It all began during my last post, where I likened myself to the prodigal son. If you have ever read the story, you know how it ends. The father sees the son coming home, runs to greet him, then lavishes love and acceptance and restoration. My story got as far as me coming to myself amidst the pig slop and deciding that I wanted to go back. So I started back home.
My first stop was on New Years Day. I went to my good friend Dan's church and made a public recommitment of my life to Jesus. To do this with pastor Dan was very special for me. He has nurtured me through two failed marriages and a lot of other things and never failed to tell me what I was doing wrong. Once upon a time, I did the same for him.
The journey back home continued with some personal inventory. There were things in my life that were dragging me down emotionally. Long story short, I made a hard decision, took a step of faith, and the Lord confirmed it that very day with some unexpected money in the mail. I know some people don't understand why I had to make the choice I made. Some people were hurt. I deeply regret that, and perhaps I could have handled some of it better. What's done is done, and I now pray for restoration and healing.
Continuing on, I reached out to some old minister friends and was so happy to reconnect and fellowship with them. One of them pointed out something that I should have posted about in my previous blog. He said, "From what I see (on FB), you have an amazing woman at your side." He was right. I do. Maybe for the very first time. I first met Laura when I was her pastor at White Knoll. She was a struggling single mom who somehow found time to be VBS Director! I respected her and her dedication. After a time, she sort of vanished from the church and I lost contact with her. Nearly 10 years later, a woman walked into Jamestown Coffee while I was at the register. She looked vaguely familiar but I couldn't recall where I had seen her from (not as sharp as I used to be). When she spoke, I immediately recognized her, except she was 130 pounds lighter than when I had last seen her! To my utter surprise, I felt butterflies in my stomach when I saw her. She was absolutely (and still is) beautiful! I'm not sure what I said first, but it wasn't long before I said, "So, uh, are you married? Seeing anyone?" She said no, and so I less-than-smoothly gave her one of my business cards, and told her we needed to "catch up" sometime soon. I am SO not a ladies man! But I am certain that it was love at first sight for the first time ever in my life. Laura's love for Jesus was a big inspiration to me and she has been key in helping me get my head straight for the first time in a long time.
Back to the big hug. So far all of this wonderful stuff had been going on, but there was still no hug. The father had not run to me. Or if He had, I sure missed it. One thing I have learned over the years is that God never does things the way I expect Him to. Never!
This time was no exception. I recently picked up a book from my stack of books that I "keep meaning to read." It is a book by Steve McVey called, A Divine Invitation. Dr. McVey recounts a story of a man who had gone into the wrong part of town with his wife. He knew that the men in this place would want his wife. So rather than fight for her, he asked her to go with one of the men. She did. He waited. McVey then asked, "Would you trust this man as a spiritual leader?" Hmmm.
Then McVey let the cat out of the bag. The story was about Abraham and Sarah from Genesis 12. Then I read the following paragraph,
Then came my hug from the Father. His embrace was tight and hard. I didn't hear Him audibly, but I heard Him speak this to my heart, "My Todd, welcome home! I'm so happy! You just don't know! I know you have messed up, but I am NOT finished with you. All is not only forgiven, but forgotten. As I did for Abraham, I have done for you! The best is yet to come! I WILL finish what I started with you! I love you soooo much!"It's an amazing (and sometimes confusing) aspect of God's grace that He will indeed use a man like Abraham. Not only was he used by God, but in Hebrews 11, as if He has completely forgotten that He already gave us the lowdown on this man in Genesis, the Holy Spirit lists Abraham as a hero of our faith. Most people wouldn't even recommend Abraham as Husband of the Year, but God lists him as a man of great faith. Apparently there is something about the way God judges people that is very different from the way most of us view others or ourselves. He looks PAST behavior and into the heart more readily than we can even imagine (page 27).
He has yet to release that hug, by the way!