My dad was a surfer… and an alcoholic. But he deeply desired to do right. When I was 2 years old my dad was 24 and already 6 years into an alcohol addiction. Feeling the weight of this new baby boy my dad wanted to set some things straight in his life. So he showed up one Saturday night at his dad’s house and said, “Dad, I need to change my life. I cannot keep doing what I have been doing. Can borrow a suit and go to church with you and momma in the morning? My grandfather said, “Sure, you can borrow a suit. But you don’t have to, you can go just as you are. My dad insisted.
My grandfather reached into his closet and outfitted him with a nicely tucked baby blue suit with a tie, belt and matching shoes. My dad tried everything on and strutted like a peacock in front of the full length closet mirrors. The next morning my dad woke up, showered, shaved and dawned his freshly borrowed blue bell bottomed suit. The year was 1978, my dad smoothed some brill cream into his shoulder length bleached dirty brown hair. They drove to the church that his parents normally attended. He was nervous but he was resolute in making a change.
Thoughts of rejection floated across his mind as they made their way from the parking lot to the front doors of the church. He stopped for a moment and told his parents to go on in, that he would join them in just a minute. He lit up a cigarette to settle his nerves and to help span the two-hour gap till after the service when he could have another. He flicks the butt on the ground, grinds out the ash, and puts a piece a gum in his mouth to cover his tracks. As he walks up the steps to the front of the church, the large 8-foot-high wooden doors swing open and a smiling man greeting at the entrance stretches out his hand to welcome my dad.
They grasp hands and the man pulls him in for a hug and says, “My, my would you look at you. Son, you got the suit right now maybe if you cut your hair God would let you into heaven.” My dad hesitated, looked at the man and said, “Well, I guess we will see about that.” The man didn’t relent, he then said, “Son, we know who you are and the way that you’ve been living you are going to bust the gates of hell wide open!” At that very moment, every fear that my dad had about coming to church that day was realized. His heart was instantly hardened as rejection and anger flooded his heart. He didn’t join his parents sitting up on the third row that day. Instead he opted to sit on the very back pew. Seeing red, my dad didn’t hear a single word the preacher had to say.
When the altar call came, my dad gripped the pew in front of him. He refused to be moved. Bitterness from his encounter was already settling in. He wanted nothing to do with religion. My dad walked out of that church that day, never to return for the sake of change. Sure he attended a service or two over the years but nothing could melt his heart of stone. His alcohol addiction destroyed two more marriages and left me practically orphaned. His parents took me in when I was 9 years old and raised me until I was married. I can’t help but wonder how different my life would have been. I can’t help but wonder how different my dad’s life would had been if he had discovered redemption that Sunday morning and those fateful words would have never been uttered.
We will never know this side of heaven. Two weeks before my dad died in late 2010, he lay in a hospice bed due to complications of a life-long alcohol addiction. My dad had a true encounter with Jesus Christ. The years of constant prayer from his mom, friends and family did not return void. My dad, Bobby Foster Jr. settled his account with heaven. It is for those just like my dad that Redemption Church exists. Those who have been hurt and burned by petty comments, gossip and backbiting. Those who are worn and wearied from the endless discussions about styles of worship and clothes one must wear. Those who tried religion but have been left wanting. Those who are tired of empty, powerless relationships. Those who have not necessarily stepped out on God, just the church. Those who miss God but don’t miss the hollow rituals.