I tend to get to the underlying root of what I consider to be the major problems that I face within life, but that has not always been the case.
I remember a specific time, and this time is burned into my memory because of the people and events that were involved leading up to it. This time was in the winter of 2000.
I’d say there was an estimated five years prior to the event that winter which helped me to see the underlying damage done. It was only after many years later, after seeing the forgiveness, and the sincerity of that forgiveness, that helped me to understand the forgiveness of God made possible through the atoning sacrifice of His Son. A little experience that my grandfather and I shared opened my eyes to a great truth. It is unfortunate how and why this event took place, but through that specific moment, I have been able to see a different side of myself, the love of God and the true definition of His grace.
I spent a great amount of time growing up beside a retired man who seemed to enjoy his life. If he truly did, I wouldn’t know. He always seemed to show me the kindness within himself. As a young man growing up beside him, and seeing him as my fatherly figure, I thought highly of him. We would spend a lot of time outside doing the things that he had been doing for many years before I had entered. Chopping wood, yard work, painting, tending to the chickens, building things and seasonal chores were some of the first things that I had learned to do as a kid. My grandpa and I would spend time at the lake fishing, riding around in his truck, going to the stores and trade spots he would visit. He would sometimes trade fruits and vegetables he had grown for other things. The man lived through the Great Depression, and had a knack for surviving with bare minimums. He always taught me the value of the little things, and how much even the simplest items were worth.
Those times with my grandfather continued until I reached the age of twelve or thirteen. I was changing my directions in so many ways. My parents were fighting a lot, and even though I still had my grandparent’s home to run to, I was out doing a lot of my own things around the neighborhood. Our little neighborhood was surrounded by safety. Everyone knew each other and the secluded wooded area was a place that everyone was familiar with. By then, I was spending more time within these secluded areas with others, many older than myself, experimenting with the things my life had not previously consisted of. Cigarettes, girls, and eventually alcohol and drugs. I was beginning to be pulled away from the harmless life into a destructive one. But to me, destruction was interesting and fun. It was what everyone else was doing, and the laughter was very therapeutic. The influence of the drugs and people was so pleasing. It all became an escape from my home life of yelling, fighting and disarray. Who wouldn’t want a pleasant break from that? At least, that is how I thought about it all at the time.
I began to grow in this direction throughout next three years. I was hooked on drugs, a heavy smoker, a liar, a thief, a cheat and depression was hitting me pretty hard. My parents were always splitting and getting back together, as they always had, and I was being dragged along with my mother. I was forced to watch her fight her own battle with depression and a number of other undiagnosed psychological maladies. I had my own batch of psychological problems, but didn’t know it at the time. Drugs and alcohol killed my pain and eased the depression, until I ran out of the things that would numb.
I was always getting into things at my grandparent’s home. I would sneak through drawers, cabinets and personal belongings. I was always searching for things to sell or steal. One day I stumbled upon a small purse hidden in a very odd place. I opened it, and bundles of hundred-dollar bills were stuffed inside it. Lots of them.
Over the course of a year or so, I was stealing hundreds all of the time. The purse never stayed in one place for very long, so I knew that at least one of my grandparents were onto me. I would always find it later while they were away. Dipping in again, in order to support my habits and the habits of others. I was becoming an habitual liar and thief, but I was okay as long as I had the money. I sure didn’t care about the harm I was causing.
I later found out that my grandmother blamed my grandfather for the missing money. I also later found out that the entire purse was missing, and every bit of the money had disappeared. I also later found out that one of my best friends at the time had taken it.
I eventually confessed to my grandparents, after being caught taking money from my grandmother’s pocketbook, that I was the one stealing money from them. I had no idea at the time that the entire purse had been stolen.
“I have (X amount) of money missing from this house? Do you know where it is?” When my grandpa asked me this, my whole existence morphed into a burning heap of shame, and I’m sure my body language showed the untruthful “no” response that I had for him. I knew that I didn’t take that much, so I was dumbfounded. I was in shock for a few moments, but drugs and good times soon returned to my priority list. I continued to steal from them.
It was not until later that I had found out from another friend that my “buddy” had broken into my grandparents to steal it. But, my grandparents never knew where it had gone. Although I confronted my good buddy about the money, he never confessed to taking it.
I caused a lot of pain and suffering in the last days of the lives of my grandparents. I was not very comfortable seeing that suffering, and it was too late for taking back what had already been done. The sweet people who always took the time to care for me were not only coping with the existing afflictions of old age, but were now fighting over what I had started. Within the last days of my grandmother’s life, I’m assuming that she had approached her final breaths with ill feelings towards myself and my grandfather, causing her a substantial amount of grief. She died in the fall before that winter of 2000.
I broke two hearts. I caused unnecessary grief because of my selfishness and ignorance. I did it. The whole thing was my fault. I was the one who stole the first dollar, and I was the one who opened my mouth to my so-called friends about a purse full of money in a house that I had opened with a key that hung on a nail, in front of them, many times before. I did it all.
My grandfather stayed in bed after my grandmother had passed. He spent over sixty years with a woman who stood by him through thick and thin. He was falling apart at the seams in the last days. My mother took care of him for the few months that he did survive through the unwillingness to carry on. He was ninety-three, and tired.
I walked into my grandfather’s bedroom one day and talked with him for a while. It was probably the last thing that he wanted to talk about, but I had to tell him what I knew. I had to apologize and be honest with my loving grandpa.
“It’s okay, Damon.”
Those were the words that helped me to see the forgiveness we have through Christ, even though we don’t deserve it. Even though we are righteous, selfish, willing to fulfill our on lusts with the things of the world and overlook the grief that we’ve caused others. Even though we sometimes make mistakes, learn much later on from them and have regrets. Even though we try to serve Him to the best of our abilities and continue to fail. That day, in hindsight, helped me to see how we truly, “all fall short” (Rom. 3:23).
The relief! The joy that I experienced! The bondage of regret and guilt was lifted. It was a moment that unchained the burden from my heart and helped me begin to see a new way. It was one of the ways I had begun to learn about unmerited pardons. The same type of pardon we have received through the blood of Jesus. I know just how much of a forgiving God we have by seeing a love on a much, much smaller scale. The love I had witnessed from my grandpa in the winter of 2000 helped me develop an honest and loving relationship with our Lord.
The heart is the matter, and opening it up to Him is the remedy. Being rooted in sin is what keeps us from His forgiveness.