A Tale of Two Fathers
She was daddy’s little girl. He was a sensitive, caring father to her, and she adored him. At seven years old, how much can a child understand about the choice her parents made to forever separate their family?
After the divorce, her parents each pursued other relationships; Karyn became the rope of a seemingly endless tug-of-war between the two. Her her mom and dad now lived in two different cities. When daddy remarried once, then twice, the relationship grew more and more distant until Karyn felt abandoned by the man with whom she once shared a “perfect world.”
As the years wore on, their relationship died. After all, he lived in Hawaii with a wife who resented his relationship with his only daughter, in fact, his only child. There were no calls, no holiday celebrations, no birthday cards, no Father’s Day cards…no relationship.
There was a little spark when I called him to ask for her hand in marriage (I’m an old-fashioned guy, what can I say…) We invited him to our wedding and he made the trip. It was brief, but at least it was something. Then, nothing…for almost three years.
Maybe that’s why it was such a shock when the phone rang one October afternoon in 1997. It was him. “Hi, uh…I need to come to the mainland to get some surgery done. I was wondering if I could stay with you for a couple of weeks?” Wow, from no communication, to “can I live with you for a couple of weeks?” What could we say; he had no one else to turn to.
We went with him to his pre-op appointment. Then the doctor asked us to sit down. “I am going to need you to be with Jerry right now. We found cancer.” When we walked into the room, he was a different man, a broken man. Jerry was a 12-pack a day smoker, a hardcore, season-ticket-holding San Francisco 49er’s Fan, with an opinion on everything. He was a retired CHP officer and had little tolerance for many things in life. Not now! He was shell-shocked. His invincible attitude was gone.
In the days that followed, I got to know a different Jerry. One evening my buddy Jeff called and invited me to go salmon fishing. I am not much of a fisherman, but it was the last day of the season and there were more fish than water! So, I asked Jerry if he would want to join us. He said, “sure” and off we went to get fishing licenses. At the store I struck up a conversation with the clerk about the Lord and the power of God through Promise Keepers.
I did wonder what Jerry thought about that, but I never asked.
The next morning, we waited for the sun to rise so we could cast our lines into the swirling mass of salmon. As I talked to the man next to me, I realized we had met before in a youth pastor’s network meeting. Again, the conversation turned spiritual. I thought it odd and really cool that this would happen twice in less than 12 hours.
“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”
After breakfast, we went to Target. We could never have imagined what awaited us there. A man was hustling Target credit cards for a free sports bag (wah-hoo!) When I told him, “I don’t do credit cards,” he surprisingly said, “So what are ya, a youth pastor or something?” “As a matter of fact, I am.” I replied. Then it happened…the moment when I realized God, The Father was making an all-out effort to get Jerry’s attention. Out of the blue, the credit card guy said, “Well hey, do you want the hear a Rabbi Rap?”
Having been a Christian rap performer for a number of years, before that, I was baffled by this rather bizarre twist on that genre of music. Jerry and I looked at each other and just said, “Okay.” What followed was an amazing trip through the Old Testament history, prophecy, and the coming of the Messiah as recorded in the New Testament of the Bible – with a Yiddish accent no less! I was dumbfounded; Jerry and I had heard the most amazing presentation of the Gospel!
Back in Hawaii, his wife, Kathy and son, Eric had been scouring the internet for information that might help Jerry. Unbelievably, they found a man who also had sinus cancer- Gary Busey, a famous Hollywood actor. Kathy was able to call his office, and he actually called back. If this wasn’t surprising enough, he began to tell his story on what he thought was his death bed and telling God, “If you heal me, I’ll give you my life!” God did, and Gary did! He set Jerry up with his doctors at Cedar Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
Not long after this Karyn sat in a car with her “daddy” and told her story of how her Father had transformed her life. When Jerry came home that night with Karyn, tears rolled down his face as he confessed his faith to Jesus. I guess The Father was successful in getting his “son’s” attention.
Eight months later, we received a phone call that Jerry was not doing well, and that we needed to fly to Hawaii as soon as possible. We spent a week with him before he died; and met people from the church that he attended. At the memorial service, I was able to tell the story of how The Father reached this hurting dad and brought him home for good.