Somewhere outside Tallahassee. An out-of-the-way restaurant. The burgers are small, the beer will freeze your molars. My server is a guy who looks mid-twenties. He wears an Atlanta Braves ball cap, therefore you know he’s good people. When he delivers my burger he tells me he’s getting married.
Married? I reply.
“Yep. Just asked my girlfriend to marry me this morning. She said yes. Man, I still can’t believe it. Hey. You wanna see a picture of her?”
“You can keep scrolling through them, my whole phone is nothing but pictures of her and her two daughters. They’re my life.”
What about this one? Where was this picture taken?
“Lake Talquin. We were fishing. That was my girlfriend’s daughter’s fifth birthday party. Caught her first fish.”
“And she knows it, too. This one’s from her last baseball game. Well, actually, tee-ball.”
What about this picture?
“Oh, that? That was after my accident, few years ago.”
Looks like a bad one.
“It was. Flipped my truck, almost died. Was in the hospital for a long time. Man, I got all sorts of pins in my body now. Check out this scar. And this scar here is covered by my haircut.”
“Yeah. I’m lucky to still be here. My girlfriend was beside me throughout my whole recovery, she lived in that hospital, man. Wouldn’t leave me unless the nurses physically removed her. Whenever I opened my eyes, there she was, asleep in the chair. She spent the holidays with me. Lost her job because she wouldn’t leave my bedside.
“She never let go of my hand. One time, she must’ve held my hand for eight hours straight. My hand had this huge dent in it from her holding it so long.”
She sounds like quite a woman.
So how did you pop the question?
“Well, I just did the down-on-one-knee thing before she left for work this morning. Told her she was the reason I was created, that I loved her. All that stuff. Her two daughters—they’re four and five—helped me with the proposal. We made it a whole production with the ring.”
I bet both your families are excited.
“Actually? No. See, that’s the sad thing. My family won’t have nothing to do with us, not since I moved in with her. My family won’t talk to me no more. Even my brother won’t take my calls.”
Is there a reason?
“I mean, well, I guess it’s ‘cause I was raised in a religious family, my dad was a preacher, and sometimes my mom can be… I don’t know. My mom’s just my mom.”
“She says I’m shacking up, living in sin. But the whole reason I moved in with my girlfriend was because I felt her kids needed somebody stable, and because I love them. I want to be there for them.
“Anyway, a few nights ago I went to my dad and tried to make peace, he told me I’m pretty much going to hell. He think’s I’m stupid to take on a divorced woman’s kids.”
What a guy.
“But listen, I’m not gonna let him ruin my happiness. I love those little girls. Their biological dad didn’t want them, but I do. This morning they asked if they could call me Dad. I told them it would be the greatest honor of my life.”
So when’s your big day?
“I left it up to my fiancée. Told her whenever she wants to do it, wherever, it’s all good with me. Got my nice clothes ready, and I saved up enough to take us to Las Vegas for the honeymoon. But here’s the kicker. When she gets back, I’m gonna surprise her with a new house.”
“Yep. She doesn’t know I bought us a house last week. Twelve hundred square foot, man. I feel so grown up. It needs work, but hey…”
So do you think you’ll have a big wedding or a little one?
“Small. Definitely. And it won’t be in no church, either. My dad would have a fit.”
But it’s not his wedding.
“No, but I respect him. And it’s all good, because in a way he’s right about me. I’ve made a lot of mistakes. I’ll never be perfect like he is. But you know what? I know what love is.
“When I was a kid, my dad used to always preach about love. He always said love was the only thing that mattered. Said God was love. And know something else? I sat there in that pew all those years and I actually believed what he said. I still do.”
It is my prayer that the old preacher might happen upon these words tonight and have the bravery to believe it, too.
Nan - July 23, 2021 7:08 am
This is a good one, Sean. I’m with you – it’s my prayer that the preacher practices his own preaching. I wish the young man and his new ‘family to be’ all the love and luck in this crazy world we live in.
orgillian - July 23, 2021 7:46 am
It never ceases to amaze me how often people like his Dad who say God is love
usually try to add some judgmental twist of their own that negates that statement.
Leila Travlos - July 23, 2021 8:04 am
The man in this post is indeed correct. God IS love. He is not punishing. From a Christian who is impressed by his wisdom.
Dee - July 23, 2021 9:16 am
This kid is living love! Wishing all the best for his new life.
Lori Klein - July 23, 2021 9:17 am
Where would we be without love? Where would we be without grace? Best wishes to the new happy family.
Steve Leachman - July 23, 2021 10:41 am
Sometimes preachers sometimes forget “Judge not least you be judged.” And the forgiveness Jesus was always preaching. Maybe this young man was living in sin but he’s getting married now. I’d think his preacher father would view it as the prodigal son coming home. One thing I was always told by Methodist preachers and family “ Jesus forgives and it’s never too late to forgive someone.” Praying this young mans family learns that.
Suzanne - July 23, 2021 10:42 am
That young man is wise beyond his years.
And, amen to the last sentence of the story.
Joey - July 23, 2021 11:27 am
Beautiful, Sean. And how sad for the preacher and his wife. They could have been blessed and learned that a daughter-in-law and grandchildren are the greatest thing in the world!
Karen - July 23, 2021 12:00 pm
Blessings upon this young man and his marriage. The two little girls are being blessed with a loving father. God didn’t put any of us, including preachers, on this earth to judge others.
Bill in Montgomery - July 23, 2021 12:12 pm
Hope you gave him a nice tip!
Sean Chatham - July 23, 2021 12:13 pm
Obviously, the Dad is wrong in the way he is acting, but he is flawed like the rest of us. Is anyone reading this perfect? At the end of the day, he succeeded. Look at his son and all the love that is in him. For this, Dad, well done! Best of luck to this young family. May God bless them with his favor, guidance and overwhelming presence. And thank you, Sean, for sharing. You are the best, in your writing, but especially your character! Your folks, however messy it may have been, and I’m so sorry for that, got something right too. Keep up the GREAT work (and Go Braves)!!
Ted Land - July 23, 2021 12:18 pm
This old preacher is ashamed of that old preacher and proud of that young man. I’ve got a son who isn’t perfect either, but I love him and he loves and respects his old preacher dad, even though he knows his dad isn’t perfect either. And if this young man needs an old imperfect preacher from west of Tallahassee to officiate at a wedding, I volunteer. And I love Lake Talquin too.
Kathy McLean-Davis - July 23, 2021 12:19 pm
Thanks, Sean. This’ll preach, and it probably will…
Robert L Chiles - July 23, 2021 12:22 pm
Praying for his parents to open their eyes and hearts to the gifts of grace and love. The young man has got God figured out so much better than they do.
Lander - July 23, 2021 12:28 pm
Sad thing that sometimes rules and convention are put before the rule of love. What a great guy to have listened and taken in the truer parts of what his dad said without worrying about the little rules that just get in the way.
Jerry Hicklin - July 23, 2021 12:32 pm
Wish I had that meal with you Sean, just so I could leave a big Tip. What a quality young man! My wife of 53 years turned me on to your posts and I look forward to them every morning. Thanks
Bernadette Wyckoff - July 23, 2021 12:49 pm
This young man must have been taught to be the bigger man and always take the high road. God bless him and his new young family. My Dad took on my divorced Mom and 6 children…Love is love.
Jan - July 23, 2021 1:03 pm
Amen. Praying for this precious family!
Debbie g - July 23, 2021 1:08 pm
Glad this young mans love prevails. And to his father……. He has preached love all his life. And he doesn’t have a clue what love is
Stevie71 - July 23, 2021 1:48 pm
Wow, just…wow! What an amazing young man. And his fiancé…double wow. Prayers for his parents to know that same love for God and others, and themselves.
Leesa - July 23, 2021 1:49 pm
What an exceptional young man with such a wonderful attitude and understanding of love. Best wishes to him and his new young family. They are truly blessed.
Nancy Wright - July 23, 2021 1:54 pm
I’m going to pray for that also. And I’m praying his parents remember the parable of the lost sheep as well as the prodigal son.
Connie - July 23, 2021 2:35 pm
I want to add my best wishes to this young couple. I hope the love they have shown keeps their little family strong. To his dad and mom-y’all are missing out on a daughter in law who is obviously a treasure and loves your son, and the absolute joy of grandchildren. Blood does not make a family. Love does and this little family has that in spades. God bless them and bring them joy.
Eleanor Dietrich - July 23, 2021 2:40 pm
I hope you had a good visit in Tallahassee yesterday, and that your talk went well.
Connie Pearson - July 23, 2021 2:40 pm
Most convicting sermon I’ve heard in a long time.
Carol miller - July 23, 2021 3:03 pm
Definitely I do not support living together but I do pray that they will ask God for forgiveness and his parents, go ahead and get married and prove they can be great partners, parents and Christians . For all have sinned.,, but our God is faithful to forgive.
Leigh R Amiot - July 23, 2021 3:52 pm
I heard the testimony of a man who formerly was a member of a biker gang, when he told his very devout Christian mother he and his girlfriend were expecting a baby, she said (paraphrasing from memory) bless God, we’re going to have a wedding! I thought it was lovely how she held to her beliefs and did not condemn him. The man eventually returned to living for the Lord instead of being an outlaw.
Linda Moon - July 23, 2021 4:28 pm
“I’ll never be perfect like he is.” Son, I hate to break the news to you….but your dad’s not perfect. Only one Heavenly Father is perfect. He loves us just as we are. Blessings to you, your girlfriend, and her daughters as you build a life together. And, your words, Sean, are a sermon for a preacher man.
Celia - July 23, 2021 4:31 pm
This is a beautiful story and an all too familiar one, also. It breaks my heart when fellow Christians treat others this way. Jesus did not come to the Pharisees and religious leaders of his time; He came for the Mary Magdalenes , the Matthews, sinners and those who need a shepherd. I hope this young man’s family finds love but then, that is what God excels in…LOVE.
May the Lord bless this young man for stepping in to be a father to those two children & showing his chosen bride that not all men are there just for themselves.
this was a wonderful story.
Patricia Schmaltz - July 23, 2021 4:51 pm
I’m wishing that young man wins the lotto.. wait, he already did! Great story. Lucky girls.
Penn Wells - July 23, 2021 5:01 pm
Ah, religion. One of the best things… and worst… that’s ever happened to mankind.
Shelton A. - July 23, 2021 5:14 pm
Hope mom and dad can welcome their new grandchildren. Love is what God is all about. Happy for the young man now living his dreams.
Mary - July 23, 2021 5:59 pm
I bet the “Woman at the Well” is glad Jesus didn’t treat her like this Dad! Sounds like this young man is trying to make things right. My dad always said, “When a man puts his hand out, you take it.” Sounds like the Dad needs a lot of prayer.
Connie - July 23, 2021 6:03 pm
How very sad! Apparently the young man’s Dad skipped the reading of Ephesians 4. Best wishes and much joy wished to and prayed for these young people.
Michael Wenberg - July 23, 2021 6:04 pm
Great post, thanks! That young man is walking the walk. Good for him. Sounds like his daddy is preacher at the kind of churches I grew up in. The main message from most of them could be summarized by three words: “Turn or burn.” Even as a little kid, I can remember thinking, well, I guess I’m going to burn. Hate to paint with broad strokes, but a lot of folks worship a Jesus of their imaginations, ignoring what he said – the difficult stuff. For example, he said that one of the ways you could tell if some was a Christian or a follower of the Way (as it was called 2,000 years go) was if they loved one another. So the distinguishing “mark” or attribute of a true Christian is not just saying “love” but practicing it. That’s what this young man is doing.
So I’m wondering if his parents are having less a problem with him “shacking up” and more with the two little girls who are calling him “daddy.” My three kids are adopted and for some people, “blood” is thicker than water. My in-laws, for example, always said they loved my kids as much as their other grandchildren who shared their genetics, but I sure as hell noticed, remembered, and still wrestle with the fact that the only kids my father-in-law didn’t taking on overnight fishing trips were my three kids. That might have something to do with the way this young man’s mother is acting. Maybe.
Dee Jordan - July 23, 2021 6:05 pm
Religion is the cancer in our society. I hate it and this is why. People forsake their children due to it, when God is love and we are all instruments of that love. Period.
Tom Wallin - July 23, 2021 6:25 pm
Some people talk a good game but can’t see the forest for the trees. Too many people and families have this same sad story. People need to forgive and forget and enjoy what life brings them. Life is too short for such prejudice and nonsense. I hope the preacher will come to his senses sooner rather than later and enjoy the new family his God gave to him. God bless the young man, his wonderful, soon-to-be new bride and their kids. I wish them all well in the future and much happiness together. The 2 kids will now have a caring and loving dad who actually wants them.
Sean, thanks for the wonderful story today. Have a wonderful day.
MAM - July 23, 2021 7:31 pm
I agree with most of the above and DEFINITELY your last sentence. God is good, God is forgiving and Jesus died to save us from our sin. We must all remember that.
Suellen - July 23, 2021 7:35 pm
I’m a Pastor’s wife. The Bible tells us that a Pastor is held to a higher standard and believe me the parishioners take that to heart. A Pastor is to be above reproach and able to run his household the same way. It’s hard for his father to point out sin when they can turn around and point to his son. I’m not excusing him just giving a different perspective. Our youngest son has taken this path. I don’t know how many years (maybe 10?) he and his girlfriend have been living together now and they have two children together. They are finally getting married in September and there will be much rejoicing but I’ve seen the heartache that it’s caused. We could never write off a child as this father seems to have done but I can understand his feelings. He feels as if his son has flouted everything he’s been taught and what he’s stood for his whole life. Once he put his feelings out there it’s hard for him to back down. Praying that God intervene and bring them all together as a family again.
James Inman - July 23, 2021 8:49 pm
Christian preacher ya say, I don’t think so. This pompously pious Pharisee must not read the gospels. Congratulations to the couple. Sounds like a son to be proud of.
CHARALEEN WRIGHT - July 23, 2021 9:16 pm
pyrthroes - July 23, 2021 9:21 pm
The word “religion” means to “re-bind ligatures,” knitting spiritually essential ties to God and man. What counts is acts and deeds informed by thoughts, not words… as The Master subtly inferred, “What is it about do-unto-others, Love thy Neighbor, that you don’t understand?”
In philosophy, Truth is greater than Proof. “Love abides” is not a rational, syllogistic proposition but the sine qua non for everything we know and strive to live. We are born to learn; to learn is to love; and to love is to give of oneself to others, bequeathing posterity a legacy-by-example of how things truly ought to be.
Worthy or not, here we come.
Patricia Gibson - July 24, 2021 3:00 pm
Amen to that! I hope this young man’s parents have an epiphany. Bless this little family The God I worship is very happy for them.
Sandy Burnett - July 27, 2021 3:43 pm
Bill Harris - July 28, 2021 9:27 pm
Thank you Sean
Chasity Davis Ritter - August 1, 2021 7:22 pm
He sounds like an incredible young man and his dad sounds like the reason so many people have stopped going to church. That’s very sad. I wish this young man and his bride to be and THEIR little girls a very happily ever after