The True Vine
August 6th and 7th
The next morning after hearing that it was Stage IV, it was Friday the 6th, and Dad went to Mom and said, “I had this visual this morning of a vine. I was the vine and everybody in my life was added to it. First you, then Jeremy, and Sunny, and Jobey and Kacey and all the places we went and lived, my whole life was on this vine.”
Mom said, “wow, Mick, that’s an awesome visual,” and Dad replied and said, “yeah it was real vivid. We’ve done a lot of things and went a lot of places.”
For Dad, this was sort of like 'This is Your Life' or a visual of his personal story, sort of a “life flashing before your eyes moment.” But later that afternoon as Mom was thinking about that conversation, something hit her. She thought to herself, “Mick knows Jesus as Savior, but not as Lord. He’s just like how I was.”
Mom had her own struggle with faith back in 1996. She had cried out to God to save her, help her, and guide her, but she had never truly surrendered to Him to really trust and follow Him. She was familiar with this struggle Dad was having, and so she prayed that day for a time to be able to share that at the right time.
So the next morning, as Mom and Dad were talking, Mom said, “When my Mom died [in 2015], I’ll never forget learning that nothing happens that doesn’t go through God first. I’m so thankful that I have faith enough to go through this. I believed in Jesus my whole life, but I only knew Him as Savior. But there’s two parts to it: Savior and Lord.”
And then it dawned on him. Something clicked.
He said, “well that’s what’s missing...it’s God! HE’s the vine and WE are all the branches! But this whole time I’ve been the vine and everybody else is around me.”
Now, many may be somewhat familiar with this phrase, but Dad didn’t realize that this concept is actually in the bible, that it’s something that Jesus actually taught. So Mom opened a box of index cards where she has verses typed out that she commits to memory, she found this verse on a card, and she showed it to him.
He was dumbfounded.
It said exactly what he just realized, and he started crying. He asked for a copy of it, but Mom instead gave him the one in her hand and he trimmed it and put it on his easel, where it is to this day.
Now…this was a huge revelation for Dad. Over the years, Dad’s inability to receive love, or really believe that he was worthy of love, had so much to do with how much he could do, what he could do for others, and how much he could do to be a good enough person. That’s what he thought made him acceptable. He thought he had to be this vigorous vine that could provide for his family and have enough faith to please God. That maybe, just maybe, if he could love God enough, God would love him back and accept him.
This perspective greatly hindered his faith. Over the years, Dad would watch Mom and us kids growing in our faith, reading the bible, praying, ministering to others, but Dad’s faith just never moved. As a matter of fact, oftentimes, it went backward. And so again, he felt on the outside. He saw us as these other vines that were growing, and he, as a vine, was wilting.
And this would be a constant struggle for him. Outwardly, he would say he believed in God, and he would make various attempts to try to be a good enough for God, but inwardly, he was wasting away. So He would just try to be better, try to live up to some expectations, try to earn God’s love.
It was just exhausting, and it was discouraging. So many times, he would say to Mom, “I’m not like the rest of you.” Other times, he’d say, “I prayed ‘the prayer’ and it just didn’t take.”
Britni Guides the Way
There’s an important backstory that was going on a few months before this time. In February of 2021, just 6 months before Dad’s diagnosis, a good friend of ours in our church, Britni, was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had just turned 35 and was married with 4 young children. Everyone loves Britni, and this was a massive blow to all of us in our church who loved her dearly.
About a month after her diagnosis, Britni, who had an incredible voice and loved to sing and lead us in worship on Sundays, joined us up front at the end of a church service on March 21st to sing a final, closing song with us. It was her first time singing since her diagnosis, and we closed the service with one of her “signature” songs.
But after that song, our church family wasn’t done. We wanted more. We wanted to sing with her. We wanted to sing over her. We wanted to bless her as she blessed us, and so there was an encore. And then another, and then another. It was an incredible morning that ended with us bringing up their whole family and praying for them before ending our morning with an actual final song.
But before that final song, Britni said to the church, “I’ve been talking to Jobey and Katie about this a lot lately, about how the enemy just keeps coming after our worship team.” She was referring to the fact that she was actually the third member of our worship team to be hit with cancer in just a year’s time.
But she ended her encouragement by saying,
“We. Won’t. Stop. Worshipping.”
Later that afternoon, Mom texted me to tell me that they had watched the whole service online, and when she was talking about seeing Britni up there singing she said, “Dad even cried.”
Dad had mentioned to Mom his amazement for how she could get up there and sing with this love and passion, even though she was facing cancer and death. It mesmerized him. Mom has said countless times that something happened in Dad that day. It was a day that somehow began to draw him as he witnessed her strength amidst her suffering. It’s as if he just wanted to know this God who was apparently so good that this beautiful young gal could cling to Him and sing to Him even in her fear and suffering. He wanted to know that God.
Sadly, however, Dad was just met with more frustration after that. Just a few weeks later, around mid-April, Dad told Mom, “I have no desire to read the bible. I don’t even understand it, it doesn’t make any sense to me. I’m just not like you guys.”
It’s as if he was just on the outside, looking in through the window, seeing everyone, even a young cancer patient, sing to and love this amazing God, and as he tries and tries and tries, he just can’t make it happen. He wanted it to work, but he just couldn’t figure it out.
And so he gave up. Again.
Mom shared her grief with us. It was like a knife in her to know that Dad was just so lost in his own despair and frustration. It broke her heart. She knew at this point that Dad was just dying spiritually on the inside. She asked us to pray in a very specific way for him. We’d always prayed for them over the years, but this became far more urgent. Mom began to journal every day, asking the Lord for two miracles:
“Draw Mick to You,” and “give him a passion for Your Word.”
Our family began to pray the same. We knew he was bound up by insecurities, or feeling unaccepted, or like he just didn’t fit in. It made him uncomfortable, and so he would always avoid being transparent or vulnerable about it. But we would just continue to love Dad; love him even with his hesitations and indifference.
But now, fast forwarding just 4 months from that moment in April that Dad gave up on his pursuit to know this God, and now as Mom and Dad are talking about this vine concept, something is starting to make sense. He’s realizing that he has always seen his life as himself in the center, and himself needing to provide all the strength to be the kind of man he wants to be, and he’s recognizing that God was never at the center.
He was seeing that he was trying to do this in his own strength, by his own goodness, and by mustering up enough faith.
But now, something was working in Dad.
Part 4: The Day Everything Changed