Noah... what can I say?
I have been thinking about you a lot these past couple of months, Son, in ways I hadn't before. Your grandpa just died, and you never got to meet him. One thing I have noticed since becoming a parent is that many people have different ideas of HOW to parent. Some people try and shelter their kids from things that may harm them, and I get that, but at the same time I want to be honest and real with you about the darkness in our world. I get that there is an age where you are too young to really understand, but when the time is right, I don't want to hold the whole truth back from you. I know that your grandpa, Jerrel, loved you. I sent him pictures of you, and your aunt said that he would look at them often. I want you to know that the reason you never got to meet him wasn't you... and as much as I have thought otherwise before... it wasn't me either.
Grandpa and I hadn't talked for a couple of years, so you can imagine that it was very hard to hear the news of his death. For the longest time, I carried a weight around about our broken relationship, blaming myself for the silence between us... but God has delivered me from it. Jesus has taken that weight from my shoulders.
It started in 2012 when I gave my life to Jesus. I WAS SO EXCITED to KNOW God for the first time in my life... to know the truest expression of love, sacrificial love. I was changed. My heart was different after I surrendered to Jesus. It was like God gave me glasses that I never knew I needed, and for the first time in my whole life I could actually see clearly. I started to hurt, thinking about your grandpa. He lived a tough life. He was always in pain from his back injuries, and he was always in emotional pain from the divorce between him and your grandma and many subsequent bad decisions he made in life. The divorce happened when I was around 9, but I still remember visiting him in his apartment and him crying to sleep at times. I knew, even at age 9, that his soul was heavy to the point of crushing him. I remember him making strides, even reaching out to God during this time... but I also saw him reaching to other things to try and numb the pain.
I've always known his life was a hard one, even though much of the trials were self-inflicted. That didn't stop me from sharing in his pain though. I mean, this was MY dad just as I am yours. That was why I moved in with him when I was 14. I saw him, lonely, and my heart hurt for him after his second divorce. No matter whether or not someone could say he deserved it, I hated to see him hurting, bitter, and looking for comfort in places that I now understand could never satisfy or heal. I wrote Grandpa a letter and flew to Oklahoma to speak to him, heart to heart, back in 2013. I felt like he would do the same for me. If he saw me drinking the way he did... killing myself a little more and more every day... wouldn't he have slapped me out of it?? Me being his son?
Love doesn't always do or say what makes someone comfortable. Love is more concerned with health thAn comfort. Satan is content with helping many become comfortable as long as they're dying. true love is willing to do and say the hard things for the sake of the other person. Love looks beyond the surface level PLEASANTRIES and is willing to risk broken fellowship with the hopes that a word of truth may lead another to healing, even through pain.
I want you to KNOW who Grandpa was, the good and the ugly, just like God doesn't try and sugar-coat His Word for us. He presents people in the Bible just the way they were, flaws and all. I want you to know Grandpa... not a lie... but truthfully. Why? Why do we sometimes feel the need to try and protect our young by painting family members, friends, or others in a "holier" light than the truth? I get the intention behind this, which is usually not wanting to upset a child, but how will you or anyone ever see clearly the effects of sin... the devastation it causes... if we try and sweep it under the rug? Your grandpa had been through MANY stages of life. There was a time when he was a deacon at a Free Will Baptist church in Oklahoma! According to your grandma, he gave his life to the Lord after a Billy Graham message and immediately developed a thirst for God's Word! I even remember him personally teaching Sunday school at a church they took me to when I was a couples years older than you. What happened, you may be thinking?
“I make this covenant and this oath, not with you alone, but with him who stands here with us today before the Lord our God, as well as with him who is not here with us today (for you know that we dwelt in the land of Egypt and that we came through the nations which you passed by, and you saw their abominations and their idols which were among them—wood and stone and silver and gold); so that there may not be among you man or woman or family or tribe, whose heart turns away today from the Lord our God, to go and serve the gods of these nations, and that there may not be among you a root bearing bitterness or wormwood; and so it may not happen, when he hears the words of this curse, that he blesses himself in his heart, saying, ‘I shall have peace, even though I follow the dictates of my heart’—as though the drunkard could be included with the sober. - Deuteronomy 29:14-19
Sin happened. Wrong choices happened, just as easily as it could happen to you or I. I have peace about your grandpa, Son, because God has comforted my heart and made it clear to me that he is in heaven with Him. Grandpa knew Jesus. At one point in his life he had been born again, and God NEVER goes back on His promises. God imparted the "promised" Holy Spirit into him at the moment of his salvation as a down payment, an earnest payment of the inheritance that awaited him. (Ephesians 1) Grandpa became a child of God, a son of inheritance at that moment. He was then related to God as a son. Though they had no fellowship because of Grandpa's choices, you can't "unmake" yourself a son to your father.
No matter where your decisions in life take you, Noah, you will never stop being my son. You may want nothing to do with me, much like Grandpa toward me, but no bitterness in his heart could stop me from being his son or caring about him. The same is true with God. God is our heavenly Father, and He is a GOOD Father. He desires only good things for us. He has given us so many promises that He desires us to take advantage of and walk in through our relationship and fellowship with Him. But we have a choice, a free will to make decisions. Your grandpa was full of hurt and bitterness all the way to the end because of his decision to follow after his own flesh instead of his heavenly Father's direction. Some may say I am judgmental by saying these things, but I am only speaking the truth as the Word of God reveals it. I am no better or able to stand on my own against the lusts of MY flesh, the world, or the devil. I need Jesus just as much as you, just as much as Grandpa... but that is why we must cling to Christ so closely, Son. We are prone to sin, and through the influence of those who have gone before us, chased after their flesh, and clung to bitterness or hardheartedness, we too could easily stumble and fall from a position of walking in grace and fellowship.
What a dark and painful life it is for the prodigal child of God who refuses to give up the pig slop and be healed.
I want different for you, Noah. I want to see your strength overshadow those in your family tree. I want to see you walk so closely with Jesus that all the enemy could do to misdirect you comes to nothing! I pray constantly to OUR God of all grace that, though I don't deserve it, nor often find the strength to walk in it, that HE would fill me so full of His Spirit and lavish His grace so completely upon me that I WOULD be the father that I ought to be toward you... Though in the end, I pray the apple doesn't fall far from the tree but soars above it all together.
There is one thing I want you to take away from this letter. Our heavenly Father is a perfect Father who will never fail you. I may, though I pray I do not. I may simply be a bad example at some point in our lives, even if our fellowship and relationship remains sweet to the end. When that happens, cling even tighter to the Lord. He loves you with a love that is ALWAYS unselfish and pure. I pray each day that, by God's grace, the enemy is unsuccessful in tempting me toward the sins of my father...I also pray the same for you, my son.
I love you, you little turd.
Your father, James