Gift of Forgiving II: Ring of Fire
Updated: May 8, 2019
“Ring of Fire has a whole new meaning to me now!” I looked up for just a minute laughing at that statement. Then back to staring at the freshness in my arms – a baby boy not even a day old. My friend has quite the vibrant personality, which I love. I did the best to stifle the giggles as she told the story and reenacted the facial expressions with her husband. The last nurse that came in to check on her gave a worried glance to my friend’s husband. With wide eyes he said to his wife, “I am so sorry.” There was no time to page the anesthesiologist – no turning back. The nurses serenaded my friend with Johnny Cash’s, Ring of Fire as that baby boy made his entrance into the world.
“That’s funny. That song has a whole new meaning to me too,” I thought to myself as I gave a wink and grin to the “man upstairs”. After a whole decade, I finally knew the true meaning of that song and was no longer subject to the fog of misinterpretation.
“How many things have I misunderstood over my thirty-something years?” I wondered. “How much heart-break could have been avoided? How much time saved had I just taken the time to ask God for wisdom navigating the meaning and significance of the little things or even the big things, all the pieces of our jig-saw puzzle?”
He would take that past misunderstanding and turn it into a present understanding – a beautiful, cherished gift of hope.
Of all the questions that I had asked my mom or sister about my dad or any conversation that ever came up, I realized that I never knew if he was a believer. Did he love Christ? Did he know the same God we do?
So much of my dad, his past and his side of the family is shrouded in mystery for me. His parents died before I came along, so I never knew my paternal grandparents. I only ever knew of two sisters. I remember them being sweet and the one always sent birthday cards but never spelled my name correctly. There was usually a five dollar bill in there, so all was forgiven.
Truthfully, everyone’s salvation through Jesus Christ is a mystery to me. It’s between the individual and Christ and it is a very long, bumpy Road to Sold. Unfortunately, some stray from that road. But there are some people in your life that you carry a heavy inclination that they are a brother or sister in Christ just passing through this world. The same as you. But my Dad, I wasn’t really sure where he stood. I guess I didn’t experience enough of his presence to get that inclination.
A two and a half minute song with a catchy chorus and a few words spoken by my brother at our father’s funeral would veer my inclination down a fiery hot road. “I didn’t want to play this song, but it was my dad’s request and I will honor his wish,” my brother solemnly said as he pressed play on the old cassette player. In a daze still processing the words my brother had just said, my ears perked up at the chorus of that Johnny Cash song. Completely skipping over the first few words to that song, all I heard was “I went down, down, down and the flames went higher. And it burns, burns, burns…”
“That’s it!” I thought. A flood of assumptions filled my head. “He was a smart man. He knew where he was going. He grew a successful business from nothing and then lost it all. Maybe greed got to him. Maybe he made a deal with the devil at some point.”
If only my idiotic-self had listened to the first few words of that song, I wouldn’t have spent a decade fearing that my dad’s after-earth destination landed him in a Ring of Fire. Causing me to lose all hope that I would ever get a chance to reconnect with him one day.
In an ironic twist of fate eleven years later, my step-dad of all people would tell me the true meaning of that song. Searching for answers as to why I all of a sudden had dug up my past with my dad, I called my mom. “He must have known where he was headed because he had Ring of Fire played at his funeral,” I said. In the background, I hear my step-dad say, “That’s not what that song means. It was a love song from Johnny Cash to June Carter. He played it because he still loved your mother.”
Yep. Had I only listened to the very first words of that song…
“Love is a burnin’ thing. And it makes a fiery ring.”
In a Homer Simpson, “Doh” moment, I swear I heard a game show bell ring.
“Now you’re winning!”
Did I know for sure my Dad’s fate – his after-earth destination? No, it’s not for me to know at this time, but did I have a little more hope. However, I learned that making assumptions, especially when blinded by hefty emotions can lead you down a fiery road, causing some scars along the way.
“Whew – I’m done now, right? You cleared that up. It’s all good, let’s put that baby to rest!” I told God.
“Not quite. We still have some pavement to pound.”
Let’s pretend in that moment that I eagerly raised my hands in the air in anticipation of the next lesson ahead.
Nah, it kind of looked like me banging my head on the desk. “Let me sleep and let’s do this through osmosis,” I suggested.
Nope, He wasn’t done yet. We still had some work to do. He still had some gifts for me. Forgiveness was next.
It was time to forgive my Dad. And then it was time to forgive myself – a much tougher feat.
But now I had the hope to accomplish this...
I Fell In to a Burnin' Ring of Fire
Ironically, I'm the one who fell into that dagum Ring of Fire.
Lean Not on Your Own Understanding
For the first year of my "Ring of Fire", pun intended, I saw the Proverbs 3:5-6 verses everywhere. I mean everywhere! On the internet, social media feed, hanging on my friend's wall of her new house, bumper stickers, you name it -- it was everywhere.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6, NIV)
"You must be trying to tell me something here, God," I remember thinking. I focused on the word 'trust' but I also reread "lean not on your own understanding" over and over again.
Not everything is for us to understand at this time and half the time we get it wrong anyway! I know I do. Those "Doh" moments are a regular occurrence in my life.
My misconception led me down a fiery path. We don't need to know or understand everything, but we do need to LEAN into Him for wisdom and understanding. And many times He will make us wait. And wait we must. Then He will keep us on those straight paths. The road leading us to Sold. That beautiful Highway to Holiness (Isaiah 35:8).