Good Enough for God!

“Is that right?” my uncle said, diverting all eyes to my eleven-year-old face. Mama had made the announcement in my grandmother’s sickroom with a tinge of pride. That wasn’t the feeling she had given me on Mother’s Day when I timidly confessed what I had done at church that morning. After the preacher sat in our living room a few days later and told her “I believe Judy is old enough,” she took him at his word.

The uncle, lanky like Abraham Lincoln, stood in my mother’s family as the pillar of religious knowledge and upright character. Looking down at me, he commenced his inquisition. “So you’re going to be baptized. What did you do?

With the crowded room as still as a morgue, I muttered, “Accepted Jesus as my Savior.”

“Uh-huh. But before that you had to do something. What was it?”

What did he want to hear? These relatives stiffly and silently waiting for me to say it must know. Surely, all of them passed this religion test a long time ago. And they would stop looking at me and resume their adult talk as soon as I gave the confirmed answer. But I didn’t know it. Not only that, I couldn’t think of any answer.

“Your preacher didn’t tell you what it is?”

Was he saying something is wrong with my preacher? No one where I lived ever said anything against him. As with all male authority figures, I was scared of him but not as much as I was of my father. Unlike my alcoholic father’s, his voice was kind and gentle and loving and patient. Not wanting to miss a word of his sermon, I sat by myself on the first front pew every Sunday.

My uncle persisted. “Your preacher didn’t tell you what you must do first?”

How I wanted to get away! But the relatives–older and smarter than I–held me in a vice of expectation. This wasn’t like at school where I would feverishly wave my hand, wanting the teacher to call on me for the answer to a question.

With a shake of his head in disbelief and a cluck of his tongue, my uncle stated his ordained answer. “You must first ask God to forgive you of your sins.” Then all the eyes turned toward my grandmother in her bed. And the room again murmured with adult chatter.

Left alone, my heart gnawed on my Mother’s Day decision to come to Jesus. For weeks I had resisted the tug at my heartstrings. Jesus was drawing me to enter His fold, but the decision was mine with no conditions. I never felt a compunction to ask forgiveness first. That would mean I had to do something. There was nothing to do that would make me good enough for Jesus. He had already done the necessary work of salvation–all of it.

On that May 9 in my church, I accepted Jesus’ open invitation for His unconditional love. All the eyes in attendance saw me surrender my life–past, present, and future–to Jesus. You see, I was good enough for God to come to Him just as I am.


Unexpected Development

He was a mean alcoholic. My father. I learned early on to keep my mouth shut. Not to say anything unless he spoke to me first. A cocoon of silence was the safest shelter from his tornadic ranting and raving. And not just when he was drunk.

My father did not explore my thoughts–shallow or deep–on anything. I obeyed his creed:  Children should be seen and not heard. His demands were to be met and in a hurry–no questions allowed. When I had a school problem, I took it to my mother. Always off-limits was any talk about the family shame.

This careful childhood engineering shaped my fear of the male authority figure. Thus I limped through life’s unavoidable encounters with male authorities, but Fear of Male Authority Figure immobilized me when I sat scared in the office of the college president. I was there because someone had assured me I could get a small scholarship if I simply asked for it.

Sitting where the secretary placed me—on the far side of the room from the college president—I was ashamed and afraid. Ashamed I was in a situation of having to ask. Afraid the answer would be no.

My replies were honest although they may have sounded timid. As usual, I lacked courage to look a male authority in the eye. No doubt the president behind his massive executive desk concluded I was hiding something. …

… And I would exit the interview still shackled to Fear of Male Authority Figure. (Before the Door Closes: A Daughter’s Journey with Her Alcoholic Father, p. 22)

But the days of this debilitating fear, birthed and nurtured in an alcoholic family, were numbered. Ironically and unbeknownst to him, my father was the impetus for its destruction. The demise began when I am convinced my father, warehoused in a nursing center fifteen hundred miles away, is a victim of drug-induced dementia.

Any hope of rectifying this injustice meant I had to confront doctors–the most frightening to me of all male authority figures. Up there next to God in the chain of command, a doctor controlled life and death.

After spending days screwing up courage to make the contact, my heart pounded throughout the first phone visit with Daddy’s primary physician.

‘Those are all good drugs that have been around for a long time,’ Dr. King said with patronizing finality.

My chart! My chart! Where is it? How am I going to know what to say if I can’t find it? I shouldered the telephone receiver and rubbed my clammy hands on my jeans. It’s my turn to talk. I mustn’t keep him waiting. Hurry, hurry, hurry!

My chest felt like a popcorn popper as I tossed papers out of the file. There it is! I grabbed the page of hand-drawn columns. I didn’t take time to return to my chair. ‘Uh, well, Dr. King, uh, I was reading the, uh, side effects.’ (Before the Door Closes, p. 23)

Nine months and several doctors later, I confidently approached a physician on behalf of my father, who again had been given a drug for a disease he did not have.  My father had moved to a nursing facility a few miles from my house, and this doctor is its medical director. Looking him in the eye, I am not intimidated.

‘It has been almost three weeks since Rosie called your office to switch my father to your care. We have not heard anything, and I want to know if you have made your decision.’

‘Is your father better?’

‘Yes, he’s better.’ It was the truth. Daddy no longer had dyskinesia. He was feeding himself again. Although he did not always recall the right answers, he comprehended the questions.

Dr. Murphy gave no hint of what he was thinking.

Is that it? I asked myself incredulously. You’re not going to commit one way or the other? Well, I will.

‘Dr. Murphy, my father is going to have a different doctor. If it’s not you, it will be somebody else.’ (Before the Door Closes, p. 117)

I was not intimidated, because when I was sixty-four years old, something unexpected happened to me. My Heavenly Father, looking at his daughter chained to Fear of Male Authority Figure, decided it was time for her to be unshackled. So God roped me in the ring with doctors, where I kicked and pushed and punched until Fear of Male Authority Figure could not stand up ever again.

God the Father never finishes growing His children. As Paul said, “I feel sure that the one who has begun his good work in you will go on developing it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6 Phillips)