Every person has a story and each story has a different theme. Mine became indelible on my 13th birthday when my drunken father tried to cut my head off saying, “I’m going to kill Larry because he’s going to turn out like me.” He tried but was arrested first.
Inwardly the lyrics to my tune were, I’d have to prove I’m good and not evil like my Dad said I’d be. Absolutely prove it! This led to a lifetime of tackling projects with a gusto of effort convinced that no matter what the obstacle I could, no strike could ~ that I would succeed. I had to succeed. But that gusto was external while much of the internal was hollow. After all the real me was guarding against revealing any flaws, errors or sins.
In some ways everyone is kind of like this, but early trauma can steer some people into inwardly believing they never are good enough. Not good enough to be genuinely liked, loved, needed, forgiven, saved or such like. This inner compunction forces exerting maximum effort to finally achieve victory.
I’ll spare you from a biography of my life. But I’m thankful to share that I have 4 adult children and 2 adult step children. Plus all the grandchildren and even a couple of greats that any parent would brag about. My youngest son lives nearby but all the others are hundreds of miles away.
So let’s flip the calendar pages and stop at 77. That’s me today. I’ve spent most of my life living as described above with one caveat: sheltered in the arms of my Lord and Savior Jesus. He’s used me to minister and counsel hurting hearts, abused children, broken homes and wounded souls.
Now I am facing a trial when unexpectedly my doctor said that I am in the last 3 months of life unless the heart procedure Tuesday is a success. Complicating it he said I need two procedures and he always did them together, but my heart function is so weak he can only do one this time. He hopes to do the other at a later time. Watching his eyes and parsing his comments my wife and I could sense he was uncertain about the outcome and whether he really thought he should try.
Of course, as a child of God, I’ve sang and preached about heaven. But what if the procedure failed? Was I ready to go...now? Yes, I’m a believer in Heaven...absolutely. But I’ve found myself so lonely, discouraged and adrift during this pandemic time that creeping doubts of being found unworthy have surfaced. One thing seems to lessen the doubts. I’ve always been a lover of Christian music and have found myself playing a certain genre right now. Songs about dying and going to Heaven. I still sense the hollowness I’ve felt along life’s way but to a reduced extent.
Before the pandemic my oldest daughter, who lives 400 miles away, had made a number of trips to visit me over the last several years. And my oldest son made two trips. I really miss those visits and loving embraces with them. My youngest daughter kept close by phone and email. I was able to be with my youngest son and his family who lived nearby. Each of the kids have asked to make one more trip. But with my diseased lungs and failing heart it was just too risky to have them or anyone come to our apartment for fear of being infected with the virus causing a postponement of the heart surgery. Covid-19 stopped all such visits.
So a couple of night’s ago my oldest son said, “Dad, are you afraid?” I was mute. I couldn’t answer. I’d start and stop. On and on I struggled to reply. Then tears leaked down my cheeks. Finally he and I worked part way through it. I realized I missed being with all my kids. My sweet wife has survived my struggles these past few years in her gracious ways, but it’s been a long time since I’ve been able to sit and visit with my kids and their families. We don’t play chess anymore or go out to eat or drive to the beach.
I asked the Lord to help lift my sadness and loneliness and encourage me about the outcome of my surgery. I begged Him to boost my trust in spending eternity in heaven. After a few times of praying I was reading in my Bible and found this:
Then it happened. God provided far beyond even my greatest hope.
Around 1:30 this afternoon my wife said, “Honey...your daughter is at the door.” I smiled and thought she must be teasing. I said, “Well have her come back here to my office.” Peggy said, “She won’t come in ~ ~ because of Covid. She just wants her Dad’s hug.”
My oldest daughter had shown up at my door ~ ~ unannounced ~ ~ a total surprise ~ ~ clothed from head to toe in masks and gowns and told Peggy, “I just want to hug my Dad.”
I stepped through the door and said, “I hope you didn’t come all this distance just to see this old goat.”
She said, “I did.” Then she offered to put a giant plastic wrap on in addition to her full-body protective outfit ~ ~ if I’d just hug her. Nothing mattered anymore. I wasn’t about making decisions now. I just needed to be in her arms. We crumpled into the best hug I’ve ever had. I could feel her weeping and when she left I came back here and sat at my desk and began to sob deeper than I ever had. Though Peggy came in and pulled me to her tightly it was more than a half an hour before my eyes dried enough to try to type.
Now I can face the heart procedure. After all, I just experienced one of the most special love gifts of all my 77 years. She flew 800 miles round trip in half a day just to hug her Dad.
The story is told that Roy Acuff, legendary star of country music, asked his friends to take him back to the old Ryman Auditorium one last time before he died. He was old and very nearly blind. He had performed to sellout crowds in the facility and just wanted to step out on that stage ~ ~ one final time. Outside a stage door artists and singers who had been invited to sing would hang out until their turn came to perform.
And so it was that some of Roy Acuff’s friends granted his last request and drove him to the stage door. They helped the old gentleman out and led him up the two or three steps and through the stage door to the ramp to the stage. As soon as Mr. Acuff got his hand on the worn railing he turned to his friends and said, “I’m all right now; I know where I am.” Then he straightened, squared his shoulders, and walked onto the stage before the empty auditorium… alone.
Funny ~ ~ but with a lump choking my throat I kind of relate to Roy.
Gloria Gaither, moved by God, felt this as a metaphor of an aged Gospel singer making such a final visit and then going to a higher eternal auditorium. She wrote a heart-throbbing song for Jake Hess who sang it for the final years of his life. Weep and smile as you see Jake perform his final song:
Gloria Gaither concludes her metaphor: “How well we sing our song here, how clearly we tune in to the eternal music of the Spirit, will determine how at peace we will be with the song of heaven. While we are here, if we move to the rhythm and the tempo, learn the words and the music, show up for every chance to share the song no matter how small the audience, we will and that our performance there will be natural and beautiful.”