Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Regrets and Grace

Have you ever had one of those days where you don't want to get out of bed? One of those days where you just want to pull the covers back up over your head and hide from the world? Well, I'm having one of those days today. I don't exactly know what brought on this mood; all I know is that I woke up in a funk. And not the George Clinton kind. I've been trying to shake the funk all morning, but it doesn't seem to go anywhere. I don't know how to explain it other than I feel as if I am literally weighted down and exhausted. There is a pressure in my chest that makes it difficult to breathe. It kind of feels like I'm stuck underwater, unable to come up for air. Not a pretty picture. Not a pretty feeling.
Like I said, I don't exactly know what brought on this mood. I do, however, have a few ideas. Saturday was my dad's birthday. Well, it would have been his birthday, if he was still alive. But, he passed away two years ago in January. He had cancer. Cancer that started in his colon and metastasised to his liver. By the time it was diagnosed, it was Stage IV, and he had three months to live.
Three months is not a lot of time. Especially when you have a lot of time to make up for. You see, my dad and I hadn't spoken in about two years when he was diagnosed with liver cancer. There were reasons for that. Reasons that seemed valid at the time. Reasons that would still seem valid to many people, especially proponents of the "tough love" school of thought. But, death has a way of stripping every relationship down to its raw core. And, when it came down to it, I may not have condoned my father's behavior, but I did love him. I don't deny that I have many more bad memories associated with my dad than good ones, but I will tell you that it is the good ones that I remember most often. After all, he was still my daddy.
I tried to be more present after my dad was diagnosed with cancer. I visited him at the hospital while he had his chemo treatments. I helped him prepare his living will. We spent Christmas together. I helped plan his funeral. And, when it became entirely clear that he wasn't going to make it out of the hospital, I didn't leave. When we moved my dad to hospice, I held his hand in the ambulance. And I sat by his side, holding his hand, as he took his last breath. I have no regrets about any of those things. Despite all the pain involved, I wouldn't have traded any of those moments for anything.
But that doesn't mean that I don't have any regrets. Because regrets, I have more than a few. While I sat for hours on end with my dad, telling him how much I loved him, and how much I had always loved him, we never talked about the breakdown in our relationship. Even in those final days, I couldn't muster up enough courage to talk about it, and I couldn't choke out the words to tell him how sorry I was for my part in the whole mess.

But, that isn't even what I regret the most. You see, my dad wasn't a Christian. In fact, he was very outspoken in his belief that God did not exist. There were many times I felt the need to talk to him about God while he was in the hospital, but you know what, I never did it. I could make all kinds of excuses for myself. I wasn't in church, I wouldn't have known what to say, etc. And, both those things were true. In fact, although I knew about Jesus, and although I had "walked the aisle" as a teenager, I can tell you now that I had never been to the cross at that point in time. But, none of that matters. I knew in my heart I should say something to my dad, and I didn't. Over the course of the last two years, I have asked myself why I didn't say anything. A better person would have said something; you would have said something. I'd like to think I'd say something if I had it to do over again. Ultimately, the bottom line was that I didn't say anything because I was afraid. Afraid, that my dad would reject my message; afraid that my dad would reject me. Fear. It is so ugly and so destructive.

But, God is good. Despite my failure, God wanted my dad to be saved. He had my mother, my dad's ex-wife, step in to talk to my dad about Jesus. And, I am grateful that she did because he believed. One of the last things my dad said before he died was that he needed more Christ in his life. And, I'm no theologian, but I believe that he has a whole lot more of Him in his life now.

So, as I look toward Easter Sunday this weekend, I am so thankful for the mercy and grace of our God. I am thankful that He doesn't want anyone to perish and that He wants all to come to repentance. I am thankful that He chose my dad to be one of His children. But, perhaps, most of all, I am thankful that He sent His Son to die for my sins. And, He says that if I will confess them, He will forgive them. No matter how small or how big those sins are. And, for that, I am grateful.

There aren't very many days that go by that I don't think about my dad, and there aren't very many days that I don't wish he were still alive. But looking back in hindsight, I do see God's hand at work. If my dad had never gotten terminal cancer, he would have never accepted Christ. If my dad had not been given three months to live, and instead, would have died instantaneously, we would have never reconciled to the extent that we did. And, if my dad had never gotten cancer, I may have never set foot in a church. And, I may have never come face to face with my Savior.
My dad didn't have many requests regarding his funeral, but he did want three specific songs played. The last song he wanted played at his funeral was "You Can't Always Get What You Want" by the Rolling Stones. And while a day doesn't go by that I don't wish I had handled things differently with my dad, I am comforted by the fact that while you can't always get what you want, sometimes you might find you get what you need. And, I have certainly gotten what I need. Grace. And, I am forever thankful.

PS--I know that this post wasn't pretty, and I know that it was very heavy. I am reminded that my dad loved to laugh. So, if you haven't done so, please read my post from yesterday. It just might make you laugh.


Sarah said...

This is BEAUTIFUL! What a kind, loving tribute to your father and to grace, personified. I'm so thankful for it, and I have the hardest time wrapping my brain around the idea of grace, sometimes. My human nature wants to say, "Ok, but what do I have to do?" I can just sit in amazement when I think about it at times.

I think this is such an amazing story. My mom and I were just talking the other night about how death is really just another part of life!

I think regrets are so normal this side of Heaven. It always amazes me when people say they don't regret anything in life, because it helped them become who they are, blah blah blah...I'm thankful that God can make beauty out of my ashes, but regrets? Of course! But we learn. And try again. And sometimes mess up again. Enter Grace again. :)

Thank you for sharing this. It's definitely a witnessing story!

melissa said...

I love you girlfriend! You are smart, funny, kind, and wise. Someone told me once that God uses all the "stuff" in life as a chisel to create a masterpiece out of all of us...He helps us become more and more like Jesus. You are a work of art!

Sunni at The Flying Mum said...

I understand those days when you want to pull the covers over your head and go back to sleep. Thanks for being real & honest.

Laurie said...

Thank you for such great advice about the star chart! Great idea!