There he is. My absentee father. This is the only picture I have of him. We’ve never spoken. He left when I was just a couple months old and he’s never tried to contact me. To be fair, I’ve never tried to contact him either. From time to time, I’ve toyed with the idea, but never followed through. To be honest, I’m just not sure I want to go there. I’ve heard one too many horror stories from one too many now traumatized people. And what I’ve heard of him gives me little reason to hope for something different.
But the Lord has been so good to me. He’s taught me what it means that He’s my Father– not exhaustively, but enough that I can run to him and trust in His faithful, kind, overwhelming, covenental, never-changing, always-and-forever love for me. But God in his unfailing mercy, grace, and kindness toward me didn’t just stop there.
Since He saved me, He has never left me without a spiritual father here on earth. And like the people who shared in church this morning, I want to give honor where honor is due.
When I was ensnared by the bondage of addiction, He gave me Cam and Tom. They were the elders of my tiny little reformed baptist church in Pittsburgh, with a name larger than the congregation. It was Cam who first confronted me about my double life and said we needed to talk about church discipline. I took off running, but the church came after me with cards and letters on my birthday, speaking and displaying the Gospel and the love of Jesus with such power. It was Cam’s letter and Hebrews 12 that the Lord used to break me. I still remember that meeting, where I met Cam and Tom for a meal at a local diner to talk about my sin and church discipline. We all laughed at how ridiculous we must have looked, this young girl meeting with these two grey-haired guys. They told me they wanted me to look at them as my fathers. And I still do. Both of their families kind of adopted me. They discipled me, taught me, and showed me what marriage and family means when it’s centered on and renewed daily by the Gospel. And after that meeting, where I walked in as a slave to addiction and walked out as a new creation, set free in Christ– it was Tom that the Lord used to show me what He had done. He came to me the next week (having missed the meeting) with tears streaming down his face and asked me if I was sick or feeling any pain. I honestly couldn’t figure out what he was talking about. Then I remembered– before that meeting, I couldn’t stop using. And there I was, just a few days later– clean, sober, and free. No sickness, no pain, no withdrawal symptoms whatsoever. I’ve been told by a doctor that’s a medical miracle. I am thankful beyond words for what the Lord has done and the blessings He has poured out on me through these two faithful men who delight in serving Him.
Then along came the McGallas. (This picture doesn’t belong to me, but it is just so them that I had to steal it.) In them, the Lord continued His work of teaching me about family. In them, He gave me my best friend, Evan (on the far right in the delightfully mismatched outfit), who has been the most loyal, faithful friend and truest sister I could ever ask for. He also gave me my “other mother”, Connie (cross-eyed, smack dab in the middle of the madness), who has spent countless hours pouring into me, opening her mouth with wisdom, with the teaching of kindness on her tongue. And yet another spiritual father, Zeek (next to Connie, looking unusually Amish). His passion for Jesus and the Word, broken-hearted boldness, and strong leadership have been a source of constant blessing. He always speaks the truth– ALWAYS. Even when it’s awkward or unpopular, even when it hurts, and especially when it’s funny. His spiritual analogies are always so helpful to me and often hilarious. He is the provider, protector, and priest for His family and I am thankful beyond words to be a part of it. Any man that wants to pursue me is going to have to go through him first. (By the way, he’s a high school teacher. And a farmer. And a hunter. And a godly man with really high standards. And he’s very protective of me. Be afraid, be very afraid.)
And then there’s Matt Jones– who gets a Picnik collage because I have a million pictures of him playing with his kids and they’re all too stinking cute to pick just one, and that’s totally relevant to my point. Matt is a really great Dad. He loves his children and he loves his wife. And I love watching him love them. When he comes home from working a shift longer than any period of time I’ve actually been awake for, the very first thing he does is give them all the energy, attention, and love he can muster. There are sword fights and sleeping trolls, princesses and bad guys, soccer tournaments and barbeques, hunting expeditions, hiking, running, tennis, and family bike rides with all FIVE children in tow! And after living with his family for a year, I’m pretty sure he’s actually from the planet Krypton. He’s a servant-leader. He loves his wife. They have one of the most beautiful marriages I’ve ever seen. They’re just ONE. And on top of all that, he is crazy in love with Jesus and constantly pouring into the lives of everyone he comes in contact with– from the Nepali guy who shovels sidewalks and doesn’t speak much English to the young singles in desperate need of someone older and wiser to come alongside them and speak into their lives. I count myself blessed to have fallen into that second category, another Jones family adoptee. How many times I’ve sat broken and weeping in their living room, or wondering how to interpret a particular passage of scripture, or agonizing over a difficult decision, or crying out for wisdom in the kind of ridiculous situation that only I could manage to get myself into. How many times it’s been Matt and Johanna who have stepped in with a timely word from the Lord, with prayers that speak to things I haven’t even been able to express, with straight-to-the-heart-cut-to-the-chase-Holy-Spirit-heart-discerning questions, with pearls of wisdom straight from the Word, with little golden nuggets that often begin with “You know, my Dad says…”, with open arms, weeping and rejoicing right there with me.
How can I ever begin to express my gratitude for all of these wonderful, precious gifts the Lord has given me through each of these men, their wives, and their families? I can’t. But I hope this will at least scratch the surface, and bless and encourage those who have been a constant source of blessing and encouragement to me.