This is Worse and Better Than I Thought

The pain that comes in the wake of losing my father has layers that I didn’t expect. I’m caught off guard by the emotions that accompany the hurt.

I didn’t expect the fear. For the first time in 50 years, the guy that I could always count on isn’t there. The safe place, reliable counsel, unconditional love and complete support is gone. The result included a feeling of vulnerability that I didn’t expect because I have never felt it before. I found myself uncovered and unprotected in a way that I had never known.

I’ve ministered to hundreds of people with significant dad issues and represented hundreds more as a criminal defense attorney. I’ve understood the reality of the how important the dad relationship is and diagnosed the cause and effect correctly. I didn’t know and couldn’t have known the depth of the fear that accompanies the hurt.

I have felt aloneness in the adjustment to my father’s absence even though I enjoyed the benefit of his presence for 50 years. It breaks my heart to know that some people go through their entire life with the pain and fear that come from an absent father without knowing the joy of the contrast. I don’t have to stay in the hurt or the fear and neither do they, but the fact that I know what it’s supposed to feel like is a huge benefit.

In the processing of the grief and void of my dad’s consistency, I’ve realized the love of the Father. I’ve known it before, but it’s different now. It was incredible always, but it’s different when there isn’t a father. The joy of knowing that I am a son to the One that gave me a father in the first place is tangible.

No matter if your father story is one of a good dad, bad dad or somewhere in the middle dad, the target and invitation is always to the Father. He wants to provide the eternal relationship which may or may not have been modeled well in your temporal experience.

God gave His son so we could be sons and daughters. We are invited into the security of a relationship which will never end. We are invited into the safe place, reliable counsel, unconditional love and complete support of a Father that is perfect and forever. We don’t have to be afraid; we can be loved.

The Final Promotion

The day before the surgery, I texted my dad to tell him that I didn’t have any peace with the plan to open his chest up. By a prophetic nudge, I was prompted to make my concerns known to him. He answered back:

“Son,

I can understand your concerns. I considered taking the stent route. Why would anybody think of having their chest cut open a second time? I just don’t have any faith that is a long-term fix and I don’t want to suffer a heart attack when one collapses.

Your mom and I both have prayed this thru and are at total peace with the choice. God has blessed us with good health and beautiful family and we have wanted for nothing. We believe he watches over us in all circumstances and our lives on earth will be as long or short as He wills.

I love you and take great pride in the man you have become. Take peace that we rest in the grace of God.

Dad”

I’ve re-read this text time and time again. I’ve copied it and saved it. I value it and don’t want to lose it. I love how he calls me “Son” in it. I can hear his voice when I read it.

He had voiced much of what was in the text to my mother. He didn’t want to live in fear of a heart attack and was seeking a fix that would afford him the freedom to live. He still had passion for his purpose on earth, but if the surgery didn’t work out, he was completely comfortable with eternity as his next stop. He was completely assured of his salvation in Jesus and the promise of heaven. It was a compelling assurance vs. the compromise of a life lived on earth in fear and reservations.

The total peace that he had was real. That eternal peace wasn’t assurance of temporal outcomes. He knew he could die. Yet, he would live.

There is no way to live life with healthy zeal until and unless we know that life on earth is just the first chapter. All of eternity is available beyond the experience we have here and now. The next step is one into promotion. My father had been promoted a bunch of times in his career but nothing compared to this one.

It hurts from this perspective but the joy we can have for the ones that are promoted is available in Jesus. Without Jesus and His promise of eternal life, there is no hope beyond the pain of death. With Him, however, the sting of death is softened as death gives way to new life.

I really mean that, and so did my dad. So does Jesus.

Seeking Treasure in the Trouble

We don’t always get what we want. Our prayers are not equivalent to lottery tickets. God tells us that in this world we are going to have trouble. So bad things happen to good people. Not because God is doing bad things to people, but because He loves people enough to let them make choices and there are cascading consequences in a fallen world. The hard things can be good things.

In the Social Media age, the good news and big smiles are on display as we put our virtual best foot forward. Comparison between our trouble and other people’s smiles can feed frustration in the wake of problems. If we choose to evaluate our situation, consequences, problems, trouble, God, etc. in such a shallow manner, we will miss it.

We’ll miss the treasure available in the deep dive. The good stuff is often in the middle of the hard stuff. When our efforts and desires leave us disappointed and out of options, we can tap into more. We can tap into eternity.

The happiness that comes from good things is insignificant compared to the joy that is eternally available despite bad things. The peace that we can know exceeds our understanding and affirms God’s goodness when we choose to be thankful where we would otherwise be anxious.

Whether or not 2017 was your best year ever, there is a depth that is available even as you reflect. Ask God to show Himself in circumstances where you didn’t realize Him. Ask Him to comfort your soul and connect the dots of understanding in the wake of otherwise unsatisfying experiences. Press into Him and wait; He is faithful and He is good.

There is always more in Him and the trials that we face affirm us as much as they do Him. He tells us that we can inherit eternal treasures and share in His glory if we will choose to share in his sufferings (Romans 8:17). Bad things happen, so we can either choose to invite Him into the middle of those things seeking His glory and our inheritance or we can form some bad theology around our shallow expectations.

The Exponential Power of a Life Well Lived

My father passed away on Friday rather unexpectedly. There was a complication with an operation he had on Tuesday and he was gone quickly. On its face, all that is left is grief and questions; underneath the top layer, there is inspiration.

My father’s life was not his own; he gave it away. He had given his life to Jesus and the purposes of the Kingdom of God. He served in his church and community as his full-time job in his retirement years. He was looking for ways to bless and serve others right up to the end of his life. He made much of Jesus in the life that he lived.

He also gave his life to his family. My sister and I, along with our families, children and grandchildren, received the incredible inheritance of a living picture. A living picture of a life lived with integrity, humility, reliability and selflessness, among other things. We got to see what it looks like to finish well. We got a good look at the target of a life well lived. You’ve got to see the target to be able to hit it.

For 50 years, I enjoyed the steady and consistent teaching of shoulder to shoulder experience with a man who did it. There were no unanswered questions as his affirmation, love and support were both spoken and unspoken. That is an incredible gift and I am more thankful than I can describe. The heritage he crafted is a legacy to steward and multiply. It calls me into the purpose of generational impact. The context of generational impact is eternity.

Without context, there cannot be understanding. Understanding facilitates purpose. Purpose is collaborative in the sense that we all have opportunities to agree with others in our purpose to multiply our impact as well as theirs. Purpose brings us full circle back to context.

He was not afraid of what happens next. The reason he wasn’t afraid is because he was increasingly acclimated. He knew of heaven for heaven’s sake because his life was increasingly agreeing with heaven on earth. The lines between here and there got blurry as he sought a supernatural impact even in the restraint of his natural surroundings.

God blesses generations and generations carry momentum. The Kingdom advances with increasing momentum and we’ll realize it as we agree. When we have eyes to see beyond the visible, there is more than death; there is life from death.

We are grieving and that is good and right. The sadness is real; the pain is tangible. Context, purpose and understanding use grief as fuel for glory. “For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!” (2 Cor 4:17)

 

It Might Take Forever

As a practicing attorney, I once had a consult with a potential client. During our first meeting in my office, I realized that the task at hand for this particular client wasn’t as legal as it was something different. Her legal situation, while not particularly egregious, was grim. She had been convicted of a misdemeanor and was appealing the conviction as she wanted desperately to clear her record.

As she sat and poured out her problems, I eventually put my pen down and just listened. The facts surrounding the accusation were simple and the legal defense took just a minute to consider. The chances of winning were slim, at best. The facts surrounding the rest of her life were not nearly as simple. Without going into detail, she had taken some pretty tough hits in life and the result was financial stress, health problems and the challenge of raising two children on her own.

During that consultation, I told her how we would handle her case. As importantly, I tried to give her something to get a hold of for her to begin to handle her life, as well. Simple encouragement that brought hope and perspective. Just pointing out her positives and calling her vision to the truth of the hope of what could be.

We went to trial and lost. We tried – threw a legitimate legal argument at a legitimate legal problem. It was a long shot, though, and I was a little concerned about my client’s confidence and outlook as we left the courtroom.

I started to debrief her in the hallway and she interrupted me. She said, “Mr. Prickett, I am as full of hope right now as I have been in a long time. When I came to your office, I was scared and defeated but you were kind to me. Nobody has said the nice things that you said to me in my entire life. Those words were exactly what I needed to hear.” I listened and watched as a single tear rolled down her cheek. She went on to share that she had signed up for college classes even though “it may take forever to get my degree, but I’m going to be moving forward with positive steps to keep my mind off of my problems.”

There is more to this thing we do, whatever it is we do, than the stuff that we do. Sometimes we just have to stop what we’re doing, put our pen down, and agree with the life that is barely hanging on in the soul of another. Our agreement with hope in the life of another won’t fix all of their immediate problems but it might just get things going the right direction.

The Pain of Sutherland Springs is Real

I have to admit that when I when I initially hear news like the news out of South Texas yesterday regarding the shooting at a church, I am numb. The scene, reality and ramifications are abstract when I begin to consider them. The hurt is hard to imagine from the distance of the circumstances.

To make it more challenging, the frequency of these stories has numbed the pain of the reality. Las Vegas was just a few weeks ago and now this. There seems to be one right after the other and it’s hard to get your head around, much less your heart.

Yesterday as I was considering the situation in South Texas, I heard that the pastor of that little church was in Oklahoma with his wife yesterday but heading home. I also read that the pastor and his wife confirmed that their 14-year old daughter was among the dead. That did it for me; the abstract was tangible and my heart broke.

I am a pastor and I have a 14-year old daughter. I wept as I considered their pain and felt the reality of this tragedy. I prayed differently as I processed the human processing of grief. Their lives will never be the same and hers was robbed.

Part of my initial distance was the distraction of gun rights advocates and anti-gun advocates posturing on social media; hijacking the need to connect to the human reality. Political reasons, blame, rallies and reactions make things a Power Point presentation for the purpose of supporting a position. The task at hand is compassion and comfort, not convincing.

In this world, there is going to be trouble. No matter what. We are in a dark world and our only hope is the Light within. That Light within does not have a political agenda, He has a people agenda. He hurts for people and we are invited to agree with Him at times where tragedy seems abstract and politics seem relevant.