Our family has recently had the opportunity to sing and share Jesus in the Alabama prisons. It has been a tremendously blessed week, and we have seen more tears than we can begin to describe. There have been numerous men and women at the altar each evening, and there were those who were desiring to give their hearts and lives to Jesus Christ. We are so grateful to have been a small part of the work that God was doing in their lives.
We were blessed to see the joy of Jesus radiating from the lives of the strong, Christian men and women inside the prisons. They have given their lives to Christ and are following God’s call to be a light for Him even in this bleak prison setting. Because of their obedience, the gospel is being advanced through their lives, and God is using them in this great mission field. We consider it to be a significant privilege to challenge and refresh the spirits of these dear brothers and sisters in Christ.
One of the tools that God used to soften the hardened hearts was the relationship of my husband with our children. We were able to take our sixteen, fourteen, and four-year-old daughters into most of the prisons and they participated in the singing with us. We also shared about our journey with our son, Austin, and God used our story as a platform to speak from. We saw the incredible work of God’s spirit as the hardened faces softened, the masks were removed, and tears began to fall. Many of them were able to identify with our pain. However, there were still those who seemed untouched and especially hardened to anything that was being shared.
Halfway through our singing, Duane had our four-year-old, Chantaya, come to sing a few songs. As she sang her songs, I saw the walls around their hearts come tumbling down. There was laughter and crying taking place at the same time as they saw God’s love being reflected in this father and daughter relationship. While we sang the song “Daddy, Carry Me,” Duane was sitting on a stool with Chantaya standing next to him. At one point, she rested her head against Duane’s shoulder and snuggled in closer to him. Just this little act of adoration and trust was profound in communicating the connection of our earthly fathers’ love and the love of our Heavenly Father.
I was reminded of how heartbreaking it is when God’s love is not properly communicated or is distorted by earthly fathers. Many of these men and women were told or shown that they didn’t measure up or were worthless to at least one of their parents. Some of their dads were distant, uninterested, or detached from their lives, but sadly, most of them had also experienced physical or sexual abuse from the one that God had specifically placed in their lives to be their protector and provider. This is one of the greatest hinderances in being able to recognize and comprehend the love of our Creator and Heavenly Father. Is there any wonder why prisons are filled, and why many of the crimes in our society have become so hideous? When God’s love becomes so indistinct and misrepresented, we have the tendency to function more like animals trying to fend for themselves rather than humans, created in God’s image and likeness.
It is obvious to me that each of our four girls have a fervent desire to please their daddy and to be unconditionally loved and accepted by him. When he demonstrates and expresses godly love to them, they are confident and secure in who they are. They know that they are beautiful in their daddy’s eyes, and he will always love and accept them for who they are. They don’t have the need or desire to look for love in another person since they are confident of their father’s love. In the same way, they are assured and confident of God’s great love for them, in spite of their circumstances.
How can someone who has been disappointed, abused, or disillusioned by their father’s love, truly experience God’s eternal love? I believe the first step is to recognize that the relationship was dysfunctional, and to acknowledge how deeply this has hurt you and has inaccurately twisted your view of love. As you choose to forgive your father, you will take one of the most important steps towards being set free. God desires to show you a beautiful picture of the love that He desired for you to have when you were a child, and in this way, you will be able to see glimpses of your Father’s love as well. However, it is crucial for each of us to realize that all earthly relationships will be flawed, no matter how godly our fathers are because we live in a fallen and sin-cursed world. We will always have longings and unmet needs in our hearts that only the love of Jesus will fulfill. His love for you is a perfect love!
If you are a father, you have a calling that is essential for your children, and your love, or lack of it, can significantly influence your child’s eternal destination. If you have a dad or a husband, then you have a tremendous responsibility to lift them to the throne of God. They are on the front lines of a spiritual battle for the destruction of their souls, because if the enemy can lead them astray, he has a greater “in road” to those whom God has placed under them. Together we can fight against this battle of twisted love as we seek to experience God’s perfect love!