by Stacey Stone
“I don’t know where he is.” That simple text brought fear and worry flooding into my life. My brother had searched and searched for our elderly father and he was nowhere to be found. That night, after a day filled with no news of his whereabouts, my sweet, supportive, very worried husband suggested we go to bed. As the tears flowed down my face, I looked up at him and simply collapsed declaring, “How can I go in and lie down on my nice, safe, warm bed when I don’t know where my father is sleeping tonight?”
This time last year, my father lost his home of six years and we later found that he was sleeping in his car. My father, the man who had worked hours and hours on end to make sure that my brother and I were taken care of had no home. The man that I stood next to in church for most of my childhood, listening to him sing off key to every hymn, was suffering from dementia, homeless and missing. Fear began to fill my days as my cell phone filled up with bright red letters representing all of the calls that he had not answered and the messages filled with tears and pleading for him to call me. That was when a morning devotional spoke these words to my heart, “So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him. Matthew 7:11”
In my memories, there we all are, me standing between my dad and mom because my little brother almost always needed an extra hand of calm from my mom. God reminded me that my father worked hard to give us great gifts and one of the greatest that he gave me was my relationship with Jesus. And even though he would have welcomed the chance to sleep in on Sundays after all of that hard work, instead he gave me the opportunity to stand beside him as he led our family in worship. After reading that verse, my heart suddenly yearned to be standing there, again.
Years later, I remember being a teenager and cringing when he would sing praise to God. Why does everything have to change when you reach that age? What I had treasured before tortured me. Being totally tone deaf, he mortified me as a teenager and I remember choosing to sit with my friends instead of with him. The regret of that feeling grew as he remained missing last year. My pleading with God began with forgiveness for my embarrassment and that one day I would stand beside my earthly father in church again and hear him praising God.
Over the next week, Matthew 7:11 and that memory followed me. My husband read me his verse of the day from his phone and it again told me that my heavenly Father would give me what I asked of him. My brother called and had found my father, placing him in a hotel. A card from a friend sent to encourage me and to remind me of my own gifts was highlighted with Matthew 7:11 along the bottom. I finally talked to my father and he reassured me that he was fine. A meme from another radio station’s website popped into my feed and, once again, Matthew 7:11 stared me in the face. And each time I heard or read the verse I was transported back to Sagamore Hill Baptist Church on the left side of the church in the pew with my dad standing there, again.
The road from that memory in the pew to today included divorce, emotional pain and now homelessness for my father. He had walked away from the church after heartbreak and wondered how a God that loved him so much could allow his life to slip through my father’s hands. And now I sat in my comfortable, warm home and cried for my lost father, wanting so much to remind him that God loved him and was still there. And Matthew 7:11 came streaming out with my tears. It was not just me that the verse was for but my dad who could find the gifts described as coming from his Father just as easily. So I begged Him to give my father back the joy he had lost and to give me back our relationship that time and distance had dilapidated. God had prepared me for the moment when I could not sleep in my own bed because my father no longer had one. He spoke into my fear when my father was missing. The Holy Spirit sent peace to my heart that was struggling and questioning God’s plan. When I cried out to God for my earthly father, He reminded me that His gifts are so much bigger than mine and that He is always working behind the scenes. He is always standing there, again.
My next question to God was, “How can I be grateful for all of this pain and my father’s homelessness?” One airline ticket and a plane ride that he did not want to take answered my question and led my father to our home. On our first Saturday night together, my husband looked over at dad and said, “You need to be ready about 9:30 tomorrow morning so we can go to church.” I waited for his response, tension in the air, until dad simply shrugged his shoulders and said, “Okay”. We loaded up and drove to church the next morning. Singing worship songs I noticed that dad didn’t sing along but I still had my moment. Our pastor asking us to remain standing for the reading of God’s word, I looked over at dad and realized that my worst fear and pain was God’s way of bringing us back together and I was grateful for all of it. As the pastor started to read, I heard the Word given to me by God that had carried me through, “So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.” And we were standing there, again.
Stacey Stone serves God by loving her husband Johnny Stone, her family, her friends, her little dog and her listeners on WGTS 91.9. She is the author of The Rescued Breed: When Jesus Shows Up And Transforms Your Pack and a professional counselor.