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Sunday, June 21, 2009

What I deserve

Matthew 6:19-21
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Courtesy of the Air Force this Father’s Day I’m sitting in a hotel room in Montgomery Alabama. It is not what I would have wanted but that is our career and sacrifices are all too common. My friend Mike said, “I can’t believe you have seven kids and are alone on Father’s Day.” Seems crazy bit maybe it was so I would have time to write this blog.

Today I heard a song today as I traversed Montgomery searching for a church, the song was by Natalie Grant, called “Our Hope Endures.”

You would think only so much can go wrong Calamity only strikes once And you assume that this one has suffered her share Life will be kinder from here
Sometimes the sun stays hidden for years Sometimes the sky rains night after night When will it clear But our hope endures the worst of conditions It's more than our optimism Let the earth quake Our hope is unchanged
How do we comprehend peace within pain Our joy at a good man's wake Walk a mile with a woman whose body is torn With illness but she marches on

We never walk alone This is our hope Our hope endures, the worst of conditions It's more than our optimism let the earth quake let the earth quake let the earth quake Our hope is unchanged

I listened to the words as I drove and I thought the concept of what we deserve. Of course Ginger and I have had this discussion many times. We did not deserve what we endured and Andrea and Troy did not deserve to have their lives cut short. But I doubt they feel cheated out of anything right now, it is those of us left behind are the ones who tend to fell cheated out.

I did not deserve to watch my wife suffer and die, and Ginger did not deserve to have men in blue uniforms knock on her door. What we deserved was to be happy and for life to progress the way we had laid out, to follow the script. The script many of us adhere to. A script usually penned by our own hand. The one that says when we place our faith in Christ we have a contract with God that entitles us to “What we deserve.”

This past week I was talking to a good friend and they are about to celebrate their 25th anniversary. I did not get that with Andrea and for an instance it hurt and last week our friends retired and built their dream home and have begun life without kids. I did not get that and in a way it also hurt. Andrea and I were 18 months away for an empty nest, and nearing retirement. We had paid the dues of a 20+ career in the Air Force and we were about to reap our harvest, our reward for faithful service, but we never got there. We would always say we will do that when “We get where we were going.” We never got there. And there is a sense of injustice when death erases all dreams plans and entitlements. One of the harder events soon after I lost Andrea was I attended a friends retirement. I sat and listened to the summation of a career and watch the happy family get what they deserved, the accolades for a job well done. I watched the wife pin the retirement pin on her husband and I listened to proclamation of recognizing the efforts of his wife. I watched the excitement as they set off on a new journey outside of the hectic pace of the military life. I felt cheated for Andrea because she will never be praised for all she did for me, my career and the Air Force. She did not get what she “deserved.”

But maybe my grip is not so much what Andrea deserved but what I think I deserved. Really Andrea and Troy got more then they deserved, and it is called mercy. Today Andrea does not hurt, her bones do not ache and she no longer suffers endless doctor’s appointments. Today she has no need of faith, like the lyrics from “I Will Rise” by Chris Tomlin. “My faith shall be my eyes.” Who says we deserve living in the presence of our creator? Thankfully we don’t get what we truly deserve.

Romans 6:23

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

After church today I noticed I had missed a call from Ginger. I played the message and I heard three sweet voices tell me, “Happy Fathers Day Daddy, I love you. As I listened to their words I thought of Troy. I always think their love is his. I fell like I’m at the Academy Awards Troy is unable to attend the announcer says, “Accepting the award for Troy Gilbert is Jim Ravella. The crowd still cheers and applauds but I know their praise is not for me. The pride I fell is his pride and the joy I feel is his. I just have the honor of standing in. It is hard to describe the emotions of being a dad to Troy’s children. He did not walk out on them, nor did he dread his role as a father to five. It could not be more opposite. He loved his kids and loved being a dad. You don’t have to be around very long to learn that about Troy. You hear it from family and friends but I see it most in Boston. He loved his dad and he misses him. Greyson and Isabella know what a special dad Troy was and they definitely feel the loss, but Boston remembers his Dad the most. As the oldest I think he felt the pain Ginger suffered in a different way than the other kids. He was thrust into manhood when all he should have been worried about was being a boy.

I don’t feel nearly the weight of filling in for Troy as a fellow fighter pilot, and he was a war hero. Instead it is the weight of fathering his children that I feel the most. I feel that weight every time I read to the boys hear the girls holler “Watch me Daddy.” I feel it every day of my life. Every time I watch Boston play soccer, Greyson play basketball, Bella draw a picture, Aspen dress up and imagine herself at the ball or Annalise fearlessly take on life. And I feel somewhat guilty for taking any credit for their accomplishments but it how I honor Troy, and his memory.

It helps me to think of myself as standing in for Troy because I know one day I will meet him. I want to know I did my best to raise them to know Christ to know the amazing man that their father was. I know Ginger wrote about the adoption earlier and truthfully that was merely a legal ceremony where I pledged to be legally responsible for the kids. Not to belittle that day because it was a very special day for us all, but I did not become their father that day, I was just made their legal guardian. I considered myself their father the day Ginger and I decided to marry. I picked up a baton that Troy laid down and I will carry it with honor until God calls me home. I don’t ever think of myself as replacing Troy in anyway, but I do stand in the gap for him and in many ways I feel him beside me.

I think one day I will be held accountable for my life. First of course is to Jesus, for my life and what I did with the gifts and talents He gave me. But second, I think is to Troy, for how I raised the kids. This is probably not a biblical principle but it is the level of importance that I place on my role as their father. I hope Troy is proud of me when we meet.

I wish I could attach the message the girls left me to this blog because I cannot capture what it meant to me to hear that from my girls; my first official Father’s Day as their dad. You have heard the saying sweet as honey that is what their words were to me. I’m woefully inadequate in my ability to capture what I felt in this blog. I have been a dad of boys my whole life and I love raising boys and doing boy things but I’m learning that girls are very different. They really do melt your heart. I loved playing Army, or rockets with Nic and Anthony. I loved cutting out guns from wood or making battle flags and forts. I loved reading mysteries and adventures with them. I loved and still do, love watching sports with them. With Nic living abroad he does not get a lot of American sporting events so I called him on Skype and turned the video camera to the TV and we watched Hockey and football together. I have many fond memories of being a dad to Nic and Anthony and I feel that again with Boston and Greyson but I can tell you there is adoration and love in a little girl’s voice when she tells you she loves you. It is humbling to be given such responsibility to care for a little girl. I don’t want to upset any women who might read this and think somehow I think girls are not equal to boys, or boys are better then girls. That is not what I’m trying to say. Boys and girls are equal and they are different and that is okay, it is how God created us. I find that more than my boys, I feel a responsibility to protect my girls. I feel that with Ginger and I felt it with Andrea. It is what made watching her suffer and not being able to stop it so difficult. I can tell you I feel it when I heard the girls say, "I love you Daddy." You sense it in the way they respond when you talk firm or discipline them. They seek your approval more than a little boy and they advocate the role to you. You don’t sense the struggle for independence as much as you do with a boy, Bella being excluded! But even in their independence they still seek approval from dad and I felt it in their sweet soft voices when they said “I love you daddy.” How I felt today when I listened to their voices will be with me forever.

Then it hit me, as much as Andrea and I did not deserve the suffering we endured I do not deserve the blessing of raising seven wonderful children. I concluded maybe I should not look at this life as my reward or my punishment. Maybe I need to remind myself that what I deserve is not wrapped up in the results of this life but in how I react to this life. The truth is the only crown we are promised is when we stand before Jesus.

1 Peter 5:1-5

To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ's sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: 2Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.

I’m reminded that this life is hard and sometimes it does not go according to the script but then again that depends on whose script you are reading. I need to remind myself that I freely accept Christ suffering for my salvation yet somehow I feel a sense of injustice when I’m asked to pick up my cross.

I will close with my own Father’s Day wish,

Happy Fathers Day Troy. You would be very proud of the kids. Of course they are all growing up way too fast but they are children of character who are a Godly example to those around them. From what I hear, they get that from you.

Until we meet,

1 comment:

  1. What a touching post. Your blog never fails to bring tears to my eyes.