So my father died. It’s stark but there it is. I did consider not saying anything on this forum but I consider many of you my friends and it would feel dishonest.
I don’t really know how I feel about it really. In many ways, he was a distant figure who struggled to juggle the demands of the home he left with the home he went to. So we ended up with a bit of an unsatisfactory mess where people in his new home would address me and my brother like a public meeting and scold us that our father’s heart was full of love for us. However, to paraphrase (badly) the great Kenneth Brannah in the Harry Potters “Fatherhood is as Fatherhood does Harry”. And we saw very little of him (except the time he came to steal my bike oh and also my premium bonds and … well never mind – water under the bridge and all that). I think it probably says all that you need to know that it took nearly a week before anyone thought to lift a phone and let me know that he had died. I don’t think it was malicious – I just don’t think that people gave us a thought.
He was very unhappy with my Mum, Why those two ever married is one of life’s great conundrums but married they were. I remember them both being unhappy together and I remember doing that really common childhood thing of trying to make everyone happy by being no trouble, keeping my mouth closed, and trying to be a top-notch daughter. My friend Susan (she was from Yorkshire – you have to pronounce it Sowsan) who was in the same predicament used to say “You’re bloody stupid you are. I make sure my parents pay for everything they put me through.” I admired the self-preservation but it wasn’t for me.
He was never really my father-not in the received sense of the word. I remember reading Floyd McClung’s The Father Heart of God. The first time I read it, I had no idea what he was talking about because I didn’t know what a father was supposed to be. The second time I read it, I cried all the way through because I understood what was I had been missing. I watch HOH now and I see what a father in action looks like. He wouldn’t claim to be perfect but the sense of presence in his kids’ lives is what it is about I think.
My dad was a Christian – “old school” for want of a better phrase. When my brother came out as gay he called him a pervert. That was tough but I suppose he was brought up in different times. He suffered from dementia and although I would speak to him on the phone, I didn’t take the opportunity to go and see him at the end. The whole thing was surrounded by unpleasantness that I didn’t have the capacity to deal with and he wouldn’t have known me oh yes and flipping COVID. Bottom line was that I didn’t want to go. There really was no point.
But, when I am overwhelmed with what may be bitterness, I remember letters to my kids when they were away at camp that made them laugh like drains and what some people called the best Father of the Bride speech that they had ever heard. I try to think of something good about him and I look back to a time when I was sitting in his car. I was having a dreadful time. Church was horrendous (Christians eh?) and I was lost – as a Christian and a person. And he gave me a book – marked at a page. He told me to read it and take it on board. If I could, it would change my life and I did and it did.
I think that I have probably mentioned the book before. It’s a commentary on Romans by William R Newell, much of which is like wading through treacle backwards but blimey, the chapter on grace is astonishing. Please don’t feel the need to read it – although it is amazing. I reproduce it here, partly as a thank you to a dad who I didn’t really know but I think is probably somewhere where it is all clear as day and he gets to understand who it was he was supposed to be.
A FEW WORDS ABOUT GRACE by William R. Newell
I. THE NATURE OF GRACE
- Grace is God acting freely, according to his own nature as Love,
with no promise or obligations to fulfill; and acting of course,
righteously in view of the cross
- Grace, therefore, is uncaused in the recipient: its cause lies wholly
in the GIVER, in GOD
- Grace, also is sovereign. Not having debts to pay, or fulfilled
conditions on man’s part to wait for, it can act toward whom, and
how, it pleases. It can and does, often place the worst deservers in
the highest favors.
- Grace cannot act where there is either desert or ability: Grace
does not help it is absolute, it does all.
- There being no cause in the creature why Grace should be shown,
the creature must be brought off from trying to give cause to God for
- The discovery by the creature that he is truly the object of Divine
grace, works the utmost humility: for the receiver of grace is brought
to know his own absolute unworthiness, and his complete inability to
attain worthiness: yet he fins himself blessed, – on another
principle, outside of himself.
- Therefore, flesh has no place in the plan of Grace. This is the
great reason why Grace is hated by the proud natural mind of man.
But for this very reason, the true believer rejoices! For he knows that
“in him, that is, in his flesh, is no good thing”: and yet he finds God
glad to bless him, just as he is!
II. THE PLACE OF MAN UNDER GRACE
- He has been accepted in Christ, who is his standing!
- He is not “on probation”
- As to his life past, it does not exist before God: he died at the
Cross, and Christ is his life.
- Grace, once bestowed, is not withdrawn: for God knew all the
human exigencies beforehand: His action was independent of them,
not dependent upon them.
- The failure of devotion does not cause the withdrawal of bestowed
grace (as it would under law). For example: the man in 1 Corinthians
5:15; and those in 11:3032, who did not “judge” themselves, and
so were “judged by the Lord, that they might not be condemned
with the world”!
III. THE PROPER ATTITUDE OF MAN UNDER GRACE
- To believe, and to consent to be loved while unworthy, is the great
- To refuse to make “resolutions” and “vows”; for that is to trust in
- To expect to be blessed, though realizing more and more lack of
- To testify of God’s goodness, at all times.
- To be certain of God’s future Favor; yet to be ever more tender in
conscience toward Him.
- To rely on God’s chastening hand as a mark of his kindness.
- A man under grace, if like Paul, has no burdens regarding himself;
but many about others.
IV. THINGS WHICH GRACIOUS SOULS DISCOVER
- To “hope to be better” is to fail to see yourself in Christ only.
- To be disappointed with yourself, is to have believed in yourself.
- To be discouraged is unbelief, as to God’s purpose and plan of
blessing for you.
- To be proud, is to be blind! For we have no standing before God,
- The lack of Divine blessing, therefore, comes from unbelief, and
not from failure of devotion.
- Real devotion to God arises, not from man’s will to show it; but
from the discovery that blessing has been received from God while
we were yet unworthy and undevoted.
- To preach devotion first, and blessing second, is to reverse God’s
order, and preach law, not grace. The Law mad man’s blessing
depend on devotion; Grace confers undeserved, unconditional
blessing: our devotion may follow, but does not always do so