I have this burning passion to help ministers and others see through my lens when they encounter sex addicts and their partners. Most of them still sit in judgement, and can only see the broken and hurting as “living in sin.” But I want them to see through my lens—because my lens formed out of the love and grace God gave me—and all of us, if we will just turn to him with our failures.
Because of my dear father, I know what I’m looking for. Please listen as I tell you a true story.
Burned into my memory like a scene from a big screen movie, I can still see Dad representing love to me and hundreds of others. But most of all to my nephew, whom I’ll call Todd. It was back several years before Dad went home to heaven. And it was an icy Friday night in the Pacific Northwest, where many of my family members had gathered on the bleachers of a high school football field to watch my nephew, Todd, play his final football game during his senior year.
I’m not a football fan, and to be honest, I don’t even understand the game. But it didn’t take understanding football to “get” one of the most powerful messages my father ever “preached,” and all but one didn’t hear him utter a single word. Rather, he lived it.
It was a close game, and every play mattered. As the clock wound down, the two teams were just one play apart, and Todd had the ball. The winning score rested squarely on his shoulders. Even I could feel the pressure, and we were all sure he was about to make the final and winning play. As the final seconds ticked off, and we, along with half the town, all stood to roar for him, my nephew played the ball—and fumbled it. The other team’s fans went nuts, jumping up and down and cheering like crazy. But on our side of the field, groans of disappointment made the icy night a little colder.
Of course, all the family members who were present that night were just sick for Todd. Especially his dad. And my dad, Todd’s grandfather. As we watched the field empty, knowing Todd must feel horrible, we realized he didn’t leave the field with the others. Instead, he walked the several yards to the goal post, sat down on the wet, cold grass, and began to cry.
I can’t even imagine how he felt in those moments. Still, tears well up in my eyes for him, just thinking about it. We all hurt for him. But no one hurt more for him than my dad, his grandfather.
Without saying a word to any of us, dad walked down the bleachers and out onto the now-empty field, except for Todd. We and others watched as Dad walked the field to the goal post where Todd sat. When he got there, Dad just sat down beside him, joining him in his failure and pain.
I don’t know what Dad said to Todd that night, but I do know the words, “I love you, and I’m proud of you,” were in there somewhere. As the rest of us waited, Dad and Todd just sat there, under the goal post, in the glaring field lights and the freezing cold. They were together in Todd’s disappointment in himself. Then, after a few minutes, they stood together, Dad’s arm around Todd’s shoulder, and together they walked off the field.
Because Dad had a father’s heart, he knew how to love. He learned that from his Heavenly Father. And though he could be harsh when we messed up, we always knew his grace and love were present, even when he was disappointed by something we did. We could always count on that. And I know he was modeling the grace and love his Heavenly Father had given him.
Dad didn’t come from a Christian back ground, or even a “normal” life. Though he was a wild kid from a rough home, and got kicked out of high school three times, he eventually got his GED, so he could go to Bible College and become a minister. When I was three years old, he found God, and he experienced God’s heavenly love and grace for him, and he was hooked. He knew God is a God of second, third, and many chances, and we can always get up and start over.
How I wish the whole world could have been in the football stadium that night, so everyone who calls themselves “Christian” could see how grace, love, and getting-back-up looks. The millions who struggle with sex addiction, and those who love them, need to see what I and others saw that cold, late autumn night.
Thank you, Dad, for modeling for me, how grace and love looks.