This is a true story of a father and son, but I have changed the names for obvious reasons. I knew the father before he died, and the son and I have been and are still good friends.
My friend, Joey, was a preacher’s kid. His father was a highly respected and wonderful pastor. Naturally enough, Joey rebelled and dropped out of high school and pursued a life of alcohol, women, and drugs. The booze and drugs almost killed him and certainly separated him from his father. The two didn’t speak for many years. One night, the son was literally lying in a gutter, drunk and thinking of suicide. He heard singing and looked across the street where the light and the singing were spilling out of the front door of a church. He struggled to his feet and walked to the church. He expected to be turned away at the door, and if he was, then he would know he was of no worth and would commit suicide that night. He was welcomed at the door of the church and a man took him inside and sat with him. Later, some members brought him coffee and tried to sober him up. He ran away. As this was a week-long revival, Joey came back two days later but still drunk. They welcomed him again. The next night, Joey showed up again, but this time he was sober. He has been clean and sober ever since that night over forty years ago. He wanted to reconcile with his father but was afraid to face him. He went to the pastor of a large church and asked how he could ever face his father again. The pastor smiled. He said, “Joey, for the last five years, your father has come here every day so that we could kneel together and pray that you would find Jesus and return home. He will welcome you with open arms.” Joey’s father did indeed welcome him home, and Joey went on to finish college and become a pastor like his father. He pastored several very large churches, received a doctorate in divinity, and was made a District Superintendent. This is not a fairy tale where Joey lived happily ever after once he reconciled with his father. Joey suffered through and still suffers from serious health issues, happily, he has a wonderful wife who still stands by him. His children lived through problems with both the law and with alcohol, but both made it through and are now living lives that make Joey proud. I see his picture on Facebook from time to time, and he is always smiling. He is also a grandfather—and my friend. Joey’s father also taught and guided me as I became a minister in the early nineties. No matter how far from God that you run, He is right behind you, waiting for you to fall exhausted into His waiting arms. Joey and I have a lot in common. We both have known the bottom and have both seen the top, and both owe a serious debt to Joey’s dad. Every time I think of Joey, he reminds me that There is a bond between father and son, earthly and heavenly that cannot be broken.