Ok, I'm 34 years old and I've done something today that I've never done before. I mailed a Birthday Card to my dad. That's right. I've never sent a B-day card to my dad. Why? Well, it's an extremely long story which someday I may begin posting on but....the short story is, my mother divorced my dad when I was 2. It was a very abusive relationship on all counts....Mom and us 7 children. Dad has never tried to be part of our lives and so over the last 34 years, I have seen or talked with my dad maybe 15 times. I miss him. I don't miss the abuse, but I miss my dad. He's lived in Memphis, Tennessee for the last 15 years or so. Before becoming a Pastor, I was a building contractor and we were building a Cancer Treatment Center in West Memphis, Arkansas. This was in 1996. I knew my dad was somewhere in Memphis, I just didn't know where. I located him and twice visited him while working across the river from Memphis. I would swing by his house on my way back home for the weekend in Alabama. It was a strange couple of visits. Almost like talking to a complete stranger. But I don't regret making the decision to go.
This past July, we had our first ever Lewis Family Reunion in Russellville, Alabama. Russellville is where my Dad's side of the family comes from. I still have a sister and 2 brothers living in Russellville.....my mom lives only a few minutes from Russellville. I love going back! Well, on our way back home to Texas, I thought I would "swing" by dad's place and introduce him to his 2 grandchildren he has never met and his daughter-in-law whom he has never met. Tiff and I have been married for 13 years in July but she had never met my dad. He has never met my children either....Grace 7 and Chase 4. I wanted them to meet their Grandpa Lewis. I wanted Grandpa Lewis to meet them. I was a little unsure as to how they would react to dad because he is severely disfigured. When I was just a baby, dad and my uncle John were involved in a massive furnace explosion. Dad is burnt on 95% of his body. The only parts of him unburned are his feet and his waist....his leather boots saved his ankles and feet while his leather belt saved the skin under it. The rest of his clothing was burned completely off. As a result, dad is badly disfigured and handicapped. This is the only way I have ever known my dad. I have pictures of him prior to the explosion and he is a tall, dark haired handsome man. So, I was worried how the kids would react to him. I gave them all, including my wife a preparatory description of dad. I wasn't so much worried about Tiff being able to accept him, but I was a bit anxious about my children. To my complete amazement, they never flinched. They were kind and didn't shy away from him at first glance. They were able to see past the burn scars and see Grandpa Lewis. I was very proud of the way my children handled what must have been a very difficult situation. We sat outside and talked for about 2 hours then said our good-byes and we were back on I-40 West headed toward Texas. Now, 2 and a half months later, I still recount that visit in my mind all the time. In about a month or so, I hope to go back to visit dad. I've never told my dad that I forgive him. I need to do this. Although I do, it's never been said. That forgiveness has never been extended. I'm going to take a pilgrimage back to my birthplace in Janesville, Wisconsin. I need to put some things behind me. I need to reflect on God and His amazing grace that has brought me to where I am today. I'm going to take 2 weeks...just me, my thoughts, and God. I'm sure I'll cry a lot when I go back but I trust it will bring a healing to my soul that is long overdue.
Well, I didn't intend for it to get this lengthy. I could write a book or 3 on all of this. Maybe God will direct me to do something of that nature sometime. I don't know. I do know this.....our experiences in life, good or bad, will never be wasted by God. God never wastes a hurt. He always uses them to help us become who He knows we can become. The person he destined us to be.
Thank God for that!
Happy Birthday, Dad....I love you.