Thursday, August 19, 2010
Image by moonjazz via Flickr
My father, whom by now you know was handicapped, transformed into a quadriplegic, taught me more grace, gratitude, patience and love in those 10 years then he had my entire life. Though restricted to his wheel chair, I felt he was freer than I had seen him. My recent blogging, back and forth with others through Living With a Quadriplegic on Face Book and my constant readings at Friday Study Ministries, especially Pastor Ron's Sermon on 2nd Timothy Chapter 2 or in the news CNN Political Tracker or on Nick Vujicic Life Without Limbs has led me to a series of sleepless nights.
Why had I waited so long to reach out to others? Why had I not looked for help for me much earlier? Why am I just now sharing the love my father brought to so many? And most importantly I have been in deep thought on the amazing love my father taught me through grace and gratitude.
Here is a man that had lost what you would consider as everything and yet, he was genuinely happy. That is not to say there were not days, or times where this peace was tried, there were many of those. The days that tested him were especially tough, but as time went on they became farther apart and shorter in duration. It was through his losses, but richness in life that I learned to live a more free life, less hindered from the little things taken or not given to me.
In 1999, though my father and mother were divorcing, my father had a plush life. As a family we had a boat, 4 cars, motorcycles, traveled, a great home, pets, plentiful food, close extended family proximity, and money enough to not worry. Yet, the life he had lived my growing years, was not as fulfilled as the life he lived as a quad. He was filled with worldly desires and needs.
My father in one of our daily talks told me “there were days, weeks, months and years that I had trouble looking myself in the mirror.” He had made decisions that were worldly, decisions that were not based on love; self love or love of others or love of Christ. He had not been living in gratitude or with the grace of God.
He kept chasing satisfaction and contentment, never reached it though, always looking for the newest material possession to fill that constant need. He surrounded himself with stuff, a trait that I had always loved in myself and has since taken me many years to control. He had valued himself (not in comparison to others) from the things he had. Whether it was all the gadgets, widgets and doodads for archery, backpacking, camping, cars, art, woodworking, darts, you name it, trinkets of greatness made him who he was and I was following that path.
WOW! Not healthy, but look into your lives…how many of you out their own a Montblanc pen, a Coach or Louis Vuitton purse, a Mercedes or Beamer? Why do you have those? I’m not different, I have a Montblanc, I buy Coach for my wife, I have a coach wallet, I just saw the perfect H1 Hummer I want, but why? That is what I am battling with and as I get more into the life my dad was teaching me I am working on diminishing the value these items bring to my life. I have started to give away or sell off most of my “trinkets” and it’s been tough, but I realize it is not what makes me who I am. It is hard to understand who YOU are, self actualizing, if the only way you can do so is if you just had insert item. A life valued on stuff is a life lost. A life valued on love filled with stuff is still a life valued on love. You take the stuff away you still have the love. My dad showed this to me.
At the end of the day, my daughter is not influenced by the car I drive, the pen I have, the purse her mommy has, the designer or non-designer clothes she wears. SHE’S TWO! She has no concept; it’s the worldly afflictions that cause these thoughts in us.
So in 2000 when he woke to nothing, my father was forced to accept or give up. Imagine if you had to value yourself on just being you, not what you are capable of doing, what you look like, what you know, what you have, but rather, just you, the core of you, what God gave to you in birth, your soul. My father was not given an easy transition like I have been afforded; he was on a crash course. He quickly began a life of gratitude, thanking the little things that were so monumental, that in his prior life, would have gone unnoticed.
He valued simple conversation, he was never in a hurry, so he missed very little of life. He had the time to stop and look at the clouds and be grateful he was able to do so. He could stop and speak to a stranger, share the Word of Christ, and just be in God’s love. For those of you that are backpackers, when you are back in the sticks, away from the pavement, you know the slowness I am speaking of. To sit in awe of God’s work then is easy and amazing. This is how my father now lived.
His actions, beliefs and love of Christ taught me how beautifully I could really live if I just lived with grace and gratitude. Think about it, that saying all of you out there who are parents, have said to your children or children have heard from your parents, "do as I say, not as I do." Well now I have a father that is living the life he is telling me to live. He has lost all those trinkets, he has nothing and had begun the process of self love and it was powerful to watch.
He died with nothing and alone. I know his heart was full and his spirit was alive with all he ever needed as he lived in Christ the remaining years of his life. I know he died loving me and my brother, Eric and all the loved ones he had hurt, my mother, her family and his friends. But that does not mean there was not a struggle for him allowing himself God’s love to mend his broken heart, for there were many he hurt.
I watched this battle, this war inside him to not allow himself to become broken from the sorrow. He had made marital decisions that were horrible, hurt his best friend, his brother-in-law, destroyed the love and respect from his In-Laws and broke down a father son relationship with my kid brother. He paid for these decisions the 10 years he spent transformed, helping others, speaking and living God’s word. In the process he became a better man, a warrior for Christ and learned to live a life valued with love hoping that one day those he hurt would forgive him, for his mistakes were not Godly, they were worldly and given the same life to live again, but this time in grace and gratitude, would not have been made.