The Day Everything Changed
The next day, on August 8th, Mom and Dad decided to come out to visit for a change of scenery. It was a Sunday morning, and over the past year my parents had made a regular habit of watching our church services online every Sunday. So, when they get in the car, Dad says, “What time is it, do you wanna listen to Jobe’s sermon?” They listen through it, and after it’s done, Dad says “I want to listen again if you don’t mind.”
And during that sermon, as he’s driving, he asks mom to stop and pause.
Something grabbed Dad.
“Kerry, pause it. What Jobe said right there… I never knew that…”
He started sobbing.
Mom is wondering what on earth it is that grabbed Dad in such a way, and then Dad continued, “That God loves me. It’s not about how much I love Jesus or what I am doing but it’s His love for me!” He said to Mom, “That even if it was only me, He would die for me!”
And at that point, he said to Mom, “I can’t believe how many times He knocked and I didn’t answer.”
88 Miles West of Gila Bend, Where Everything Clicked for Dad
That afternoon, they pulled up to the house, and as soon as they walked through the door, we cried together when we first hugged. As we sat down and were getting situated and exchanged the usual pleasantries about the drive out, Mom said, “hey Mick, tell them about that vine picture you got.”
He says, “Should I? Okay!”
I’m thinking…”Okay?!” Mom asks him to share something personal, and he says, “okay!”?!
No diversion, no discussion about how to make a clarinet, no asking about any roster moves on the Dodgers, and he begins to tell us the story in just the way that I just wrote for you.
And then it finally comes. The diversion. I know the diversion because it always starts with a, “well hey, Jobe…”
And Dad says it: ”well hey, Jobe…”
But this diversion didn’t take us away from the personal and vulnerable.
This time the diversion takes us straight into it.
Dad starts talking about my sermon, and he said, “this whole time, I’ve always thought it was about my love for God. How much I love Him and can do for Him. But today you were talking about…”
At this point, Dad begins to weep. This is just something I have never been accustomed to seeing my Dad do, especially about a topic like this. As he collects himself, he says, “you were talking about God’s love for us. That it’s really about how much He loves us.”
Now, this is shocking to hear this from him, because receiving and believing in God’s love towards himself has always been a struggle. He always felt as if he has to do things for God in order for God to approve of Dad. He has to be good enough, do all the right things, and earn God’s love, and that he isn’t as good at that as all of us.
And truth be told, most people believe that. Most people think that way. They think that being a Christian or going to heaven is about being a good person, and if you are good enough then God will love you. But that is not how it is, and it is not what the bible says, and every week I preach that the Good News for us is that even though we are not very good, and because of all the ways we screw up, what causes us to be accepted by God is not how good we are, or how much we love God but how good He is and how much He loves us.
And I can assure you, I have been preaching that for years.
But then Dad says, “I never knew it was about God’s love for us. Have you ever said that before?”
Amidst my own tears, I’m caught off guard by this and begin to laugh and I say, ”yeah, Dad, every week.”
But he argues, ”well no, I mean, I’ve never heard it like that before.”
In this moment, I’m thinking, ”I know he has heard this hundreds of times over 20 years, but it just never clicked. And now that he sees it, he can’t unsee it.” And over the following couple days, Dad said that he now understood God’s love for him just in the last few days more than he has ever understood.
That evening, Jeremy, Sunshine, Noah, and Grace came to spend time with us and we simply got to be together, have dinner, and even laugh a bit.
It was just to be a quick trip, and Mom and Dad had planned to leave the next day. Before they left town, we got to have lunch at a local Irish Pub, which was a good fitting way to end this first time together, as Dad and I, as well as our whole family, have always loved frequenting Irish Pubs and enjoying Irish food.
Part 5: Bad News Gets Worse