Liberate

A Father's Love

When I was 16, my parents kicked me out of the house. They had tried everything. Nothing worked. And it got to the point where my lifestyle had become so disruptive to the rest of the household, that they were left with no choice but to painfully say, “We love you but you can’t continue to live this way and live under our roof.”

A couple years after they kicked me out I was living in an apartment with a couple friends and I called my dad (after losing yet another of my many dead-end jobs–I only called him when I needed something) and said, “Rent’s due and I don’t have any money.” My dad asked, “Well, what happened to your job?” I made up some lie about cutbacks or something. He said, “Meet me at Denny’s in an hour.” I said okay. After we sat down, he signed a blank check and handed it to me, and said, “Take whatever you need. This should hold you over until you can find another job.” He didn’t probe into why I lost my job, or yell at me for doing so. He didn’t give a limit (here’s a $1000).  And I absolutely took advantage! I not only remember taking that check and writing it out for much more than I needed, I remember sneaking into my mom and dad’s house on numerous occasions and stealing checks from out of his checkbook. I had mastered forging his signature. I went six months at one point without a job because I didn’t need one! Any time I needed money I would go steal another check and forge his signature –$500, $300, $700. I completely took advantage of his kindness—and he knew it!

Years later he told me that he saw all those checks being cashed, but he decided not to say anything about it at the time. It didn’t happen immediately (the fruits of grace are always in the future), but that demonstration of unconditional grace was the beginning of God doing a miraculous work in my heart and life. My dad’s literal “turning of the other cheek” gave me a picture of God’s unconditional love that I couldn’t shake.

My father died in 2010, twenty-one years after he sent his disrespectful, ungrateful son on his way. And it was his unconditional, reckless, one-way love for me at my most arrogant and worst that God used to eventually bring me back. Until the day he died, my father was my biggest cheerleader and my best friend. I miss him every day.

Steve Brown once said, “Children will run from law and they’ll run from grace. The ones who run from law rarely come back. But the ones who run from grace always come back. Grace draws its own back home.” I ran from grace. It drew me home.

40 Comments
  • EBG says:

    Beautiful. Thank you.

  • Debi Tchividjian says:

    Thank-you for that beautiful visual of a Fathers love …..you were blessed to have a earthly father that knew Gods grace and lived the grace walk……..you are such a blessing to so many and like your dad the beauty of Jesus is seen in and through you Tullian! May God continue to bless the work of your hands!!!

  • Susanne Schuberth (Germany) says:

    What you wrote above about gracious love, Tullian, really moved me to tears.

    I empathize with you missing your father. What a wonderful man who displayed God’s Love exceptionally graciously :) How blessed you were because your father loved you! Nonetheless, I hope you know what a blessing you are when you honor him they way you do by writing about his patience toward his (kind of) rebellious son ;)

    May your life and your family be blessed more and more!

    Love,
    Susanne

    PS
    Nothing can come between us, i.e., between God’s Endless Love and us. For it is written,

    “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.“ (Rom 8:38-39)

    PPS
    I am surprised that Debi’s comment expresses in a similar way what I have just said though I had written my few lines above many hours before I posted them, that is, before any comment was posted. How peculiar…

  • the Old Adam says:

    The law can change behavior.

    But only grace can the heart.

  • PGM says:

    This is so very precious! What a tribute to your dad and what a tribute to God’s grace!

  • anonymous says:

    “Grace draws its own back home.” I ran from grace. It drew me home”.

    I appreciate your testimony; when I reflect on my own, I realize that while a zillion acts of kind overlooking of sin ought to have turned me, pathetically, I realize it never truly would have on my own, despite how reasonable it seems even to the flesh. The only thing that does is the power of the gospel – the greatest kindness leading to repentance is God granting us eyes to see and bestowing power to act.
    no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. 1 Cor 12:3b

    and in belief we too know what love the disciple of the Lord is- those whom the Lord loves, He disciples and He scourges every son whom He receives. Heb 12:5-6

  • Secure in Christ says:

    Wonderful testimony of the grace of God! What precious father the Lord gave you. Thanks for sharing this story brother.
    All Glory to our God!

  • j says:

    Wow. This just hit home for me. Thank you for sharing.

  • Nita says:

    Thanks so much for sharing that, Again, it was just what we as parents need to hear. You and your story have encouraged us over the past few years and continue to as we walk through life with our younger son who just turned twenty-one. We tend to question ourselves as we try to respond with grace and wonder if we are doing what is best. We are so tempted to “lay down the law”. We are seeing change by small increments in his heart and it’s good to be reminded of the truth that “grace draws its own back home. This reminds me of the story Rod Rosenbladt tells about how his own father’s expression of grace toward him helped him understand the grace of God.

  • Lindsay W says:

    Your father’s courage to trust the Lord, and not to scramble to get you back is very humbling. Thank you for sharing this story.

  • […] A Father’s Love Tullian Tchividjian, Gospel Coalition Comments (0) […]

  • Allison says:

    When I read the first paragraph of this post, I was blown away by the similarities to my own son’s story. We kicked him out 6 months ago with the very same reasons and words. He’s 19. We have worked very hard to maintain a relationship with him that is positive, letting him know that although he can’t live with us, we love him and want the very best for him. He’s receptive, and we are waiting for the day that he will turn back to the One he gave his life to. But the day-to-day stuff is hard – requests for “loans” that we know will never be paid back, having money & other belongings stolen by him – and I have struggled with knowing when I’m showing him grace and when I’m just enabling behavior. This is a reminder to me to always strive for showing grace, to take every opportunity I can to love him as Jesus would. Thanks…

  • Jessica says:

    Thank you for sharing this. It is very similar to my own testimony, and now we are going through it with our 17 year old son. Your words have been so encouraging to me this morning.

  • Michael Lee says:

    Allison,
    Let me encourage you with the following article written by John Piper’s son Abraham. It has helped me immensely. My once professing son, who is a Freshmen in high school, is in massive rebellion. Not only does he not want to have anything to do with God, he in fact is denying the very existence of God.
    Devastating… that is the only word that can describe how his anger towards me and then towards God affected me… then numbness. Not numbness towards my son or towards God, but a numbness that said, “Stop! Mike, you can’t take any more.” I guess you could describe it as a sensory shutdown of some sorts.
    However, instead of responding in anger or in defense or in many other ways that would have not been helpful or honoring, my love for my son doubled that day though. I am no longer “reckless” in our relationship. I am much more graceful towards him. I now make sure that I take great care in how I communicate to him and relate in all areas with him. I pray constantly for God to redeem him. I find myself waking in the middle of the night praying for him.
    Through this, I am now able to better identify with the father of the prodigal son.
    The advice that Abraham lists has proven invaluable to me. I pray that they do the same for you and for the others who have mentioned similar circumstances with their own children.
    Humbly,
    mike
    http://www.billygraham.org/articlepage.asp?articleid=859

  • We have amazingly similar stories! I can still remember the day my parents gave me the ultimatum. After repeated efforts to help me, they realized I had no intention of changing. They offered to take me to a youth program to get help, but I arrogantly rejected their offer. When I was fifteen years old, I left home and took to the streets of Philadelphia. I tell my story with a little different emphasis under “Setbacks on the path to ministry” http://thinkpoint.wordpress.com/2011/02/11/setbacks-and-trials-on-the-path-to-ministry/

  • […] Thought you would appreciate this. The endorsement by Pastor Tullian was an important factor in our decision to send our son to Shepherd’s Hill Academy. Reading this brief overview of his story gave me hope for our son and many like him. God bless you Trace Embry for obeying God… Article by Pastor Tullian Tchividjian titled “A Father’s Love.” http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tullian/2013/04/27/a-fathers-love/ […]

  • Christina says:

    Reminds me of my dad too. He just kept loving me.

  • Mike says:

    The resurrecting power of grace. This blog is so powerful and I thank God for gracing me with these resources. The gift of grace is so overwhelming at times I have a difficult time accepting it. Lord help me accept your gift of grace

  • Tom Jensen says:

    well written and a good blog.
    we have recommended it from our Christian social network.
    God bless you.

  • Paul St Jean says:

    Pastor
    it was brave to post your past, I certainly will not share some of the bad things I did in the past.

  • Christina says:

    Paul St. Jean…I totally agree…only a handful pastors are willing to be that open. That is why I keep going to the Coral Ridge site to listen to your sermons.

  • That is a precious story of your father’s forebearance and longsuffering with you. I can see how this makes some sense as Jesus said things like if a man steals your cloak, give him 2.

    But I have to wonder if this is always a good pattern. For example: If my son’s thievery affected more people than just myself – would I be unwise to allow him to continue to steal from me? I can see how that could cause resentment with other children, or put my family at unnecessary financial risk.

    I also wonder if this would be appropriate at different ages. It seems you were an adult who had been taught, but if a child still lives in the home, would you say there should be some discipline applied?

  • anonymous says:

    re: M Coughlin comment above “But I have to wonder if this is always a good pattern”

    Jesus’ pattern: beginning of preaching: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matt 4:17… end of preaching: those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent. Rev 3:19; in between, much instruction on the way of grace & love. He’ll probably ask if we each were interested in imitating His pattern.
    The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen. Rev 22:21

  • Tullian Tchividjian says:

    Hi Michael!

    I rarely join in on the comment threads here, but you ask a good question…one that I’m sure many would ask after reading this. So let me be clear.

    1. My mom and dad literally tried everything: private school, public school, home-school, counseling, etc. I was properly disciplined as a child in their home (I’m one of seven kids) and they eventually kicked me out. Just the kind of “tough love” I both needed and deserved.

    2. After I had been out of the house for a while and was no longer a “threat” to the family, my dad decided (on this occasion) to give and show such a degree of undeserved kindness in the hopes that his kindness would communicate something of God’s kindness and eventually lead me to repentance. It worked.

    I’m definitely not saying this is THE pattern every time for every child in every situation. I’ve given a snapshot of one thing he did at a very particular time for a very particular reason. As I describe above, my dad himself handled me very differently in a variety of situations. We need both the law and the gospel, after all. But on this occasion at this particular time in my life (knowing me the way only a father can know his son) he did something that I’m sure was scary for him but God used it. And that unwarranted, ill-deserved act of undomesticated grace is, I think, a picture of God’s love for us: “While we were yet sinners (far worse than check thieves), Christ died for us.” It was this kindness that eventually led all of us to repentance. The gospel simply put is that God gave us his best while we were at our most arrogant worst.

    My now deceased father showed me that and God used it to show me something of his heart-melting, repentance-producing love.

    I hope this helps. That’s the problem with blog posts: you can only say so much.

    Blessings, Michael!

  • Pastor Tullian –

    Thank you for clarifying. Your graciousness is humbling to me.

    I can see how your father was a model of God’s mercy toward sinners that God used in your life. All things work together for good to those who are the called according to His purpose. Amen. I appreciate that you are not calling this the model for fathers, but sharing the example of how an imperfect man who loved you dearly did the best he could to show you the gospel.

    I can say I understand your final sentence personally as well.

    Again, thank you for your kind words and the genuine love and humility you’ve expressed. I’ve commented on a lot of posts, and your lack of defensiveness is refreshing.

    Michael

  • Gina says:

    Very encouraging story. We have a 21 year old son, who is addicted to heroin. He has been removed from our home, but not our lives. We help him where we can, but it is hard to know if we are really helping or if we are simply enabling his drug addiction.

  • […] A Father’s Love by Tullian Tchividjian […]

  • Kathy Morse says:

    Our PAPA does the same for us; though we deserve His wrath, He extends his grace and mercy to us. “When the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us not because of righteous things we had done but because of his mercy.” Titus 3:4-5
    While Stephen was being stoned he prayed, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” Acts 7:60 While hanging from the cross Jesus prayed, “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34 It’s not easy to forgive someone who is not sorry. Always does us good to reflect on The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant. Matt. 18:21-35

  • Christina says:

    Pastor Tullian,
    Just listened to your Week 14 sermon. It saddens me to hear that some people responded cruelly to this post. My dad died 14 years ago and I miss him every day. I couldn’t imagine the emotional pain that you encountered having to deal with those responses. I just have to say that your messages have deeply touched my life and have given me a renewed sense of hope after months of living in despair. I’ve been forwarding the link to your sermons to friends. God Bless!

  • Susanne Schuberth (Germany) says:

    When even the smallest step feels like miles away, and when the words are few which to God you could say, trust in the Lord and move yourself out of His way.

    So what if there are actually seasons of perseverance and strife? Just know, our Heavenly Father is the father we have been looking for all our life.

    His Love from above will never be in vain since He comforts us in tears and in the falling rain (2 Cor 1:3-5).

    With Him no more collision course but call on His control by Love (2 Cor 5:14).

    ;)

  • Wendy Cleavenger....Secure in Christ says:

    Brother Tullian, I just listened to last sermon posted on your current series “But God part #14″ and it was so sad to hear that people would have unkind things to say about this post. I just couldn’t believe it. I am sorry about that. Don’t be discouraged. May the Lord help you to continue doing what you are doing, continue preaching the Gospel and the Grace of God just as you are preaching it. Please know that there are brethren that you don’t even know, that are bringing you in prayer before the Throne of your Savior, asking that He gives you grace, strength and wisdom to continue doing what He has called you to do, which is to preach the Gospel to the church, because we have Gospel amnesia and we desperately need Christ. May the Lord open our eyes to our desperation for Him. Praise God He has no left us! So brother, please preach to yourself what you preach to us. You are unconditionally loved by your Savior and everything you need you already have in Christ who loves you and died for you. My husband and I are must grateful for you brother. ALL Glory to God!! God bless you, your family and your Church! :)

  • […] Tchividjian: A Father’s Love [An unforgettable story about his father, beautifully illustrating law and grace.] > Tweet This […]

  • Matt Troupe says:

    Thanks for sharing. I appreciate the touching story and the way God used your father’s love to break your heart. I do wonder that the distinction between law and grace in this story goes too far if it is suggesting that when parents take a stand against the destructive habits of their run away children that it is ungracious by default. “The Lord disciplines the one he loves”- and he does it for our good (Heb 12:6). And that doesn’t drive us away, it drives us back to him. It is one glorious but unappreciated way he shows us His love.

  • Janice Settlemoir says:

    Thank you so much for the encouragement. Pastor Tullian preached a sermon that I heard last spring/early summer in which he talked about the grace his father showed him. In this sermon, Tullian recounted quite a bit of his past behavior as a teenager. The sermon was very encouraging to me as a mom of teenagers, and I would like to share it with a friend, but I don’t remember the title! The sermon may not have been preached live last spring (that’s just when I heard it on Coral Ridge’s podcast). Does anyone have any idea which sermon it might be (or even the series it was in)? Thank you!

  • Joe Bigliogo says:

    Was it not possible to be responsible, honest person who doesn’t take advantage of others and still be an atheist? I never believed in god and still don’t. Guess what… I never forged cheques, stole or did anything like this story depicts. What I find disturbing about these sermons based on supposedly true stories is their covert association of losing religious faith with moral failings. We can lean moral lessons from life without having to believe in old iron age myths and fables.

  • Shari says:

    wasnt there a sermon Pastor Tullian did on this almost exact thing? I listened to it a while ago, but would love to find it to share with someone. Could someone help me find it, please? TIA!

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