i am incredibly behind in my posts.
i have a lengthy post planned for my sweet monkey.
i want to share something a little different.
something from my guy
who was asked to speak at our church
during a lenten service on righteousness.
may i just say
i am so incredibly proud
proud to be his wife
proud of how he conducted himself
proud of his story
proud of his journey
to hear him deliver it was so powerful
but i asked him if i could record it here amongst the wires
so that maybe
his girls could look back on it
and share in the same pride i feel.
he obliged me.
so here it is.
i am so glad he asked me to watch his kiosk
14 years ago.
* * * * *
Where Does Your Righteousness Come From?
7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in[a] Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.
My name is Bill. Some of you know me as Amy’s husband, or as Charlie Jo and MIllie May’s dad. Others of you know me as Chuck and Sherry's son-in-law. And if you don’t know me in any of those ways, chances are you know me as the big guy with tattoos and gauges that attends 9:45 service or 4:12 on Wednesdays. I am a work in progress. My tattoo artist would agree with me, but today I’m not talking about my tattoos. Today, I’m talking about where I am in my walk with Christ; where I am on the path of righteousness.
I’ve known Christ all my life; I was raised in a Catholic home where church was mandatory, service to the church was mandatory, and any relationship with Christ was founded in fear, not love or righteousness. As you may have already guessed, I was never very good at fitting the mold; and so it was, when I was 17 that I left home and put behind me my family, my faith and the only world I had ever known. I floated between couches for a while and squatted in an apartment for a time in an abandoned house on the NE side of Cedar Rapids, stealing electricity from the neighbors and helping the lady next door put her groceries away for a few spare bucks. I experimented with drugs and alcohol during that time and plucked pennies from those borrowed couches to buy my cigarettes. I looked for love and thought I found it...three times. The path I was on was not one of righteousness, to be sure. I was headed into very dark territory when the United States Government picked me up and put me into a uniform.
My time in the Army afforded me a lot of time to regain and reshape my perspective. I began attending church again, but this time my intent was to find God. I attended Catholic services, Methodist services, Jewish temples and Islamic mosques. I was seeking answers, I was seeking God, but I still wasn’t ready to surrender myself; I had already had to do that when they shaved my head and put me in a pair of big black boots. The idea of giving up anything to a deity I couldn’t see or touch was still beyond me.
I came out of my military experience with a far less clouded head than I had gone in with, but I still grappled with doubt and fear at every turn. I still questioned God, questioned Christ, questioned the validity of any of it in my life. I questioned the people who were a part of my world; my family, my friends, and even the cute girl I met working at the mall who I wanted so desperately to trust. I struggled with surrendering my whole self to any of them, and I especially struggled with surrendering myself to Christ. But it was my fear of being alone, my fear of never having a real relationship with anyone that overrode my inability to trust. It was February, 1999 when I asked that cute girl at the mall to keep an eye on my kiosk. She did. She watched it from her folding station and was still standing there smiling, folding shirts when I returned from the bathroom. That led to walking her out to her car. Which led to dinner at Subway. Which led to watching movies in her parents living room. She even got me to church. Two years later, in that same church, in THIS church, I made that girl my wife.
Fast forward. Five years ago, Amy and I were in a car accident. Amy’s right leg was severed by debris from a steel barrier that entered our engine block and exited through her leg. She was also 34 weeks pregnant with our first daughter, Charlie Jo. I couldn’t get her out of the car. I was left to stand outside her window, helpless. And in that moment, Christ took over. And in that moment, I let Him.
In the weeks that followed the accident, we became very aware of what is important in this world, and what is not. During Amy’s recovery, we moved in with her family, the most essential of our belongings confined to a guest room in their home. We waited five weeks for the arrival of our daughter and in that time, were overwhelmed by the love, support and prayers that were extended to us. In that guest room, in those five weeks and in the months that followed, we learned that it didn’t matter what crib you had or whether or not you had a closet full of baby clothes. We learned that all you need is a place to lay to your head, a few diapers, a hand to hold and a whole lot of love and prayer. We had that.
A year and a half ago, after the leg had healed, Charlie Jo had grown into a little girl and Millie May was on the way, grief pulled at our family again. In one week’s time we lost Amy’s Pappy, a man I had come to love, admire and respect. A man who had shown me what the love of family really meant. It was sudden and unexpected and devastating. The day after his funeral, I received word that my own father, my biological father, had also passed away. And so we put our plans to return home on hold to attend another funeral, this time for a man whom I had love for, but who I had never known. During this week, we were faced with grief, sadness and multiple opportunities to crawl into dark places and allow that darkness to consume us. But it was in this week that I had a realization; I realized, in the midst of the sadness, that Christ was in front taking care of it all. That these men who had both played very different roles in my life were now walking in the righteousness I have yet to achieve. That I no longer put my fears, my doubts and my questions ahead of Christ. Instead, I put Christ ahead and in turn, found peace.
As I mentioned earlier, I am still a work in progress...a husband in progress, a father in progress, a canvas in progress and a Christian in progress. I know that Christ would have me put Him above all, but I still struggle with that. I struggle with putting him ahead of my family. My own father left me at a very young age putting another life ahead of me. The idea of putting anything ahead of my own girls is still unfathomable to me, even when it is Christ.
I told you at the beginning of this that I wasn’t here to talk to you about tattoos, but that’s not entirely true. I love my tattoos. Each one of my tattoos hurt, some more than others. But once the healing has taken place and the skin flakes away to reveal it’s new appearance, I realize that all the pain was worth it to have a piece I admire so much and that tells a part of my story. And so it is with righteousness. Christ asks us to put him first, above all else, so that we might achieve righteousness with him. Sometimes this is easy, likes a small tattoo on the wrist. Other times, the idea of surrender is overwhelming, like black ink on the inside of the thigh. But in the end, our surrender to Christ yields an amazing result and a vibrant life. It will hurt sometimes. It will require some sacrifice. It will require making some pretty definite and final decisions. In the end, I hope that my faith will gain me righteousness in the Lord. And that my tattoos will make Him smile.
|(Photo courtesy of Keith Nester @FUMC)|