I recently came across a story that spoke volumes to me. There was a child whose parents placed a chalkboard on the outside of the door to their bedroom for the purpose of listing his chores. Each day they required him to complete his responsibilities and check them off as they were completed. One day while the mom and dad were sitting downstairs they heard a scream for help coming from their son’s bedroom, and they knew something had happened. When the dad reached the bedroom, he did not first check the chalkboard to make sure his son had completed each task before entering. The father rushed up the stairs, bypassed the chore list, and ran straight into the bedroom to help his son.
Such was the story of my life nearly ten years ago, and it was my father who was there for me. It was truly a rock bottom moment. Have you ever found yourself there? Perhaps you are in a rock bottom moment now or you sense it just around the corner. I have found that a person has two choices in that moment: (1) bounce back or (2) quit. In the moment, quitting is definitely the easier of the two, but here is the problem with quitting—it inevitably leads to death. Whether it is in the arena of business, marriage, ministry, sports, etc., quitting brings finality to your dreams, and without a dream, what more do you have to live for?
I hit rock bottom on August 31, 2009, when I surrendered to the Federal Correctional Institute (Low) in Forrest City, Arkansas, and I’m so thankful my story doesn’t end there. I chose to bounce back. When I hit rock bottom, God unveiled and unraveled His Word to me like never before. Bible stories I had been taught as a child, read throughout my life and even preached from the pulpit opened up to me on a whole new level. I saw within His Word a rich history of great men and women who experienced rock bottom moments, and how they overcame them and rebuilt their lives as a memorial to God.
The book of Nehemiah outlines the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem, and it was from this book that God etched the blueprint in my heart for rebuilding my life, and I want to share one key element with you that was vital for me. In speaking about the prodigal son, Luke 15:17-18 says, And when he came to himself, he said, how many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father…
Whatever the case may be, there comes a time when a person must come to himself if he is going to successfully rebuild his life. For the prodigal son, once he came to himself, he then turned to his father, a man of covenant and mercy. This was perhaps the greatest decision he ever made.
When I came to myself and made the heartfelt decision to turn away from my sinful actions, the first person I turned to was my father. I met him one afternoon, and we went for a drive. We pulled off the road into a secluded area and began to talk. I opened up about the wrong in my life. A man once asked me, “With your father being the pastor of such a large church, what did he say?” In that moment with my dad, I truly thought I was about to have the hammer dropped on me like never before. I just knew that I was about to get unloaded on but what I thought would happen was certainly not what I got. You see, the devil had convinced me that there was no hope for me and that everyone I loved would walk out on me once the truth came out, and this is how he works in the lives of so many people. The devil thrives on keeping people bound in sin to keep them from fulfilling the plan of God for their lives.
I can vividly recall my dad’s words and quote them verbatim. He looked at me and said, “Well, that has got to be a load off of you.” With the greatest compassion and mercy I have ever seen in a man he said, “I bet you feel better now.” He was talking about the unburdening of my sinful actions, and he was right. It was a life-altering act of mercy.
I truly have the best, most awesome father in the world. Words will never convey the caliber of man he is or how thankful I am that he is my father. He is a man who has staying power when times get tough. He stands fast in the face of opposition. He is a family man like no other, and he truly is a man of covenant and mercy, just like his heavenly Father.
When I think about a person of covenant and mercy, such as my father, two traits stand out to me.
- They are people who are “there”—who won’t walk out on someone they love or are in covenant with. Having grown up in ministry, it has been eye-opening to see the actions of Christians who seem to thrive on kicking a man when he is down. Over the years my dad has told me the line to hurt the hurting is far longer than the line to help restore a person. I can honestly say I have always found my father in the second line. I can remember times when my dad has been persecuted by fellow ministers because he left a lunch table when the gossip began to tear another minister apart. He refused to be a part of it because he truly is a man of covenant and mercy.
- A person of covenant and mercy is one who gathers. I have experienced in my own life and seen in the lives of many others my father’s ability to help people gather the pieces of their lives together when it looks like all is lost. When a person hits a rock bottom moment, it seems that everything is scattered, and this is the point I have seen my father enter in and help to gather the pieces back together. I never imagined I would find myself in the position of needing this from my dad, but I did. And if it weren’t for him and his God-given ability to help restore a man, I can honestly say that I don’t believe I would be here today.
Hebrews 12:1 says, Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us. While I was incarcerated, this verse became a reality to me. This cloud of witnesses doesn’t only consist of the people who have gone before us—they are people here on earth as well, and my father is certainly one that was a stellar example of a man who knows how to run his race when it seems everything is against you.
In thinking about my own life as a father, I truly have the greatest example in front of me. My heavenly Father is everything to me, and He gave me the greatest father a son could ever ask for. I count myself extremely blessed to have the example of my father in raising my own two sons. My father is the strongest man I know. Strong is not always easy. However, for people of covenant and mercy strong is right.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad! Thank you for always being there!