My dad passed away this past week. He was a great father, true friend, WWII vet, patriot and Christian. He will be deeply missed.
My dad had many admirable qualities. The most striking thing to me about my father, however, was his mercy, longsuffering and forgiveness.
When I was a very lost, rebellious and offensive teenage punk, he never gave up on me—even when others and conventional wisdom were screaming at him to. Not only did dad show me unreserved love and forgiveness when I was hurting him, my mother and others, but when Christ turned my life around dad never brought up my past or the pain that I caused him. The only time he ever reminded me of something bad that I had done in days gone by was when it was really funny and no one got hurt or arrested.
In my eyes, my dad personified the Scripture in James 2:13 which says, “Mercy triumphs over judgment.”
Here’s what I’m talking about: When dad could have cut me off, he didn’t; when he could have left me to my own devices, he didn’t; when he could have rotted his days away in bitterness over the deep and multiple offenses that I levied on him when I was young and stupid … he didn’t.
My dad had every right in the world to distance himself from me, as I was a shame to his person and his family, but you know what? He didn’t. And guess what? His love bomb mercy strategy worked, and I am forever grateful for his grace toward me when I was gross toward him.
Matter of fact, from the time I finally woke the hell up from my destructive behavior on December 7, 1983 all the way up to April 25, 2011, when dad passed away, I made it my ambition, along with my family, to pay him back in spades, to honor him, to endeavor never to displease him, and to show him a rip-roaring good time fishing the flats of south Florida and hunting our nation’s great game fields as a big “thank you” for his unflinching grace toward me.
Finally—and I’ll shut up with this—I think if dad could rise up out of his grave and say anything to us right now it would be, “Wow, did you see that blond hospice volunteer?” Just kidding. But not really.
Seriously, it would go something like this: If you have an offense against family or friends … lay it down. It isn’t worth it. Do this instead: Love the offender more than yourself; don’t fly off the handle when hurt; don’t keep score of their sins against you; don’t revel when they grovel; always look for the best in them; always trust God even if the relationship/situation seems hopeless; and never forget the biblical maxim that kind mercy wins over harsh judgment every time.
I know it did with me.
RIP, dad, RIP.