Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: HARVEST (11/21/19)
- TITLE: From Bitterness to Beauty
By Janet Richey
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But in the late sixties, Dad became a follower of Jesus, and God blessed him with a gift for breaking down the scriptures into simpler terms. Dad loved sharing it with the deaf community; this calling was so much bigger than farming. The land loosened its grip on him, and in 1973, at the First Baptist Church, he was ordained as a minister of the Gospel. Instead of harvesting crops, he would harvest deaf souls.
This change upended our whole family. By 1977, he sold the farm, and moved us to a culturally diverse coal town where Catholics out-numbered Protestants ten to one. Our view from the kitchen window changed from a mountain range, to a back yard no bigger than a basketball court. There were no trees to climb, no vegetables to pick. Never had I felt so swallowed up by my fatherâ€™s ambitions. Sharing him with the land, it seemed, was easier than sharing him with the deaf community.
Dadâ€™s ministry consumed him. As a child, I was too ashamed, too afraid of burning in hell, to admit that I was deeply wounded by my dadâ€™s absence. It was hard to reconcile what God was clearly doing in the deaf community, with the bitterness I felt for being put in third or fourth place. So, I did what most any girl who unquestionably loved her father would do; I put the blame on myself.
In the 1980s there werenâ€™t too many places that a hurting teenager could go, and I couldnâ€™t possibly trust anyone in the church. I developed some pretty ugly defense mechanisms; arrogance, false bravado, and neediness, that left me with few healthy relationships. I made some profoundly bad choices that could have destroyed me.
And yet...Ecclesiastes 3:11 ESV proclaims â€œHe has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity into manâ€™s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from beginning to end.â€
God brought me to a husband, who loved me like no other human being had. I became a mother, and through my kids, I became more intentional in seeking God with all my heart. I serve Him in a way my father never fully understood, because it did not align with his vision of what he had in mind for me; an interpreter for the deaf, or a missionary.
In February of 2019, my father had a stroke that stripped him of his ability to communicate. While the deaf community came to visit at the hospital and lavished their affections on him, I took on a more passive role. It is difficult for me to admit, that through his impared sign language, he had apologized on many occasions. For what, I am not entirely sure. I was still too bitter to believe that it could have possibly been meant for me.
Maybe it was at his funeral, three months later, when I came to terms with it all. A dear friend stood with me as we scanned the room, filled with over a hundred deaf people, and said â€œYou suffered a great deal, but look at all these deaf people who came to the Lord, in part because of your father. And you, my friend, have a story to write.â€
Despite all of the abandonment Iâ€™ve felt, it was my father who planted the seed in my long road to Salvation.It is foundational to who I am today. Like a farmer who spreads simple looking seeds, and turns the landscape into a beautiful picture of golden wheat, so too, does God make everything beautiful in its time. This is where I chose to to grow.
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