By Mark Rempel
For you have not received a spirit of slavery that leads you into fear again. Instead, you have received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, "Abba! Father!" Romans 8:15 ISV
I have always wanted to adopt. But, it just never happened. Brenda says we never needed to adopt because our lives have always been filled with kids we took in, loved on and cared for without the paperwork or a name change.
We forget the influence of our lives, don’t we? Especially when you are just living life one day at a time. I never considered myself a spiritual dad, so to say. But, now that I look back at the years, I see I underestimated that truth. Brenda and I have just tried to love all those that crossed our path. We’ve opened our house, opened our family, opened our fridge and opened our hearts to anyone in need. Sometimes we were parents to students when parents didn’t exist. Sometimes we were parents when only one of them was there. Sometimes we provided shelter and then they were gone. Sometimes we provided hope when that was gone, too. It’s not something for which you can plan or prepare; it’s just something you do.
I think of the first students in our life that ever called me “dad"... Mike and Heath. They lived in a trailer park on the north end of town. Their parents were struggling with personal demons that were sucking any time and love that these two boys seem to crave. We were just in our early 20’s. We didn’t have a fancy house or cool car or really much extra money at all. All we provided was a roof on Friday nights when they couldn’t go home. A pantry with some junk food. A television that even had a remote. We just let them in and loved them like we thought we should. Like Jesus would, right?
I think of another student a few years later named Patrick. He was a 13 year old with Leukemia who lived with his grandmother down by the river. He didn’t have a dad. Just a hard working mom who was having a hard time keeping up with the bills. I really didn’t do much. I just made sure when he showed up at youth group that I found him…I made sure of it every week. I tried to hug him. It was awkward because he wasn’t used to being hugged. That kid, though…he could definitely swear. I visited him once, “down by the river.” I met his grandmother who was pregnant at the time. I got to see his room, the one that he shared with his other siblings. He had a few posters on the wall. Like I said, I really didn’t do much. I tried to visit him when he was in the hospital as often as I could but my schedule didn’t lend itself much time for that sort of thing. You would think as a pastor it would. I remember the last time I saw him. He had a breathing tube down his throat. I looked in his eyes. I knew it was important as a man in his life to tell him I loved him. Words he didn’t hear much. Words he rarely heard at all.
Now the names are starting to rattle across my tongue. I remember Ivy, Casey and Awana. There was Karen and her brother Robbie - their dad had left when they were young, too. Paul, Luke and Nicole. A girl named Calley whose mom died when she was just thirteen. Jonathon, Brooke, Amy, Kristen, and Sonja. And, how could I forget that kid, Allen Drews? I didn’t do much, really. Being a spiritual father doesn’t require much. Honestly, I think it's just your time that people need the most. Time to listen to an issue. Time for someone to shed a few tears on your shoulder. Time to lay your phone down and look someone eye to eye.
Maybe that’s why Jesus was so good at being a man of influence. It didn’t come through position, title or where he was born. I mean, it was in a stable, right? He didn’t hang with those who had a million followers or even those who got a lot of likes on their Instagram. He was good at just making time. To listen. To love. To hurt with the broken.
Maybe being a spiritual father, a parent for that matter, is something that any of us can do. Maybe all it requires is letting someonejust live life with you. After all, that’s what our Savior did best. He invited all to come alongside and be loved. Who doesn’t want to be loved?
I’m getting older. I have more gray hairs than I would like. More wrinkles than I want to see. I look in the mirror and wonder who will think I’m hip anymore? And then I smile as I remember someone’s name who could use an encouraging text. A coffee appointment I have set up for someone new that visited the church. A meal I need to drop off for that one person that has cancer. Yes, being a spiritual dad is the best thing I can be. There's a spiritual dad or mom in all of us...
Committed to you...pmark