead. We were going to help take care of him, and we were happy to! But God had another plan. At one point, right before it was time to leave, the Lord asked me a question,
“Can you praise Me?”
I knew exactly what He meant. He wanted me to lift up my eyes and fixate on His goodness to me in the midst of my pain. Honestly, I welcomed it with gladness. I cannot explain it, but it felt like a breath of fresh air as I began saying,
”Father, thank You for giving me such a loving father. Although I struggled to see the gift of knowing my dad at times... And, sadly, I sometimes allowed my past or present brokenness to cloud my view, I want to say, 'Thank You for redeeming it all over the course of the last week. I truly could not have asked for more.'"
You better believe I'll miss my dad. But would you like to know what I think is so wild? I think it is wild how God can transform us in the blink of an eye by dropping into our hearts a sense of fresh revelation. In a moment's flash, I was able to rise to my feet full; full of an abundance of gratitude for all the beautiful memories my Father graciously gave to me in those final hours. At a time when I could have very easily stood to my feet full of regret and emptiness, God saw fit not only to lift up my eyes but also to lift up my heart, too. I stood to my feet sad, yes, but my heart felt incredibly buoyed by thankfulness as well.
I’m not sure where you are today or what current struggles you might be fighting, but I want you to know: God is a giving God. Like me, far too often it’s easy to fixate on what we don't have, what we didn't get or, even, what God seems so obviously unwilling to give to us, instead of beholding the beauty of all that we have received in the stead.
I have you to know, I pulled out my Bible concordance when I got home and read through every single verse of Scripture where the word "given" is used. I was pleasantly surprised. God's Word uses the word "given" repeatedly. I'd like to share a few of those verses I found with you before I close. May they perhaps be a source of encouragement to you as they were to me.
- “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” —Acts 4:12
- “‘And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” —Luke 11:9-10
- “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” —Isaiah 9:6
- “Be to me a rock of refuge, to which I may continually come; you have given the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.” —Psalm 71:3
- “Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.” —1Corinthians 2:12
- “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” —1John 3:1
- “By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.” —1John 4:13
- “And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.” —1John 5:20