Thirty-one years ago I was a struggling young pastor. Jan and I, along with our two little children, left all that was known and familiar to us and journeyed north to Montana to plant a church. This was our first attempt at starting a church and our first time living in Montana. We had no idea how it was to be done. We simply had a word from God and were acting upon that word in faith.
After a few months went by my parents came for a visit. Mom and dad grew up in the rough and scrabble life of working class America living through the Great Depression. They knew what tough times felt like.
It’s strange how we can be “all grown up” as adults and find ourselves responding to our parents like we are still a twelve year-old kid. While most of this child-in-an-adult-body-response is held inside, sometimes it can come out. During my parents visit my inner twelve year old spoke out a few times in frustration.
When mom and dad visited, we had less than 10 people including our family, attending our church. I felt like I was on display as a pastoral failure. During this visit the mere presence of my parents allowed me to emotionally let down and explore some of my feelings. I felt afraid, alone and scared of what was happening in my first attempt at public ministry.
The day mom and dad departed, Jan and I stood on our porch and waved goodbye as their Oldsmobile pulled out from our driveway and disappeared down our dusty Montana road. I was feeling the sorrow of saying goodbye to two people who brought me such a sense of security by simply being in their presence for a few days.
I went back into the house and sat at my desk located in the corner of our bedroom. When I picked up my Bible I found a $100.00 bill lying underneath. I knew my parents had left the money for us. We were living from one meager offering plate to the next. As I held that bill in my hand, I broke down and began to cry like a baby. All the emotions I had carried for months began to puddle on my desktop.
As I scroll back over the years, I realize how powerful a single act of unsolicited love can be. That $100.00 bill had no note or condition attached to it. The bill just sat there, but it spoke deeply to me. It said, “Son, God is in this.” “We love you.” “It is not over until it’s over.”
I have come to see these acts of love, acts of love without words or notes attached to them, as some of the most powerful. They are powerful because they allow the recipient to attach their personal emotion and experience to them.
That day, as I looked out from my desk across the Montana landscape, I felt a deeper love and appreciation for my parents. I was given a gift of love that helped me continue to walk deeper on my journey of faith and not give up. I knew that through my parent’s act of unsolicited love, God was saying to me, “I love you, Garris. I am with you in this. Don’t give up.”