How God saved my Dad.
If I were to ask you, how did God save you?, how would you respond? Perhaps some are reading this and don’t think they need a Savior, to quote an old friend of mine’s bumper sticker, “Born ok the first time.” You may think the idea that you need saving is appalling. To others, you have a story to tell, you’ve been born again. To either reader, I pray you take a few minutes to hear my dad’s story.
My dad’s story is a part of my story; without his story I wouldn’t have my own story. We all live and move and breathe and stand upon the shoulders of those who have gone before us, for good and for ill. We are a complicated yet beautiful mess of nature and nurture, genetics and environment, of things done to us and things done by us. And so, one day, I asked my dad, “How did God save you?” With beautiful humility and simplicity, he responded without missing a beat, ‘By Grace.” Amen, and God’s grace has means which is the rest of this short story.
My father grew up in a strict, legalistic Christian home and church. I hesitate to call them Christian from all the other stories my father has told me. But perhaps that’s part of the messiness of grace. Yet within the harsh environment he was raised, he still heard the good news of Jesus Christ and God’s saving grace. There were precious saints like Grandma Ginn who showed him the real love of Jesus. And yet getting saved always felt like something that God would do to you, it had to be some wowie zowie, lightning bolt conversion, for perhaps you weren’t one of the chosen. He felt trapped, debilitated, wanting to be saved, but feeling as if he had to have some powerful Damascus road experience for his salvation to be real.
In 1966, my dad was in his senior year of high school. Throughout his senior year, he felt a growing sense of his need to get saved. The Vietnam war was brewing and the draft would soon be calling his name. Earlier that year, while driving his dad’s brand new VW bug, he had a close brush with death. Driving to a basketball game one night with a buddy, my dad took a corner too fast on a wet, freshly graveled country road. He lost control and careened over the 20 ft embankment, end over end, landing upside down, wedged between a telephone pole and a tractor. He came out without a scratch. Now, he really wanted to get saved! What had to happen?
He graduated from high school on a Wednesday in June. The next day he got a card in the mail from his Aunt Mary, congratulating him on his graduation. Included with the card, was a Bible Tract. The title of the tract read, “God is satisfied. Are you?” The tract told a hypothetical story of a man on death row. The governor of the state had sent a letter to the warden of the jail, granting clemency to the man, saving him from imminent execution. The man was free! The tract then goes into a conversation with the warden and the man who has just been pardoned. The man on death row is telling the warden that he doesn’t believe it; he doesn’t believe he’s been pardoned. The tract then goes on to say, that no one who receives a pardon while on death row, would ever question the clemency. They would say thank you and get out of that jail as fast as they could.
The tract then appeals to the reader, to which my father inserted his own name and story, “Thomas, God has declared that you have been pardoned. If you take the words of men, won’t you take the words of God?” The Holy Spirit convicted my father that he was that man. God had declared him free, pardoned. My dad had always felt he needed to wait for some lightning bolt or whiz-bang-pop, in order to be saved, when rather in child like faith he simply needed to confess and believe, to thank God for the amnesty that is found in Christ alone. My dad got down on his knees that night, confessed his sins and thanked God for the free forgiveness and pardon that is found in Jesus Christ. He’s never been the same since. He told his parents and the next Sunday in front of the church, his dad baptized him in a stock tank. God’s grace saved another sinner.
That’s my father’s story and it is part of my story of how God saved me. God is satisfied. Are you?