When I was a child, my father often told some amazing tales. Often these tales included stories about him finding me abandoned, hungry and living in a trash can somewhere. My dad told me that he brought me home out of the kindness of his heart. It was only after the family grew to love me that they made the adoption final.
If I didn’t beat up the neighborhood kids on a regular basis, he questioned my mother about my real father. My dad concluded that since I didn’t act like him in those situations, I really must not be his son. I never really took him seriously. I knew early on that my dad could tell some tall tales.
It wasn’t until I returned to America that the adoption talk became real to me.
My grandmother made the most amazing pancakes. I would go to her house just for those pancakes. While all the other relatives in my life wanted to catch up on what was going on in my life, my grandmother couldn’t of cared less.
Most visits to her house started with pancakes and ended with her sharing things with me from the Bible. She didn’t care that I was a good football player. She never once asked to see my report card. And I believe she was clueless to the latest fashion trends.
The only thing my grandmother wanted to talk to me about was Jesus.
She would sit me down in her living room, open her Bible and start.
“Do you know God?” she asked me.
“I do not,” I replied.
“Do you know what he did for you?”
Although I knew in general I did not know specifically, so I replied in the negative.
That’s when her tiny old hands start folding back the pages of the book on her lap. She had 10 children and they lived in a small house.I don’t know where they were or ended up, but they suddenly disappeared like Casper. I was left alone with my grandmother, and there were no pancakes or people around.
I listened with respect because I knew you are supposed to respect your elders. But to be honest, at first I didn’t believe a lot of what my grandmother was saying. I had a real problem reconciling what she was saying compared to what my parents had failed to say. My grandmother told me that God loved me. I was cool with that.
“God loves you so much that he sent his son to die for your sins,” she told me.
Because I didn’t know what sins were, my grandmother then had to define sin. Once she shared a few examples, I still thought I was pretty safe. My parents had managed to beat my behind for most to the sins I had committed. Dad’s spankings were like hell on earth. I thought I had paid for the lies and the trouble they caused. It wasn’t until she explained hell and told me that I was going there that she really got my attention.
“Wait a minute,” I said. “Why am I going there?”
“For your sin,” my grandmother declared. “And because you don’t know God and haven’t accepted Jesus into your life.”
My mind raced as the speed of my heart increased.
“If this is true, why haven’t my mom and dad told me this before?”
My parents had taught me everything in my life worth knowing, or so I thought.
“Perhaps they don’t know,” my grandmother said.
I did not think that possible. How could parents know so much but not know the most important thing?
And so that’s how things went visit after visit. I often told my grandmother that she was scaring me. She would close the Bible then and tell me, “You don’t come to God because you are afraid; you come to Him because you love Him and understand how much He loves you.”
Years went by, and I committed a lot more sins. I got myself into all sorts of teenager trouble. I did what seemed right to me, and often it wasn’t right at all. It wasn’t until college that those sessions with my grandmother started to take root. I had everything I wanted (or thought I wanted), but there was still something missing. I couldn’t put a finger on it, but it was missing. Missing like those 10 people were missing in that little house.
I was a big man on campus but I was a lonely man on the inside. How was that possible? My parents never shared with me how to deal with that issue. Their instructions to me were to respect my elders, make good grades and play football. Not a bad plan, but there was no God in that plan.
When I could endure it no longer, I attended a bible study one night. I couldn’t believe it at the time, but I attended a bible study without pancakes!
I sat in silence. This was outside my comfort zone. This wasn’t a classroom or the football field.
This was a bible study about someone I didn’t know. The teacher caught my attention with these words: “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature. Old things have passed away and all things are made new.”
Upon hearing those words, fading embers of coal caught fire within my chest. My hand flew into the air as I asked the man, “Could you please repeat that?”
He did as I asked.
“Are you serious? God will give me a second chance?” I asked. By now, the coals were new hotness as the cool air of hope ignited them.
“Yes,” He assured me.
That night I returned to my dorm room and accepted Jesus into my heart. Those early seeds planted by my grandmother and watered by those men at that bible study finally located some good ground. Ironically, after all of my dad’s tall tales, I did end up being adopted by a Heavenly Father.