“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. “
As I was walked around the garden, a blanket wrapped around my shoulders, not really knowing what to think or say, the words of this verse just kept repeating in my head.
At the age of 12, I was living in Dundee, Scotland, where my parents had been sent to oversee a children’s home in their roles as Salvation Army Officers. My dad was one for ensuring the children had as close to ‘normal’ life as possible and so, this particular evening, they all piled into the minibus for one of their many trips out. Scotland has some beautiful scenery, so off they went to visit a local loch for a picnic, time of fun and swimming. Normally, I would have gone along too, but this particular day, I had decided to stay at home.
They should have been back by teatime but the clock carried on ticking into the early evening and there was still no sign. Suddenly, the doorbell rang and I made my way to the huge glass front door. I could see that the member of staff at the door was alone and very distressed so quickly opened the door. The only words I remember hearing were “your daddy’s drowned’.
At the loch, a couple of the young boys, brothers, had been messing around. They had been warned a few times but continued to be absorbed in the games they were playing. One of the boys soon realised he was out of his depth and started to cry for help. My dad swam out to the two boys and my mum followed. Making a line, my dad was able to grab hold of the first boy and pass him to my mum who then passed him on. My dad then grabbed the second boy and again passed him to my mum. When my mum turned back after returning the boys to safety, he had gone. My dad could swim but not well enough to survive the strong undercurrent in the waters beneath.
I know we all have different experiences of losing loved ones, but I recall very clearly on this evening the words of John 15:13 repeating over and over. In some strange way, it brought me comfort. I didn’t understand why at the time – who would? I realised later that it was the prompting of the Holy Spirit reminding me that it was God’s purpose being fulfilled. My dad loved children, so much so that he had died for them too.
So, as Father’s Day arrives each year, it is a tough day for me in some ways, but also a reminder of the love that my Heavenly Father has for his child. I miss my dad, of course I do, but the loss of my own father has caused me to depend wholly on my Heavenly Father. This deepened relationship has been my lifesaver. The love I have experienced from my Him has carried me through many struggles. It has strengthened me, given me a sense of belonging, and shaped me into who I am today. I came across a great quote in a book recently by Malcom Duncan. It just said:
“One day, God will answer all the questions that I have, and on the day that He answers the questions, the questions themselves will no longer matter.” So true!
I’m reminded that the ultimate sacrifice and example of greater love was when God sacrificed His only son, Jesus, and this is really what John 15:13 is referring to. It's also a reminder that my Heavenly Father didn’t do this just for me – He did it for you too.
So, whatever your experience is of your earthly father, remember you have a Heavenly Father who is waiting to meet with you and He will surpass all your expectations in the same way that He has mine.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son. Whoever puts his trust in God’s Son will not be lost but will have life that lasts forever.”
John 3:16 (New Life Version)