As Father’s Day rolls around this year, so do the memories that I have with my dad. Most are sweet. Some are painful, but one stands out as a literal mountain top experience that changed me forever.
I was a freshman in college, and I was struggling. My dad and I had hiked for a day to reach the top of Mount Leconte. We camped that night and got up early the next morning to watch the sunrise. I wasn’t watching it though, as I was just shuffling my feet around in the dirt. I didn’t want to look my dad in the face. If I did, I knew I would break down, and I did not want to do that!
Back then I thought that following Jesus was all about being good or strong enough, and holding ourselves together for the sake of the gospel. I was wrong.
I tried to explain to him why I was having such a hard time, and I’ll never forget how he responded. He said, “Ellie, it seems like you think you’ve got to have it all together. You keep telling me that you want to be strong for God and love people well, and you also keep telling me that you feel like a total failure. I want you to picture a beautiful vase. If you poured water into that vase, it would eventually spill out over the edges, right?
“Now picture a vase with a bunch of cracks in it, and maybe a few holes, too. Pour water in that one and the water will spill out through those cracks and holes, and over the top, as well. I think it’s going to be important for you to remember that the nature of God’s love is to fill, heal and pour through our broken places. The more open we are about the broken parts of our lives, the more people can see His love meeting and healing us in our brokenness. Following Jesus isn’t really about us being good enough. It’s about God’s great goodness to us, even when we don’t deserve it.”
I was undone. Looking away from my dad’s face couldn’t stop the tears anymore, so I hugged him and thanked him for letting me know that it was okay to be just okay. For the first time I learned that God can actually use the broken places in our lives as testaments to His faithfulness.
I didn’t know it at the time, but my dad was going through a serious heart transformation. He was living out the wisdom he shared with me that morning on the mountain. My memories of him as a child are sweet. I always knew that he loved my siblings and I, and we adored him. We wanted to be around him any chance we could get, but we didn’t get a lot of chances.
Dad is a very successful music producer, and he was constantly working. He now admits that he was a workaholic, incredibly passionate about the ministry of Christian music, but also at the cost of his family. However, God was turning his heart towards home, showing him how vital it was for him to be more present as a father.
The past ten years have been wonderful. I’ve watched my father humbly allow God to transform his heart and his life, and it has changed our family. He moved his studio from downtown to inside of our home, and began pursuing our family with intentionality.
Dad says now that the only things he has to offer his children are love and repentance. He has asked each of us to forgive him for the ways he has fallen short as a father, acknowledging his brokenness and the ways that it broke our hearts at times. He has lived out the wisdom that he spoke so gently to me on that mountain, letting Jesus pour through his broken places.
When people ask us what it’s like to make records together, we usually tear up and say that it’s like that promise God makes in Joel 2:25: “I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten…”
The Lord really has restored our family, and I’m thanking God this Father’s Day, for parents who have bravely lived out lifestyles of repentance, and showing their kids the power of turning from our “not enough” to the “always enough” of Jesus’ love.