How Deep the Father’s Love

All eyes turned toward the stairs as footsteps echoed in the cement-walled emptiness beneath the thinly-carpeted, wooden steps.

            “Hey Matt,” Andy called out before returning to his conversation.

            Matt walked to the loveseat and lowered himself onto the cool leather. Each week the seats were taken in the same order. Gary, the owner of the house, was the first to sit, taking the left side of the couch. He could have had either of the over-stuffed leather chairs, but, as the host, he left the most comfy places for the others – those others being the first two guys to make the basement descent. After the chairs would come one side of the loveseat. There was a Bible-width’s amount of gap between occupiers of the loveseat, so seat two of that furnishing would go next – then the other side of the couch. Finally, the last person would make his way down the steps – usually emitting a groan when realizing that his tardiness had relegated him to the dreaded couch center seat. It would be interesting to see the difference in the ritual if it were instead seven women finding their places on a couch, a loveseat, and two chairs.

            With everyone settled, Gary opened the time in prayer. Then, turning to the guy whose hip was awkwardly pressing against his own, he said, “Okay, Mark, you know the rule. Last to arrive, first to speak.”

            Silence…which was unusual for Mark. Normally, he was the one busting into everyone else’s time. The six guys quietly waited him out.

            “Okay,” he finally began, a little tremor in his voice. “The separation order says I’m supposed to have the kids every weekend. But Annie keeps finding reasons to bogart my time with them. I’ve been getting them two – three times at best – every month. Then Tuesday, I get a call from Callie who said that her mom told her that Derrick is moving in. We’re not even divorced. How does that work? First of all, I thought that if there was infidelity, the other spouse is supposed to get custody. Wrong. Now my kids are going to be living in a house where their mom is shacking up with the same guy who broke up their family? Seriously? I got to tell you, I almost didn’t come tonight. But, unlike Annie, when I make a commitment, I stick to it. Sometimes, though, it feels like I’m all alone out there.”

            Silence again. Then a voice began quietly singing – actually, half talking/half singing, and it was hard to tell which was more off key.

            How deep the Father’s love for us, how vast beyond all measure

            That He should give His only Son to make a wretch His treasure

Matt’s voice stopped, while everyone sat awkwardly wondering if they should have joined in and kind of hoping it wouldn’t happen again.

            Matt piped up, “Okay, since I just weirded you all out, I guess I’ll go next. I had the scan a couple days ago. The doc said that he won’t really know the situation until he gets the results. It could be okay, it could be bad, it could be really bad. You know how rough it was the last time I dealt with this stuff. If it’s back, I don’t know if I’m up for the battle again. Six months of an okay life before a hard crash at the end, or twelve-to-twenty-four months of treatments and misery before a hard crash at the end. I know that Maggie and the kids want me to fight it. Am I selfish for even considering throwing in the towel? I don’t know – I just need a little godly wisdom and some peace.”

            It was Gary who broke the momentary silence this time with Matt, Andy, and Carl gradually joining in.

How deep the Father’s love for us, how vast beyond all measure

            That He should give His only Son to make a wretch His treasure

Carl spoke up next. “So, I’m feeling a bit bad saying this, but life is going pretty well right now. We’re well past the point where Amy miscarried last time. The doc says that the baby looks strong and healthy. I laid my head on Amy’s belly last night, and the little punk inside kicked the snot out of my jaw. It was…I don’t know – weird, beautiful, amazing, a little creepy. Tyler can’t wait to meet his little brother or sister. Besides the pregnancy, the job is going well. The fam is going well. I know I shouldn’t feel guilty saying that, but I kind of do.”

            Matt said, “Man, never feel bad about the good times. We’ve all got seasons. God’s got you in a good one.” Then he started his sing-talk again with all the others jumping right in.

How deep the Father’s love for us, how vast beyond all measure

            That He should give His only Son to make a wretch His treasure

Gary went next, talking about his struggle with guilt over seeing two of his high school age grandsons going off the rails. Greg, who didn’t usually say much, just gave a praise that the Lord protected his elderly mother and father when they were rear-ended by a pick-up truck at a stoplight. Rob confessed to failing again in a habitual sin for which he had asked the guys to keep him accountable. After each was finished talking, they would together sing/speak/mumble the words of the song.

            Last to speak was Andy. “It’s been two years – well, two years, one month, and nine days. I could probably break it down to minutes for you, if you wanted. I keep feeling like I should be moving on – like I should be, ‘Snap out of it. He’s gone. You’ve got to keep pushing forward and living your life.’ But I can’t. And, honestly, I think part of it is because Angela has no interest in moving on. On Saturday, I suggested to her that we box up some of Wes’s things – maybe give some of his clothes and stuff to people who could really use it. Thought that might be a good tribute to him, but she went ballistic. It was ugly. Nothing can change in his bedroom. Nothing can be touched. Not only that, but she insists on keeping his bedroom door open. How can I begin healing myself if every time I go up to our room I’m confronted with her time-warp shrine to our only child? I’m at a total loss, guys. I just keep telling myself that it’s okay to just feel what I feel and to hurt how I hurt, and in time God will heal it. But I feel like I’m falling apart, like Angela is falling apart – and that makes me terrified that my marriage will fall apart. It’s been two years…and I don’t see anything getting any better.”

            This time no one sang. Then one by one, the men got up and squatted by Andy’s chair. They each laid a hand on him and silently prayed.

            This time it was Andy who broke the silence. He was the only one of the group with a voice good enough to be part of the Sunday praise team. The words were shaky, but the notes were on-pitch. Soon the other guys joined in.

How deep the Father’s love for us, how vast beyond all measure

            That He should give His only Son to make a wretch His treasure

Silence…but just for a moment. Then Andy’s voice pushed on.

How great the pain of searing loss – the Father turns His face away

            As wounds which mar the Chosen One bring many sons to glory

They remained kneeling around him, until Andy said, “Thanks, guys.” That was permission enough for the men to stand. There was a little small talk exchanged while a few of the older ones stretched their backs and joked about their knees. Carl was the first to say goodbye, then Mark, then Matt, until finally Gary was left alone in the basement. It only took him a minute to slide the furniture pieces back to their regular slots, feeling the little bump when the legs dropped into their proper carpet indentations. With one last look to make sure everything was where it belonged, Gary walked up the steps, turned off the lights, and closed the door behind him.

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