HeartStories 3

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart) …
e. e. cummings

Thanks to Sarah Thebarge, author of The Invisible Girls, for encouraging me to ask this question: “What stories do I carry with me in my heart today?”

Here’s one of them, told in a way I’ve never told it before.

Daddy and the Doorbell

We rarely locked our doors in West Frankfort, Illinois, my hometown. Car doors, front doors, back doors, side doors, porch doors, screen doors. They had locks that worked but didn’t get used. That sounds a little crazy ― and a lot dangerous ― in today’s world. But in those days, we didn’t fear intruders because there weren’t any to fear.

Relatives, neighbors, high school friends were all welcome to come into our home any time. We had a doorbell, which was an addition my Dad made to the front and back entrances. But the doorbell was mostly used to announce someone’s entrance instead of announcing someone’s desire to enter. That will make sense to you if you were a teenager in southern Illinois in the mid-20th century.

Imagine a teenager whose idea of fun was to cheer louder than the cheerleaders at basketball games or sing non-Lutheran hymns at a country church. Then you might be able to understand my brand of rebelliousness. Just running up to the line, maybe putting my toes over it, and then jumping back quickly to my family’s rules and discipline.

When it came to freedom, I relished the fun of riding around in a car. Alone or with a guy or with my girlfriends. Exploring country roads and old cemeteries. Visiting a town I’d never visited on my own. Going to a movie that my parents may not have approved of. Dragging Main just to see who else was dragging Main. Driving through the City Park when no one else was there.

That was my freedom in a town of 9,000 before media and internet and airplanes and cities entered my life.

I was having so much fun just learning to be me! The toughest part: my curfew, set by my Mom and Dad. For my own good, I knew. They just didn’t understand how difficult it was to end an enjoyable evening right in the middle of the joy!

My rebellion began quietly at first. Coming in just a few minutes after my set time and feigning innocence: “Is it really? Sorry I’m late.”

When punishment didn’t come, I pushed a little harder. They could see his car parked in front of the house, couldn’t they? I was technically home, even though I wasn’t in the house yet, right? 

Then one night, I came smiling up to the front door as I watched my boyfriend walk back to his car. I did notice that the porchlight wasn’t on. Bulb must be burned out, I thought. Turning around, I reached to pull the door open.

The door was locked.

One of the biggest shocks of my life. 

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I stood there for a moment, considering what was happening and what I should do. Then I came to my senses. Mom or Dad or my sister Barb must have locked the door by mistake! 

I boldly rang the doorbell (12:30 a.m., which was definitely the middle of the night in my hometown) and waited. And waited.

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Finally, I heard my Dad’s footsteps coming across the dining room floor. The door opened, and I was greeted by his grumpy, scowling face.

“Come in here. You’re late. We’ll talk about this in the morning.” That was all he said. Then he went back to bed. I stood there in disbelief and confusion.

Honestly, I don’t remember the conversation we had the next morning. But I do remember that was the last time I stayed out past my curfew.

I knew I had broken a rule. That was obvious. What I didn’t realize was how much I had hurt my Dad. And how much he wanted me to be safe and not get into trouble.

Looking back now, I realize I learned a lot about grace that night.

Even though my Dad was grumpy when he opened the locked door to let me in, he did open the door. He didn’t make me sleep on the porch or try to wake my sister to let me in. He opened the door. 

He showed his love for his daughter who was no longer an innocent child. He accepted me, sins and all.

And that’s just a glimpse of what our Heavenly Father does for us. No matter what punishment we deserve for our sins, when we ask him to forgive us, he does it. Every time. He keeps opening his arms of love to us. Jesus paid for all our sins with his death on the cross, and God no longer keeps a record of our wrongs.

If there’s a burden you’re carrying today, maybe a burden you’ve carried for a long time, give it to Jesus. Ask for forgiveness. Accept God’s grace, so wonderful and free. He will amaze you with the depth and power of his love!

“So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 5:21).

Laura Warfel is a widow, writer, and follower of Jesus Christ. Her greatest joy is to bring others along with her on her faith journey. In 2015, because of the encouragement of the Launch Out Conference and Jon Acuff, she launched More Than A Widow on Facebook and Twitter. Today she blogs, tweets, and posts to help widows (and those who know widows) find encouragement, hope, and resources for the journey. Her goal is to help all widows live beyond the label and live as more than a widow.
Copyright © 2017 by Laura Warfel