Recently, with my arthritis flaring up, I've had little discussions with the Lord. I pray for healing, for patience to endure, for a heart of sacrifice...then I pray prayers where I try to reason with Him.
There's a guy in our church, Dave, who has had a lot of medical issues. (You may remember him from previous posts here, here, and here.) He calls his medical visits "missions" because every time he's hospitalized or whatever his family tends to meet someone who needs to hear from the Lord and they share with them. He had made a pact with God stating He could use his health for His good. Since then God has put him through a lot, but He's always been faithful at healing him and getting him through it all.
Well, in the midst of my pain I told the Lord, "I didn't make that kind of pact! I don't want to be used this way!"
Then, this past week, in cleaning out and organizing our back rooms, I found an old journal with the following entry:
A few days ago, on my way to work, God really put my dad on my heart. It's not the first time. I was thinking about how the only way God got him to pray was by getting my brother in a bad accident. He only prayed when he felt he was going to lose him and knew he had no control. If that's the case, Lord, feel free to use me. If it means a bad accident and almost losing me, do it. If it means he has to lose everything to be humbled and not self-reliant, do it. If we'll have to live on the streets, do it. Even if it means my life...do it. Just get him living for you. Help him learn to forgive and accept the church for what it is - people, sinners, hypocrites. People to support and hold accountable.
How quickly I've forgotten the heart that lead me to pray with such courage and surrender. In reading it I've realized just how much God has answered that prayer! My suffering hasn't been for nothing!
With my hands getting worse my dad hasn't been able to hide his concern. We had a heart to heart about the symptoms I've been experiencing and I think he felt how serious I was and saw the hope had gone a bit from my eyes. He felt the bumps on my finger joints. Since then he's been more open about his concern for me. I think he's realizing I'm mortal and wishes he could control my health.
To me, his concern is a huge step. I can't wait for the day he completely softens his heart to God and can truly experience His furious love for him. By blocking out the bad he's blocking out the good, all the joy the Lord wants to give him. He'll never heal if he doesn't allow the Lord to open up those wounds and help him deal with the fear and disappointment he used to seal up his heart.
It was mostly my perception that he had a hard heart that is the reason I didn't get along so well with my dad when I was growing up. He wasn't emotional and saw emotion as a weakness. I remember one day he told me, "to feel good you also have to be able to feel bad so I'd rather not feel at all." And he raised us that way, all the while my heart getting overloaded with everything I felt I couldn't express. It was always hard to fully be who I was around him, feeling the bondage of his authority and the fear of being teased.
My dad and I had a breakthrough in college when my heart was overwhelmed to call him up and let him know that I forgive him for all the crap I've held against him (which has been a daily journey). He didn't really know how to respond, but since then it felt like a wall was torn down between us. Still, I lived under his roof and his spiritual authority in our house, but I took less offense in our spiritual banter and was moved for his soul. It was a couple years later that I wrote the above entry. It wasn't until I began dealing with my broken relationship with my dad that I was able to feel real love and concern for him. I no longer wanted him to change so I'd have a better life, but desired the Lord to get a hold of his soul so he would desire to become more like Christ.
Lord, continue to open my dad's heart. Heal him from past scars. Show him what an emotional God you are, that Your heart broke for him during his childhood, that you wept with him when his dad abandoned him, every time his step-dad abused him, when his favorite aunt was murdered, when his mom died with cancer...Help him forgive You for not saving his mom's mortal life. Show him Your love and forgiveness. Break through his logic and vows and touch his heart mightily!
Jesus, help me to stay faithful to You despite my pain and flesh. Daily renew my spirit to witness to my dad about Your goodness! Let my hope and Your love be something so strong and intriguing that he has to have it. Get me back to a place of urgency. Save his soul!