Today's passage: I Corinthians 7:1-16
"And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him."
For most of my childhood, our family was in and out of church. When we did go, it was always our mother that took us. I didn't know until I was a little older that men even went to church. I guess movies I watched, and friends I had only went to church with their moms. My father was actually the one that encouraged us to try out a Baptist church, when I was in junior high school. He grew up in an Oklahoma Southern Baptist church. My mother had been to what she thought was a Baptist church in the deep south and she said they were running up and down the aisles. It scared her. She decided to give it another go. For the first time in our lives, we heard a clear presentation of the gospel. I'm not saying that the gospel hadn't been presented in some of the other denominational churches we had attended, mostly the base chapel Protestant service, but it never broke through to us like it did in this Baptist church. Our lives changed. We were challenged to accept Christ, to attend faithfully, to read His Word, to be involved. It is where I was grounded in my faith. My father was glad that we had found a church. He was still not interested in attending with us. I don't know what happened when he was younger, but after he left home, I think he stopped going. In his later years, he would go with us to one service every couple years. We always thought that was a great milestone, because before, he would always say no. I used to pray for him each day. Not so much that he would go to church, but I was very unsure that he was even saved. I remember before having his second heart surgery, I was already living in Chicago at the time, and talking him on the phone. I said, "Dad, you know I would be more okay with this, if I knew that you would be in Heaven." He assured me he had accepted Christ as a young boy. He told me that had already settled it long ago. I told him he couldn't blame me for my doubts, given that he never came to church with us. He understood that too. He assured us of that fact again right before he died. I know he wanted us to have that peace of mind.
My father was a good man. He was a great father, a faithful husband, a constant provider. He had more good qualities than bad ones. Somehow, he never felt convicted to be in church. I think something happened in the church he attended as a youth that caused him not to go back. He never talked about it. My grandparents also, who I learned later had actually helped plant churches, fell away from going. I don't know what happened that caused disappointment or discouragement, but it kept them from ever returning. I have to think that a lot of my behavior as a teenager kept my father away as well. I have to carry that weight with me. I claimed to be a Christian, but I did not always behave in Christ-like ways. I was disrespectful and mouthy. I wish I could shake every teenager by the shoulders, look them square in the eye, and tell them that every word they utter will linger years after it has been said. If I could have been a better Christian example, I wonder if my father might have seen the changes in my life and rethink his own spiritual growth. If there is a teenager out there reading this, let me assure you, how you act can have great effect on bringing your parents to Christ if they do not know Him. What you say, and most importantly how you say it speaks louder than every church service you attend. My father would never see the different ministries I was involved in at church. It little mattered to him that I was a puppeteer, in the choir, taught the mission story in children's church. He didn't see these activities because he wasn't there. What would have made a big difference is if I had not complained about every thing I was asked to do around the house, if I had not rolled my eyes, stomped my foot, slammed my door when I was forbidden to go somewhere, if I had not sassed my mother and father about the tiniest of things. Oh, the regret I have. My mother is likely to tell me that I wasn't bad as all that, but I remember, and I assure you I was. I can never take back those words or actions. I've apologized in years since, to mother and father. Yet, the memories of those years are imprinted. If I behaved differently, maybe it would have made a difference. Maybe my father would have seen the necessity to come with us to church. Teenagers, be careful what you say, and how you say it. As dumb as you think mom and dad are right now, you will someday see the wisdom in their words. Don't live with regret as I do. Be able to look back on your youth years with the satisfaction that you honored your father and mother. I knew those verses but chose not to follow them. Things may have been very different in our household if I had obeyed better. Not that my father was a drunkard or a sluggard or an abuser. None of that. But it would have been wonderful for us all to be trying to manage bathroom time to go to church on Sunday morning. I would love to have heard my father say a prayer. It would have been nice to have gone to him for spiritual advice. I don't know that any of that would have taken place, but I know this, I will never know for sure that I am not partially to blame because it didn't. And that is something I will take into eternity.