“If only I had let God hold me when I wuz a younger man, I never would’uv done the things to y’all that I done” (Convinced!, p. 222).
My dad spoke those words of confession, in his very thick Mississippi accent, at age seventy-three, as he finally, humbly accepted Jesus as his Savior. God saw my dad’s repentant heart, and received him as His child for all eternity – right then and there. The Lord had always been reaching out, always wanting to hold my dad and lead his life. But my dad had ignored God for far too many years, and forfeited his own peace and the peace of our family.
“Come near me and listen to this…” This is what the LORD says – your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go. If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river…” – Isaiah 48:16-18
If only…if only…if only…
My dad had lived much of his life addicted to alcohol and narcotic drugs, abusing my mom, my four siblings and me in horrible ways – emotionally, physically and sexually.
Yet! Because of God’s healing and hold on my life, I am free to let God’s peace flow as a deep and mighty river in my life. My dad’s choices to abuse cannot and do not hold any power over me any longer. Rather, I am held by my loving God, the Lord of all the universe – the Redeemer, the Holy One – who teaches me what is best: Love and forgive. I am held by my loving God who directs me in the way I should go: Follow Jesus.
I am so fully thankful for my Lord’s transforming grace and unfailing love that healed my broken heart and renewed my shattered life. And I am thankful, beyond my ability to express it, for God’s pursuing love that finally broke through to my dad’s stubborn heart by His righteous conviction of sin and His eternal grace and truth that would set my dad free from all his bondages. Only by finally listening to the Lord, and letting God hold him, could my dad receive the salvation he so desperately, and eternally, needed.
Four years after my dad let God hold him, he died. As we gathered for a private memorial service, my sister, my brothers, our spouses and our children prayed and thanked God for who God is and for the power of our Lord Jesus to redeem and give peace to every life. Right now, and for all eternity, if only we would let God hold us. We released my dad’s ashes into the river that ran through our childhood property. God had already welcomed my dad Home – to be held by, to listen to and walk with his Lord forever along the banks of the “river of the water of life” (Revelation 22:1) in unimaginable and unending peace.
May we each let God hold us now and crush every “if only” in our lives, so that God’s perfect peace will flow to us and through us to each precious life that we touch.