This week marks the 18th anniversary of my father’s death. Honestly, it feels even longer; it seems like a lifetime ago. I was 10 years old when my father passed away and I’m gradually becoming more aware of how that event has shaped me. As with all things, my heart has been healed by the grace of God over time. My relationship with my Heavenly Father means more to me due to the passing of my earthly father. And I’m at a place where I can truly thank God for the painful things I’ve experienced in my life. It’s a feeling close to the heart of James 1 when the writer encourages us to consider it pure joy when we face trials. Yet, in many ways, I miss my father more now than I did a few years ago. I think part of my feeling stems from my experiences as a father and a longing to share those experiences with my own father.
But something else occured to me as we were singing Blessed Be the Name in worship recently. The line “…there’s pain in the offering” really struck me and I began to think about my experiences, specifically the pain I’ve faced in my life. And it occured to me just how much I’ve learned through those difficult times. I’m a different person because of the deaths of my father & mother. And my faith is finally strong enough to be thankful for those experiences. Without them, I might not sense the abiding presence of God in my life. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be in ministry. And, as much as I miss my parents, there’s no way I’d trade my pain (or as Gary Bradley would say my “bag of rocks”) for someone else’s. All I can do is offer that pain back before God and thank Him for it.
The difficulty with this line of thinking and praying is the effect it has on you as a parent. As I reflected on my experiences with pain, it dawned on me that soon, my children will be exposed to the pain of the world. As much as I would want to protect them and shield them from such pain, I dare not rob them of opportunities similar to the ones I’ve been afforded to wrestle with and learn from my pain. Certainly, there are some painful experiences I hope and pray my children never have to endure and I would go to great lengths to protect them from pain in some of its more vile and obscene manifestations. But if I truly want good things for them, I must pray for God to bring pain their way, too. For the testing of our faith brings perseverance. And perseverance must finish its work if we are to reach maturity. The challenge I now face as a parent is to muster the faith to pray such a prayer for my children.