There is nothing that comes close to that moment when you feel the presence of God so strongly, it’s almost tangible. I will never forget a Promise Keepers rally in Eugene, OR. My dad and I had been struggling in our relationship for quite some time. He was a Southern Baptist Pastor, a strong leader, an intentional father, a godly man. I was a strong willed young man, a difficult one to father and shepherd, an ox of sorts. Our frequent battles often ended in yelling campaigns and even got physical at times. I didn’t want anything to do with him – he just didn’t understand me…so I thought. And because of our strained relationship, I didn’t want to be his son, didn’t want to follow him or his footsteps, and certainly didn’t want to be at a Christian men’s rally that day. It was the last stop I would have planned for me.
Something my father did train in me, however, was the desire to please him. And with pleasing him, the desire to please God. It seemed like I always got it wrong, like I never added up, like my efforts always came up short with him…but the striving to please him and God was in me. As I approached a weekend with some men from our church, my father included, I remember asking the Lord, “God, whatever it is that you want for me and from me, I want to receive it from your hand. I want you to be pleased with me. I am seeking you, God. Come through on my behalf.”
Little did I know what He had in store.
Stu Webber, well known speaker and author, was giving a talk on his (at that time) new book release, Tender Warrior. It was a message of reconciliation for fathers and sons. As he taught, as he uncovered God’s message, the tears began to flow down my face. I knew God was calling me to reconcile my relationship with my dad. It was almost audible. It was then I looked down and saw my dad making his way from the other end of our section, pushing full grown men down in their seats to get to me. “Excuse me, sorry, pardon me, “ he said, “That’s my son down there…I need to get down there. Please, excuse me, sorry, sorry, thank you…sorry.” It was a prodigal son and a prodigal father reuniting. God was communicating the same message of reconciliation to him as well…and he was listening and ready to answer.
It was then that Jeremiah’s letter to the exiles came to mind. “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.’” (Jeremiah 29:11-13 NIV)
My dad had sought the Lord about our relationship too…and God was answering both of our prayers. He apologized to me for things said, actions taken, and hurt that he had caused me. I apologized for not submitting to his authority as my dad, for saying hateful, hurtful things, and for rejecting his position in my life. We united in a way that would never again be able to be torn apart.
When I approached the Lord with a humble heart, ready to seek after His plan and His purpose in me being at that conference, he was able to do immeasurably more than I could have ever hoped for. My new relationship with my dad started that day. It was built on humility from both of us, and a promise that God made…if I sought him with my whole heart, I would find him. And I did.
My father passed away in 2010 from cancer, but the unity of the Spirit God gave us that day remains unbroken. Through that experience I learned a valuable lesson…be a seeker. It has changed the way I minister, changed the way I worship in God’s presence, even changed the way I parent my own children. It’s God’s promise, and he’s never failed to come through.
Jones Road Campus Pastor