I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing. 2 Timothy 4:6
Putting into words the sum of a man’s life seems more daunting when you do not really know a man. God is the only one who truly knows the man’s heart. I do believe that a man who has faith, who lives and walks in faith, gives us glimpses into his heart. Without spending time with him you can not know the details of his daily routine but it is in the conversations you can know the spirit of his heart.
My dad is a big man. Stubborn and always offered his opinions whether you wanted them or not. In my younger years I was often intimidated by him. As a little girl looking up at him I was looking up at a giant. And it never really mattered how tall I grew to be he was always taller and still a giant in my eyes. As children we seek our parents approval and in our relationship it was no different. I was as stubborn as he was in my teenage years and I am ashamed to admit I did not respect his authority very much in those days. I quickly found when my kids became teenagers that they too thought they were as smart as I thought I was talking back to my dad. But he loved me in spite of those years, as he did all of his children.
Over the years bits and pieces of his life and heart would be revealed through difficult relationships he had. It was not until I found my faith in Christ that I stopped to consider what he gave me as a father. When I came face to face with God during a devastating time in my life I often went to God the way I went to my father. Intimidated and craving relationship. I began to talk with God and my father in a way that was more open and honest. Asking real questions instead of hi, how are you and whatcha’ doing? And he began to talk to me.
It was awkward at first but after time it became the very thing I often craved as a young girl. Moments with dad. Real conversations. Some were deep, some were hard and some were sweet. As in all families each of his children had ups and downs that closed down communication altogether for a short time. During those times it was the issues in our lives or his life that turned us inward, the way difficult times can sometimes do. When dealing or coping with circumstances beyond our control our world shrinks. I depended on my faith but I am not so sure what my dad depended on during those times.
As in all relationships we go away from each other and we come back. We pick up where we left off. We forgive and move forward to a new level of relationship. The one area that my father and I never connected was in the area of faith. He had no peace. I had found it with Christ. He was sometimes respectful of my beliefs but he did not like hearing the truths of what I had learned. At first I tried to win him over with words but eventually I knew it would be God, himself who would crack the hardness of my father’s heart. So I began to pray. And pray. And pray. And walk by example.
Many years went by. Many relationships in his life crumbled and made his heart harder for it. He was searching out something to make him whole. To give him peace. To know love. Even though he had not found any of it he never gave up. Then God finally broke through. By God’s divine providence he brought several people into his life and took a daughter home to heaven. First he brought,Marilyn. He was a romantic and it was the first time in my life I saw him show it openly. Secondly he brought, Michael. A man of faith. A friend who could meet him where he was in his life, who accepted him and most importantly showed him the love of Christ. The third thing was my sister’s death. For the first time in his life he questioned eternity. He began to ask questions and seek God.
When Marilyn called me and told me he had accepted the Lord and wanted to be baptized my heart just leapt with a joy. I had prayed for 20 years for my father to find peace and forgiveness. To find the hope of heaven in Jesus Christ. It says in God’s Word that He will give you the desires of your heart if you will commit your heart to Him. He surely fulfilled that promise to me and to my father. In the song by Bebo Norman called ‘I Know Now’ he says…
I could lay my burdens down
And I never knew
Redemption could be found
But I know now
And that is what my father told me. He found rest from his burdens, his worries and his past mistakes. And then he would say I want that for my boys. For my grandchildren. I want them to know what I know. There is no perfect parent except God the Father. He is our Daddy. I have been told that we often view God the way we view our earthly father. I know it is true. For in the beginning of my relationship with God it was tentative at best. I was seeking approval by checking my God box. As I got to know the Lord I began to understand His unconditional love for me. No matter how I messed up He always forgave me and His Word told me consistently that He loves me with an everlasting love.
Now the most wonderful gift that God has given to me, my brothers, our children and our children’s children is the example of a man who lived the best he knew how to live. Found a relationship with God the father and peace for his soul. He Learned to forgive and not only learned to love unconditionally but to say it at the end of every conversation. As in the beginning of our father/child relationship his children sought for our father’s love and approval. And at the end we received it. What better gift could a father leave his children?
Our father ended well.
Larry Dale Leach
October 8,1942 – July 3, 2013
Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, 2 Thessalonians 2:16