Column from Sumter's Rev. Clay Smith: A daughter summons courage, takes the plunge


Her father abandoned her family when she was a child. Unless that has happened to you, you cannot know the pain and confusion it causes a 6-year-old. She wondered if it was something she had done. She longed to hear her dad's voice, to have him explain why he left. A girl needs her daddy.

Contact through the years was sporadic. A phone call now and then. Lots of missed birthdays and Christmases. Like a lot of girls with father pain, she sought comfort in the arms of boyfriends. She was willing to do anything for their love. She got pregnant, married fast, got divorced, remarried. Her dad was not there to guide her, encourage her or stand by her.

Now she is 48, and the call comes: Her dad is dying. Does she want to see him one last time?

There are many reasons to say "no." The rest of the family has said "no" with a finality that deafens. Old memories and hurts flood her soul. She thinks about all the times she could have used a dad and he was not there. But something has changed for her. She found Jesus. She prayed to forgive her dad. She tried her best to release her hurt. So, she makes the long trip to see her biological father one last time.

God was not in his picture, but death was. His steady decline was accelerating. Death was not at the front door, but it was walking up the sidewalk. She knows her dad never went to church, never had a relationship with Jesus. Something in her soul says, "Tell your dad about Jesus."

So, she asks the "significant other" of 18 years if she could talk to her father about Jesus. Bewildered before death, the woman said "yes." In 48 years, she has never tried to lead another person to Jesus. She has heard the sermons, been given the material, but never has she felt the urgency like she does now. Her prayer is blunt, honest. It is not, "God, help me know what Jesus would do," but "God, help me remember what my pastor said when my husband accepted Jesus."

There is fear, naturally. But she takes the plunge. As best she knows how, she tells her dad about Jesus, about God's love, grace and forgiveness. Her father listens. Then he indicates he wants Jesus in his heart. She leads him through a prayer. This man who hurt her so much asks God to forgive him and to take charge of his life.

An amazing moment follows. Her father's other family - that she does not know, most of whom do not know Jesus - join hands, and she leads them all in prayer.

Three days later her father dies. Are there still issues? Of course. Part of the family is spitting mad at her. How could she go to their father's side when he had hurt them all so much? They have not yet done the hard work of forgiveness. Part of the family is bewildered. They only know in his final days, the old man turned to God. It sounds too good to be true, that God would forgive a man like him.

But she can face the funeral because she has a peace. She took the plunge. She shared Jesus. Her dad accepted grace.

I know this woman. She is a regular person who has hobbies and children and bills. She is an ordinary person, just like you. Just like me. But at a crucial moment, she summoned courage to take her next step - and help her father take his. She shared Jesus.

When God opens the door, when you feel the tug of your heart to speak of Jesus, when you feel the fear telling you to play it safe - take the plunge. It is your next step. Talk about knowing Jesus. Use your own words. Maybe nothing will happen. Maybe a miracle will happen. You never know until you take the plunge.

I know there is one man in heaven who is glad his daughter took the plunge. Maybe there will be someone in heaven who is glad you took the plunge, too.

The Rev. Dr. Clay Smith is the lead pastor of Alice Drive Baptist Church in Sumter.