I drove to my parent’s house asking only one thing: that I would be blameless and approach my father in humility. I was recalling the advice of my pastor whom I had met with just two days previously. After reading emails and listening to my explanation, he advised that I firmly and swiftly deal with it, reminding me to approach my dad in respect, love, and even temperament, yet unflinchingly in dealing with his sin.
I pulled into the driveway and what ensued was an hour and a half of angry and accusative speech at me; he didn’t have any problems with sin and how dare I judge. I came home in a blur and vomited as soon as I walked in the door.
Over the next several weeks, I would talk with him briefly. Each time I did not let the issue of his sin die. He would not repent; therefore, I would not relent.
That’s when he had a heart attack.
I vividly remember seeing my father lying in the ICU; my mother and sister in tears assuring him things would be ok. He looked at me but couldn’t speak, though his look almost assured me that he didn’t want me there.
My mom pulled me aside and begged me to let things be. “Time will heal all wounds,” was the conventional wisdom given. She told me that life is too short. My grandparents called and also begged that I would let things go. “We are to love one another,” was the wisdom given by them.
What both my mother and grandparents never realized was that time does not heal anything. Time only allows the heart to grow hardened and for sin to go unchecked. Secondly, better is open rebuke than hidden love (Pro. 27:5); at some point you have to stick the knife in (Pro. 27:6) and exercise discipline to those in the faith (Matt. 18:15-20). It is never easy nor joyful, but utterly necessary.
I spoke to my father again a few times after his hospitalization. He understood that there was still a rift in our relationship because I did not bring my children or wife to see him. Within the week of his hospitalization, I called to wish him a happy birthday.
We spoke for about 2 minutes before the conversation went back to the issue of sin. He had asked that we come to visit, and I told him still that we needed to reconcile and he needed to repent before that could happen. He yelled at me again, called me a fool once more, and told me, “I hope you have a nice life. I wouldn’t even expect Christmas cards in the mail for you or the kids.”
Two days went by and I didn’t hear from either of my parents. On the 17th of December, I worked as usual and received a phone call from my mom. I ignored it, thinking that it was just too much for me to handle while working. Immediately, I got another call that I answered hesitantly.
My dad had died from a massive heart attack.
I remember my anger bubbling when looking at my father’s corpse on the floor. I wasn’t mad at God, I was mad at him. Here was a dead man that I couldn’t reconcile with. Here was my father who willingly went to the grave clutching tightly to his sin.
Yet what I remember more was the great love poured out from all the members of my church. I remember being gently rebuked by my pastor as I confided in him, thinking wrongly that there was no redemptive moment in everything that happened. He and the elders affirmed what I had done, as I made nothing secret through the process. I remember the sovereignty of God in the midst of my heartbreak; He was not surprised by me not finding reconciliation with the man whose affections I so desperately wanted restored.
Few things in my life have been as hard as the day I went to confront my father. The details of his sin are not necessary, nor all the interactions we had during the confrontation, but the story itself is vital. It was vital in seeing church discipline worked out personally; it would work wondrous things within my own heart to conform me into greater likeness to Christ.
It would confirm in me the immediate demand for repentance when being confronted. It would draw the dividing line of the gospel and confirm how I view God and His church. It would be one of the most agonizing things to have transpire in my life – yet it would also truly exhibit how great our sovereign Lord is.
It was the day that I stepped out in faith to obey God’s Word and I did not find the blessings of reconciliation I expected and coveted. What I found was a blessing all the more wonderful.
What I found was the supreme love of Christ displayed in the hope of the gospel in a hopeless and utterly devastated world. What I found was the supreme love of Jesus Christ in His church as they ministered to me through sharing in my sufferings. The foremost of those in His church, which blessed me beyond measure, was my wife who lived up to the meaning of her name, “faithful.”