My interest in this story was peaked when I heard about a little girl without a father, who sleeps on her living room sofa every Saturday night. Until I heard the full story, I thought this was completely bizarre. You’ll understand why she does this in a minute, but first I’ve got to start you out with a little backstory.
Meet Doug, an exceptionally average guy with a boring job.
Doug’s the most gentle, bear-like man you’ll ever meet, with soft eyes, some grey hair that’s sprinting away from his forehead, and a contagious, wall-shaking laugh.
He never married. Sure, he’d had a love interest or two back in the day, but relationships tended to slip through his fingers like grains of sand. It’s something that still sends shooting pain to his heart at times.
Until he was 71, Doug didn’t really think much about getting serious about faith or how he could change the course of a life. But for some reason, he got an itch that something needed to change. He decided to start investing in his little worn-down neighborhood. He had two goals. “Know God better. Serve people better.” Pretty soon he was forming relationships with neighbors. Then he got braver and started offering to take people to church.
His only takers? Abby, her brother Brian, and her grandmother.
Abby is six years old, spunky, and drowning in freckles. Pushing down her rebellious strands of hair is similar to a game of whack-a-mole. She’s our infamous Saturday-night-sofa-sleeper.
Her mom was recently diagnosed with cancer and now has to find the money and time to get chemo and radiation treatments.
For this family, when it rains, it floods. They were evicted shortly after her health news, stayed in a shelter, found temporary housing, then got evicted again. Abby’s half-brother Brian had to move west with his father, leaving her behind without a buddy. To be honest, I don’t even know what their situation is right now.
But I know Doug does.
While their lives change as often as the weather, Doug never wavered in picking Abby and her grandmother up for church. Every Sunday.
It’s why she sleeps by the door. She doesn’t want to miss his knock in the morning.
He drove Abby to church soccer camp. Then Vacation Bible School. Then Christmas Eve Service (where I saw her looking down at her outfit all night because of how pretty she felt in her new sequin dress from Gram). With every new event, Abby grew to know the love of Christ more and more.
Until finally, Abby asked Jesus into her heart, and the change was profound.
She was singing. Growing more confident. Donating things to kids in need, when she herself was desperately in need. Jesus is in this little girl’s heart. And He used Doug to get to her.
Not everyone is able to see such insanely beautiful life-change like Doug has. Serving is hard, and while Jesus may use it in profound ways, you may not be able to see the harvest of your efforts. But they matter. All it took for Doug was being a father figure and pursuing this little girl’s family.
A Note to Men:
Doug wishes he hadn’t waited until he was 71 to make those two life choices of knowing God better and serving people better. He hopes you’ll start now, because the impact you can have on a life is beyond your wildest dream.
With Father’s Day around the corner, share this with the men in your life. They need to know that, no matter who they are, they can be a father to anyone. All it takes is the will to change, and patience.
Be a Father.
Protect those who can’t protect themselves.
Comfort the hurting.
Give grace to the naïve.
Pursue the lost relentlessly.
Love deeply, above all else.
Sure, when you clump it all together it sounds overwhelming to a broken human being. But God uses the messiest of us for change.
Here’s a place to start if you’re wondering how to be a father to the father-less, or even how to be a better father to your own children:
Crack open your Bible.
Pray on your way to work.
Sit in silence and listen…without your phone.
Then look for ways to apply what you learn and hear to situations around you.
It could take years, it could take months, but in Doug’s opinion – it’s worth it. Because a little girl who didn’t have a father in her life or a hope to keep her going, got both.
All from a ride to church.