Our Father Is Near and Not Far

“Dad? Dad….DAD?!?!” Those words came out of my 6 year old mouth many moons ago on a Sunday night while my dad and I were turning off the sanctuary lights and bumping the AC up on a hot summer night in South Mississippi. My dad was the pastor of a small country church and he was privileged with the task of being the Marine…the first one in and the first one out. He was the first one there to unlock the doors, turn the AC down and flip on the lights before local members of the congregation showed up for the weekly service. On this particular night, my dad was fulfilling the scripture by “exasperating” his child (me!) as he humorously cut the last light off while I was completing a Ninja Turtle-styled round house kick in the middle of the sanctuary. There were perks involved with being the pastor’s kid that made up for the cons of being “the preacher’s kid” and this was one of them. I got to goof off and run around the sanctuary after everyone was gone! Let’s be honest…I probably ran around while people were there too! But at this time of the night, when no one was around, I had an entire monkey gym (the sanctuary) to myself! It was liberating for a 6 year old boy to have a free range without old, hairy-eared deacons frowning at ninja moves that were astounding (in my mind anyway)!

So, as the last light was turned off I thought it was awesome initially until my call for my dad was greeted with nothingness. I heard the echo of my call to him and it invited fear to reside in my mind. I tried to sound tough so I called for him yet again with a louder voice. This time I knew he would answer, but there was still no response. I finally raised my voice in desperation for my dad to answer and — wait for it — he did! But he didn’t answer the way that I thought he would. I suddenly felt my dad’s big, warm hand grab my little sweaty hand as he said he loved me. I didn’t know it until years later but at the time my dad’s eyes were full of tears in the pitch darkness of the sanctuary as he told me that. He was tickled initially about the idea of letting me get nervous in the dark for a moment but realized that it did, in fact, scare me. We walked out of the darkness of that sanctuary and entered the warm, welcoming light from a street lamp that was swarming with bugs. Hearing the sounds of the crickets and other critters never felt so comforting! My dad walked me from the church house back to our home beside the church building and I slept well that night, knowing that I was safe in my father’s house. Yeah, I guess I should include my mom in this story too. She’s okay I guess! ;) I slept well with the assurance that my parents loved me and I was safe with them.

So why would I share this story in a blog with my Heartland family? Well, you likely already know. There exists a strong connection to the gospel within a simple story like this one. Our Father is never far away. There may be moments where it might seem like He is nowhere to be found, BUT GOD is always there!  Ephesians 2:4-5 reminds us clearly of the foundational truth of God’s saving presence in our lives. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.” God rescues us from the darkness simply because He loves us. He purposed for us to be made alive, together with Christ. That is why He has saved us by His grace! Did you catch that? God brings us into the warmth of His light, gives us life and calls us to do this together with Him! We are not called to stumble around in darkness, but to walk in the fullness of His light!  We get to do this TOGETHER with Him and with each other!  

I want to encourage each of you to seek community and unity together as we pursue holiness in Christ Jesus. I’m so thankful that my dad was present with me in that moment of fear. And I’m so thankful that God is always present as well. I’m even more grateful to know that I have a gospel community to do life with, my own family to worship Jesus with, and our church family to worship and serve the Lord with. We are called to serve with each other, not alone. The church flourishes when we walk together in His light.  

1 Peter 2:9-10 reminds us that we are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” We can walk on a well-lit path for His purposes now that we understand our identity in Christ. We also flourish as His Church when we recognize that He has called us out as a chosen race to tell others about Him as we are walking in the light! We once were dead, but now we are His people! I don’t know about you but these words encourage my spirit greatly! God is so good to us and He helps us see when the world and everything around us feels so dark. I pray that you each have a great month in the Lord as we pursue right living in the light of His glory. God bless!

Serving the King,
Jake Waits