I never ran away from home; I thought about it many times but was smart enough to know I couldn’t make it on my own nor could I fry chicken, or bake a meatloaf like my mother. Of course, I would have only been seven, eight, nine, maybe ten years old then; feeling mistreated or neglected which is to say things didn’t go my way, Daddy didn’t give in and let me have whatever it was I wanted to have or do at the time. As I grew older, though, moving into my teenage years, I was a pubescent tyrant, a rebel, a wayward child, hooked on Rock ‘n’ Roll and running with the wrong crowd. Growing up in the Hippie age of the 60’s, Flower Power and Woodstock ruled, and Viet Nam generally occupied the lead story spot on the nightly news. We weren’t smoking cigarettes and watching Captain Kangaroo, as the Statler Brothers sang on the radio, though; it was marijuana and the Mod Squad for delinquent adolescents like me – but we were cool. Mine was the extreme antitype of my parent’s generation – a generation I wanted to be lightyears away from.
Fish netting hung from my bedroom ceiling. Strobe lights and iridescent black lights gave an eerie lifelike appearance to the psychedelic posters of the Beatles, Black Sabbath and Jimi Hendrix hanging on the walls. With the volume of my eight-track player cranked up, and Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues, Bloodrock, Ozzy Osbourne or Grand Funk Railroad pouring through the speakers, I was in my world – a crazy, mixed up world quite distant from my father’s.
Looking back, I sometimes find it interesting that as my older brother and I would from time to time sing as a duet for family gatherings and a Boy Scouts convention once, we did a lot of Bob Dylan type of music. The interesting aspect is Daddy never picked up on the anti-war protest lyrics that was often the subject of Dylan’s music – or did he? It sounded innocent enough I suppose, and made for a nice bridge between our generations. Perhaps he just looked the other way or maybe he understood as Dylan once wrote, “The Times They Are A Changin’.”
The long and short of it is this: I was to my dad what that demon the apostle Paul wrote about in 2 Corinthians 12:7 was to him, “a thorn in the flesh”. In modern terms, I was a pain in my daddy’s butt, but he loved me. Everything he wanted for me, though, was the thing I didn’t want for myself. College, no way – I did my time, at least all the time I was legally required to do and that under duress. Having dropped out of school in my junior year, I was running down a dark path looking for freedom; Freedom from the confines of my father’s rules, freedom from him; to do my thing whenever, wherever, however, and with whomever I pleased. Sex and drugs – drugs and sex, were the things that mattered – the only things. Today, more than 40 years later, I still am astonished that I never became an addict or wound up in prison. I owe that good fortune to my daddy and my God.
Bottom line, God loved my father, and both God and my father loved me. Though many times in my mutinous life I may have questioned that love; as I look back over the roadmap of my youthful years noting the rugged roads I chose to travel, ironically, they always wound there way back to the place and person I wanted away from and he was always there waiting for my return with outstretched arms, a hand and a pocket book to help.
So very many times he came to my rescue bailing me out of the frequent fixes I would get myself into or just be there for me (regardless of the hour) when I would show up on his doorstep needing help – again. I certainly wasn’t deserving of his goodness, I had blown that aspect of our relationship years before burning bridge after bridge. Funny, though, it seems every time I would set a bridge between us on fire, he would go behind me to put it out. Why? Why was he always there for me, putting out fires, bandaging my self-inflicted wounds, and doing so in spite of my foolish ways and inability to get my act together, to make right choices and do the right thing? I am his child, that is why, and for no other reason.
Our heavenly father is that way too, you know; always watching and waiting for the prodigal son or daughter’s return home. Regardless of how rebellious you may have been or may now be. No matter how great your sin – God loves you still. Even as I write, he is peering through the window of time looking for you, patiently waiting to see your precious face appear on the horizon; and don’t be surprised when he comes running to meet you, wraps his arms around you, and kisses you on the cheek, both sides. Why would he do that? You are his child, and he loves you – unconditionally.
This devotional writing inspired by the current sermon series titled, “Prized”underway at the Community Life Church (c|Life). To follow along or learn more about c|Life click here.