When it was time, he did what all fathers must eventually do.
He let his children go out into the world, and knew his late wife would approve.
He knew his first son would do well, because he was intelligent.
He knew his daughter would succeed, because she was intuitive.
And now, the youngest. This son was different from other children--a little slower to learn, never developing past a certain level. The doctors had classifications for him, but the father saw past the labels, straight to the heart.
He struggled with fears about his youngest child. How could he let his boy go join a program, and try to make something of himself on his own?
He wanted to protect from physical harm, and emotional damage, and psychic scars. He couldn't bear the thought of the mockery that might come, and even the once-removed, imagined pain was awful.
When the father's inner turmoil turned to What about me?, he was equally conflicted. This son always brought a flood of deep love, naked and helpless. How much heartache had this boy healed, with just his warm smile? How many bad days got better, when they concluded with a pure, joyful embrace?
He wanted to be there to encourage the boy in his victories, large and small, with "That's my boy!"
But mostly, at his core, he wanted his boy to be happy, and maybe his branching out into a more adult lifestyle was a step in that direction.
Of all the programs he checked into, of all the places he thoroughly inspected, the one run by Christians seemed to offer the most.
Finally, he made the decision, and his boy, surprisingly, wasn't opposed to the idea.
So, on a day that was both hope-filled and tear-filled, he drove away alone.
The confidence he had felt upon the departure of the older siblings was absent this time, but he still felt strongly that it was necessary, and best for his son, "at least in the long run."
When the boy came home on his first weekend visit, the father learned all about the schedule, the friends made, and the classes and activities on the ride home.
Dinner was the boy's favorite: macaroni and cheese with hot dog slices in it. Between hearty mouthfuls, he said he wanted to talk "real seriously" after they cleaned up.
In the living room, he shared the most important thing he had learned in the program, in his own simple terms:
"Dad, God loves you.
"Jesus is God's son, and He came here to be like us, then to die for us.
"He rose from the dead! No, really, He totally did!
"He's in heaven with His father now, and He's coming back for us someday.
"We all have to make our own decision about him, Dad, every one of us--smart or not.
"We have to decide if we believe that He came, and He died, and He rose, and He's coming back. If we believe, and we want to go to heaven when we die, we must ask for forgiveness for the bad things we've done, and ask Him to come into our hearts. He will help us stay away from doing the bad things anymore, so we are clean on the inside and ready for Him when He comes back to take us home."
The simple young man tried to read the complex expression on his father's face, then continued.
"Dad, I had never heard this from you, so I figured it must be just a fake story. But I read and read and read, and I thought about it over and over and over, and it just can't be fake.
"I figured I would try it out, to see if He was real, like we tried out the blue car before we bought it.
"I tried it, and Dad, He is real, I know it. I may not be the smartest guy in the world, but I know that this is a good deal: give your life to Jesus and be a better person while you're still alive on Earth, then you get to go to heaven after you die!"
The father's spirit began to open to his lovely son's message, and he knew this son was pursuing a more lasting victory.
And heaven resonated with his new Father's proud declaration: "That's My boy!"
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