Surprised by Love

Family Bridges

Surprised by Love

Contributed by
Bill Ferrell

“I am dead.”

These were the first words that filled my head when I woke up.

Of course, I didn’t think that I was literally dead. I meant that I was in a lot of trouble.

I was a sophomore in high school and the night before I had gone to a movie with my best friend, Don. I drove my parent’s car to the movie. However, Don drove the car home because I couldn’t. I was drunk.

I would like to state for the public record that it was Don’s fault. I would like to say that Don made me get drunk. I would like to say that he threatened to hurt me if I did not match him beer for beer. I would like to say that, but of course that’s not true. I drank freely. That is not to say that the beer was free. In fact, I was the one who paid for it.

When I arrived home, my parents knew exactly what I had been doing. It was the first (and last) time I had consumed that amount of alcohol. Therefore, I was not good at hiding it. The fact that I had gotten sick on the way home, couldn’t stand up, and that someone else was driving their car probably made them suspicious.

In the morning I woke up and immediately felt sick to my stomach. Not from the alcohol, but from knowing that I was in trouble. I laid curled up under the covers, hoping that I had just dreamt the whole thing. But the voices coming from the kitchen brought me into reality. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but I could tell my father was upset. Very upset. I had never heard my father that way. Of course, he had never seen me drunk either. He generally was an even-tempered man. He seldom raised his voice. But that morning his volume was turned all the way up.

And for good reason. I had been irresponsible. I had violated their trust. I had lied to them. His anger was justified. And I felt horrible.

I decided not to delay the inevitable any longer. I slowly opened my bedroom door. Suddenly there was silence. I walked into the kitchen and sat down. I had avoided eye contact until that moment. I looked up, bracing myself to meet a burst of anger along with a speech about being a colossal disappointment. Instead, I was surprised.

With tears in his eyes, my father stood me up, hugged me, and said, “thank God you are safe.”

I realized in that moment his upset was not because I had disobeyed him or broken the law or had done something incredibly stupid. It was because he loved me.

I had been expecting punishment and yet I received grace. I was deserving wrath and yet I received kindness.  

I learned something that day. I learned that no matter what I did, my father would always love me. I learned that his love was not dependent on my obedience to rules, or compliance to his will, or even to common sense.

He loved me. Period.

I have learned over the years that I am deeply loved, as my father loved – and as our Father in Heaven loves.

When we experience that kind of love – we experience life.

P.S. I was grounded from driving the car for 4 weeks. True love also protects. Even if it’s from yourself.

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