I recently attended the Captivating Retreat in Colorado, and I finally am sitting down to tell a little bit of my experience, why I went, and how it impacted me. I'm Tami. I have been married to Ron for almost 28 years, and by the grace and mercy of God we've raised two fantastic young adults, and I just turned 49. Seems almost “wrong” that I should feel in ways like a child, but...here's a little of what happened on my way to 50:
Four years ago I packed up a little bag to give to my father. I was very excited as I anticipated having dinner with him, just he and I, for Father’s Day. The rest of our family members (we all live within 30 minutes) would be out of town at my niece’s graduation, but I needed to stay behind. And I was so glad to have this rare opportunity to spend with my dad. For the previous 10 years, he had not allowed my siblings and I to honor him on Father's Day. Our parents’ 40-year marriage ended suddenly on a Saturday morning in September of 1995. This marriage had produced three children, all happily married, seven grandchildren, and so much love. But my father had been living two very different lives—one that he shared with family, which appeared stable, disciplined, healthy, successful, and full of integrity, and one that he shared with strangers, full of emptiness, cocaine, and the darkness of pornography.
In the bag that I packed for my father, which would be his Father’s Day present, I carefully placed a book I'd just learned about—The Ransomed Heart: a collection of devotional readings, a “little black book” which was actually a smart-looking New Testament, a calendar to help my father remember his children and grandchildren’s birthdays, and three DVDs: Sea Biscuit, We Were Soldiers, and Cinderella Man. I chose these movies for the same reason you chose the clips we saw at the retreat: They tell about good and evil, heroism, life, honor, and truth. My father loved a good movie, and I knew these would speak to his heart.
But I’m speaking in the past tense because I didn’t have the opportunity to give this present to my father. He called me on Saturday to tell me where to meet him, and he sounded fine—in fact, really good. But he ended his life in the early morning hours Sunday, Father’s Day 2006.
The agony I felt in the last four years was for him—his heart, his pain, his brokenness. Me too, a little, remembering and missing him, nostalgia for the good times we all missed so much. But when I read Captivating last summer, and then Waking the Dead, I realized that there was a comfort from God that was offered, available, and that I needed. I started to think about what it would be like to give myself permission to seek the comfort and healing that my heavenly Father had for me.
I’ve never won anything in my life, but I won the lottery to attend your retreat! So I thought maybe God wanted me to be there. My husband’s development business is down about 90%, but he insisted. So I signed up and paid to go. At the Denver airport, when I gave my name to board the shuttle, a woman said, “You ARE Ali’s mother!” This smiling face “happened” to be our daughter’s school librarian, one of the few Christians on campus, AND she and I were placed in the same cabin! So I thought again maybe I am where God planned for me to be. Then I became acquainted with another young woman, 3 years a Christian, concerned for her father’s drinking. The three of us and another roommate became retreat buddies, and we plan to stay in touch, and I will pray for the young women's father indefinitely—another reason I think God had me there.
I didn’t want to go to the retreat and cry. I’ve spent a lot of energy over my parents’ issues and WAY too many tears since my father’s death. But I heard you, Stasi, at one point say these words that pierced my heart: “…and if you think, ‘If I start crying, I will never stop,’ THAT’S A LIE.” And then it was all over for me. There I sat, crying and crying on my sweet new friend's shoulder, convinced that my Father God cared to hear me, comfort me, hear me again, and again until I was done, and heal me. Then the communion…I made a point of feeling His presence there with me, close, like dinner on Father’s Day, enjoying my presence as I enjoyed His. I took the time to see the beautiful bread, to touch the piece in my hand, to enjoy the luster in the cup while I dipped the bread, and to savor it on my tongue, knowing that I am not only loved by my Father, but cherished. And all I can say is that now I feel stronger, healed, more mature, prepared to be more than a child, to be whatever God has planned for me.
I thank you, John, and your team, for the ministry that you are providing. It is so important. I pray for God’s continued blessing on your families, for the hearts of your children, and for His favor on this ministry. We need to encourage one another to offer strength to our husbands as we gain strength from God's Word, to forgive as we’ve been forgiven, and to remember who we are. How I wish my parents had had the benefit of your ministry…but God’s ways are not mine, “all things work together for good,” and I will not second-guess Him. I will, however, do my best to share the important books available at www.ransomedheart.com, to begin my own Captivating small group, and to pray to live and love others well…like the beautiful and “captivating” Arwen.
With so much love and gratitude,