A definition of thief is this: a person who steals another person's property, especially by stealth and without using force or violence. Having just celebrated Easter I've been thinking about the thief on the cross next to Jesus and my father.
My dad grew up in West Virginia, with many brothers and sisters. His mother and father went to a Baptist church and I know he heard the truth. I also know how he lived was not "Christian". So, I often wondered if my dad had accepted the truth. I wondered if he had accepted Jesus.
After I graduated high school in '99, I started dating my husband. I graduated in June, and started dating Tim in July. I was on top of the world. Then one afternoon, I can't remember if it was a Saturday or Sunday, my dad walked into the living room. I remember I was sitting on the floor, and he looked at me and my mother and said, "I'm leaving." He gave me a kiss on the cheek and walked out. Part of me was stunned and another part of me was not. My dad was there more physically than emotionally for my family. I don't know if you'll understand that or not.
About 3 months after that Tim and I were visiting him one Sunday afternoon. If you knew my dad you know what he was watching...SPORTS, LOL. This particular day was a Nascar day, and I remember Jeff Gordon, my dad's driver, was having a great race. Tim and I were going to church together and I had expressed that I wasn't sure if my dad was "saved" or not. So, Tim just starts a conversation with him about it. My dad knew that Jesus was the way, and he answered all the questions right, but there's a difference between "knowing" the truth and accepting it into your life. Seeing how he lived didn't tell me he believed, even though he could tell me with his mouth.
My dad would go on to divorce my mother, and he moved back to West Virginia. He eventually remarried. His new bride was also a believer. I was thankful for that, but as things go and old habits die hard eventually that relationship ended too. They were never formally divorced, but were separated.
Visits with Dad were short, only lasting a day or maybe 2 when we would travel from Florida to see everyone. The last time I saw him he was living in an apartment on the second floor. That was hard for him because he had so much trouble with his legs. He had gone through multiple surgeries to repair/replace veins in his legs so he wouldn't lose them. He had lived in pain because of that for years. Smoking, alcohol, and eating wrong will always catch up with you, and he was paying the price. Let's just say, he was a mess medically. It was January, and I was pregnant with my second child. My oldest, little Gem, had always been stand offish with my dad. He was a loud country boy and was not gentle with his girls so she wasn't getting any special treatment either, but this time was different and I am so thankful for that. Gem was playing with him, laughing at him, and snuggling with him. It was a great visit. We took pictures, and watched TV. We laughed at old jokes, and new stories.
May came along and my little Ann was born. My sister who lives in WV gave my dad some pictures of her, and he said that she looked like we did when we were babies. September came along and one night I was watching a movie in bed beside my sleeping 4 month old, and Tim came to the door of the bed room. He said my name in a way that got my attention, so I actually got up to see him instead of just being annoyed and asking, "What?!", like I'm prone to do sometimes. He told me that my brother-in-law called, I immediately thought something was wrong with my sister, but then he told me they "found my dad", and I lost it. I immediately went to the guilt of what I had not done as a daughter, and how I should have been more involved with his life. I should have sent those pictures of my new baby to him, and I should have called him every weekend like my spirit was telling me to, but I didn't. I had done none of that.
So my dad passed away in September and the last time I talked to him was July. I hate that. The last thing we said to each other was, "I love you." though, at least I have that. My dad died at home, alone, like he had always said he wanted. From what we found with his blood pressure record and his pills he died September 12th, in the morning/afternoon. His evening pills were still in his container. He was found slouched over in his wheelchair towards his couch, like he had tried to get up and sit there, but never made it.
Now, I wonder what he was thinking in his last moments. Did he think of me, did he think of my sisters, my mother, his grandchildren, his family? Most of all I wonder if he thought of Jesus. I wonder if he was like the thief on the cross. Being faced with death, did he say to Jesus, "remember me". Did he accept God's incredible gift of life though his son Jesus Christ at the last moments of his life? Having stolen the days he had lived for his own self, his own feelings, his own wants, and desires? That at that last moment, even though he had stolen from God what is rightfully his, did he said yes, and believe?
I wonder how many of us are thieves on the cross in our own lives? We steal from God what is his, we take and take without force or violence, or even worse...we don't tell others of Jesus. We don't live our lives in the light for others to see, and have the hope that we have through Jesus Christ.
But even if that is true, if we are nailed upon our cross, we can say to Jesus, "remember me", and believe him. We can have life though God's incredible grace and love, and he will say to us, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise."
I hope my dad did, and I wish with all my heart I knew.