"But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body."
2 Corinthians 4:7-10 (NIV)
Although I had no choice in the matter, I could not have picked a better father in all the world than the one who gave me life. My earthly father, Jim Smith, is the first man that I fell in love with. Such a strong, towering giant in my little-girl eyes, my daddy had the power to crush or affirm me with his strength. He has always chosen the latter. When I only saw ugliness, no talent, and worthlessness in the mirror, my father repeatedly told me that I could win the Miss America pageant. It was not false flattery. Daddy did not choose to evaluate my worth based on the symmetry of my face, the smoothness of my complexion, or the pounds on my frame, but in what he believed I could be if I surrendered my whole heart to the Christ he has faithfully served. He continually told me that I was going to do something great for the kingdom of God, long before my faith became my passion. He has spent and continues to spend countless hours in prayer, believing with eyes of faith, that his prayers will protect the little girl/grown woman who has taken wing and flown from his nest.
I have never met a man more grateful than my father. And what is so amazing is that he has lived a life of profound loss. As a four-year-old, he lost a baby brother. Although he was probably too young to understand all that was going on because of his parents' loss over baby Gary, the next time death visited the family, he was just five weeks shy of his eleventh birthday. He and his brother, Jack, were fetched from playing with their friends one unforgettable day to find that their father had fallen eight feet and was unconscious. My father climbed up beside his thirteen-year-old brother to make the dreadful nine-hour journey to Kikwit, the nearest city to the family in Congo. One hour after their arrival, his daddy walked through the gates of eternity.
Five years later, my father ran barefoot as his mind tried to block out the horror he had just witnessed. Ten tons of sheetrock had covered the floor of the cave on which Jack, his brother, was sleeping during an overnight camping trip. Another funeral, another good-bye until the glass is broken.
The week that we arrived in Congo for the first time as missionaries, my father was informed that his mother had been already been buried three weeks before. He has been the only surviving member of his immediate family for thirty years.
What does grace look like? I don't need to attend a seminary class on theology to understand that question. I have had the privilege of being the daughter of a man that has defied the powers of hell that Satan has been allowed to unleash against him. And through it all, Jim Smith--my unsung hero--has faithfully proclaimed more powerfully than any sermon could that Jesus is who He says He is and that He can do what He says He can do. I have seen him choose joy over self-pity time and time again out of his faith in the sovereignty of God. He is a giant of a man with the humility of a servant of the Most High God. My father has encouraged me to press on through discouragement, bitterness, and pain and to hold on for the blessing. His life is a shining example of God's glory in a jar of clay. Thank you, Daddy. I love you more than I could ever say.
Jesus, I am a blessed woman. May I bring my father and my heavenly Father honor through a life sold out to You.