This is a sample from the Finding Father study guide by A. J. Jones, week 3 of 12.
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In 1991, a friend of mine hijacked me and brought me to a little church at the end of an airport runway in Toronto. At the time I was in really rough shape. I was struggling with suicidal thoughts almost 24 hours a day and I was slowly losing my grip on reality. I had just finished writing some letters to my family about why I was going to end my life. In this condition, my friend Sandi and I walked into the back of this little church. To be honest, I didn’t want to be there, and I was not happy with Sandi for bringing me there either. We normally attended another church on Sundays where I had been plotting my own demise in the second row while people seemed to be completely oblivious to the pain I was in. So, one sunny Sunday morning, Sandi decided to take us to a different church. I had no idea how much it would change my life.
I remember the day very well, actually. We sat two rows from the back even though there was plenty of room up front. As the worship started, Jeremy Sinnott (the worship pastor) began to sing a song called, “Father I Want You to Hold Me,” and I began to unravel. You see, my own dad had killed himself just months before and that had led to my downward spiral. I was a professional at putting on a good face. I doubt even Sandi knew how desperate things had become for me. The truth is, I was on the edge of just not making it. So here I was in a new church practically against my will, where instead of singing “happy, clappy” songs, Jeremy and the team were going right for the heart; and l lost it. I mean, completely lost it! There I was a few rows from the back sobbing and wailing through the entire music set.
Try as I might I could not stop the tears, sobbing and shaking. When worship Was over, we all sat down and I proceeded to cry all the way through the message. I mean, this might be normal behavior for some people, but not for me. I didn’t cry in public ever. In fact, I often mocked others who did! You know, those people who cry at the sappy part in a movie or while watching TV. Oh yes, I mocked them with glee!
When John Arnott finished speaking (I still don’t know what he spoke on that day because I couldn’t hear him over the noise I was making), he looked around with those kind eyes and said, “There is someone here who needs to know that Daddy loves them.” Could that have been for me? I remember thinking, “I am so not going up there! There are 60 people here watching me!” But apparently me body had plans of its own, or so it seemed – I found myself walking up to the front of the church before my brain could have its say. As I approached the front, John simply opened up his arms. I walked into them and cried all over him for about 40 minutes. And, oh, I mean the full deal here: snot, tears, the whole gamut! At times I am pretty sure John was holding me up as God began to wash over me. Through tears and deep cries, the pain in my heart found a voice and release.
When I was finally able to pull myself together, John introduced me to Jeremy (the worship leader) and a man named Ian Ross who was another father-figure in the church. What started for me that day was a one-and-a-half year season where every Sunday one of these three men would meet with me. Even if it was only for a few minutes, they would encourage me, pray for me, and give me a hug. God used their arms to begin to love me back to life. I wish I could say all of my issues melted away on that first day, but the truth is they didn’t. There were plenty of issues to work through; however, when you know God’s Fathering heart personally, you can tackle any mountains – even ones in the past.
So, a year-and-a-half down the road you might think I was really together and fully knew Papa God’s heart for me, but honestly, I still didn’t get it! Every Sunday morning at Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship somehow, the message of the Father’s heart and His love for us would be woven into the sermon and I would just get frustrated! Yes! Yes, we know He loves us. MOVE ON!!! Well, I suppose they didn’t move on because there is nothing to move on to. God is Love. Still, there I was getting frustrated at having to hear it again. (Side note: When we are frustrated by the message of the Father’s love toward us, that’s a pretty good indication that we still don’t reall get it!) At that point, I could tell you all the verses and explain to you how we know we are loved, but I didn’t live like I was loved. I was frustrated by the topic and numb to it all. So, a year and a half later, on one particular Sunday morning, a minister began to speak and I remember saying to God, “God why do we have to hear the message again?” He answered me, “Because Sweetheart, you still don’t get it.” As you might imagine I cried a bit that morning, then decided to surrender to Papa God my plans and what I thought I needed to hear and understand. I chose to submit to His plans and what He knew I actually needed. He knew I needed the message of His acceptance and unconditional love for me. He knew I wasn’t really receiving the message in my heart. I was so occupied running to busyness and hyper-religious activity to dull that pain. Yet, all the while, God knew I actually needed to rest in His love and let Him heal me.
That Sunday night before I went to bed I prayed a simple prayer that went something like this: “Father, I know I don’t understand this message of Your love for me. I don’t know what is in the way, but my heart’s desire is to get what all the fuss is about! Please help me get it.”
That night I had a dream. I had the exact same dream seven times over the next two years, and God used this dream to awaken my heart. It was a dream about the Father’s house and while the dream would take too long to tell, the end is what is important. In the dream I am standing in the Father’s bedroom and there is a large bed at least twice my height in front of me. I am jumping to try to reach the top of the mattress but there is just no way. I know the Father is up there on the bed and I can vaguely see him through the veil surrounding this massive structure. Suddenly, the curtains open on the window, the sun shines in the room, and I am lifted through the air past the veil and into the Father’s lap! He holds me and we start laughing together and then I wake up.
As I woke up from the first time I had the dream, I could hear
God audibly laughing in my bedroom for about 10 seconds. It was an incredible sound so full of love and joy as to make you cry with it. After lying in bed and savoring the sound of God’s laughter I heard a verse go through my head that I had never understood before ... and that’s where the journey began.
You have most likely heard this verse many times before. I had always heard it used in evangelism messages. But here is what God asked me that morning: “The way to whom?” I was dumbfounded! What do you mean, God? Here is the thing I missed ... for Jesus to be “The Way” there must be a destination! He is the way to what? To Whom? Jesus is the way to the Father.
Let’s look for just a moment at why Jesus came. It is pretty clear from looking at John 3:16-17, it was a relationship rescue mission.
I don’t know about you, but I had so many wrong ideas about why Jesus came. From this passage we see the reason very clearly – it was love. In the Greek, that word “love” in this passage is the word Agapé, which means unconditional love; the unconditional love of a Father for his children. Only that depth of love could motivate that kind of sacrifice we witness in the Father asking His only Son to go to the cross. Jesus didn’t come to judge us or give us a set of rules to live by; He came to restore relationship with the Father. He came to make a “way” home for us and yet, still so many of us get lost along the way.
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