The focus at our Lent chapel gathering this week was on healing, particularly how we as followers of Jesus can help bring healing to victims living in a broken world. Not wholly innocent victims, mind you. Certainly there are those who’ve been victimized by others’ sin — we usually refer to this as injustice. But every single person who has walked the face of the earth has done the sinning as well.
When it comes to helping to heal those victims of sin, whether someone else’s or their own, the first thing we must avoid is judging them. In the gospels Jesus, who, as God, knew everything about everyone he came into contact with, tended to show compassion, rather than judgment, toward those broken by their sin. I suppose I could go into this more, but it isn’t what I was intending to write today.
The last song I’d selected for chapel was an old chorus by Don Moen called “I Am the God That Healeth Thee.” It’s a song I don’t think I’ve ever led before. Perhaps because it’s ancient — all the way from the mid-1980s. But I’ve led songs from that generation quite often at our early worship gathering (which could be characterized as something between traditional and blended, for those keeping score). More likely, I haven’t led the song because it’s very close to my heart, one that would render me far too emotional to be of effective in leading.
It’s the song that the worship band played over and over, as they were wont to do at the Pentecostal church I grew up in, when on a Sunday evening (or perhaps a Wednesday, as we were at every worship service) God spoke to my heart for the first time. He told me he would be the one who’d heal that broken place in my heart that longed for a father. Now, God didn’t take away the pain for good in that moment. No, it’s been a process, one that continues to this day and will continue likely until Jesus returns.
Many of my readers know that I’ve been working on a large writing project, a memoir of sorts, chronicling a traumatic period in my life that eventually brought me closer to Jesus and set my life on the course he designed. Here is an excerpt from the chapter where I mention this song:
Though the song doesn’t say anything about it, I remember God saying he would be my father, my daddy, which is why, to this day, I cherish scriptures that speak of God adopting us as his children. I still missed having a dad, but the wound throbbed less acutely. Although I love sports today, especially baseball, I didn’t care for them much as a child, and I think this is because I didn’t have a dad to teach me how to play. Sometimes a boy just needs a game of catch with his dad. For me, music and worship would become like a game of catch with the one who said he is the Father to the fatherless. Early on, I could almost audibly hear his “good catch, son!” whenever I sat at the piano. At least, until louder voices prevailed. Ones less encouraging and entirely more critical.
When I began posting as Matt Esperanza, which, by the way, is the name I was born with (or rather, my original name), and included the tagline to this blog — “rediscovering an identity” — I’d intended to write some of my story as a child growing up with two fathers and yet none at the same time. This whole father wound, as John Eldredge refers to it, resurfaced upon the death of my stepfather (Bob) in September 2009. Since then, I’ve thought a lot about him — the things he’d say and do. I can’t fix — or try to fix — anything in our house or on our cars without thinking of him and the tools he filled my toolbox with. We weren’t particularly close, as I’ll write more about. But there’s something about a father, whether he is a good or bad one, that influences the heart of a boy long after he has grown up.
I began a search many years ago for my biological father — months after Lindsay, our first, was born. She is now fifteen. I couldn’t understand as a new dad myself how my father could leave my twin sister and me, who were just babies, as well as our two older brothers. For all intents and purposes, we never saw him again. In the earlier days of internet searches, I couldn’t find him. Recently, however, I began searching for him again. Actually, my wife did. Cindy found a picture of him online with an address in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. I was able to get in touch with family he still has in my hometown of Yuma. I don’t remember if it was one of them or if it was on the internet where I found a phone number.
Back before TV shows became serial like most of them are today, I remember watching something like Growing Pains and realizing that with two minutes left there’d be no way they could wrap up the show in its convenient 21-minute slot. Those dreaded words would appear at the end: TO BE CONTINUED. How we hated those words! We’d have to wait a full week before finding out how Mike Seaver could get himself out of the mess he’d created. Well, I’m going to end this post similarly. Next week, I’ll resume writing about my phone attempts, if I can fit in a post during the busy week for worship leaders that is Easter.