One could say Marvin was busy doing his job, but that might be a bit of an overstatement.
As a member of the Rock Security Team, he was on the third floor watching the entrance to the corporate offices for his Sunday morning shift, just as he had been assigned. He would have rather been doing anything else. It was a far too quiet and lonely job—especially after all that had happened lately. It left him with too much time to sit and think about all the ways his life was not coming together as he had hoped. And he had made this morning worse by curtly telling his fiancé, Shanea, just before the 8AM service began, that she couldn’t have his credit card so they could tithe and keep their commitment to Pastor Miles’ 90-day challenge.
• • •
Shanea went to the sanctuary feeling bad about their unhappy parting. She was also feeling a little bugged that Marvin was losing faith in God’s promise to bless tenfold those who will trust Him with their money—and tithe 10%. For Marvin, it left him alone on the third floor, feeling guilty, sad, disappointed, lonely, and like he had let God and Shanea down. And so he prayed. It was one of those prayers that is accompanied by a slight shake of the head.
Little did he know that while he was praying and shaking and welling up, that in about one hour, nothing that weighed him down was going to matter anymore—because a man walking into the Rock Church lobby on the first floor at that very moment was about to change his life.
• • •
When Marvin met Shanea, she was so lovely and gracious, it wasn’t long before thoughts of forever started entering his mind. When he popped the question and Shanea said yes, it began one of the best and worst times in his life. Preparations for the wedding ceremony cast a spotlight on a part of his life that was a giant, painful hole—and only getting worse. Marvin’s beloved mother had passed away a few years earlier, and wouldn’t be in the place of honor next to Marvin on his special day. Neither would his dad, who had never been a part of Marvin’s life. He was somewhere in the U.S. serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole for being a repeat drug offender. Marvin knew he would never see him again. Marvin’s grandmother, who had helped raise him, had just recently passed away. When he called his favorite aunt to ask her to do the honors of being at his side, she gave an enthusiastic yes. Five days later, she lay in a coma fighting for her life after a stroke.
He envisioned an empty pew at the front of the church. It would say to the world that he was alone. It began to make the usually in-control Marvin feel adrift at sea. That is why when Shanea asked for the credit card to make a larger-than-normal tithe, Marvin was desperate to stop the feeling of yet another out-of-control-moment and said no.
Marvin, noticing his own negative funk, tried to combat it by posting a message on Facebook. From his pain, he spoke about how much he appreciated his friends and family and that he was praying for them. It had the potential to either bless a lot of people or make them all a little concerned.
Finally, there was a bit of action at the corporate doors as Marvin heard them click and open. It was Shanea.
“Marvin!” she said, trying to catch her breath. “You’re not going to believe this. Your dad is here.”
"What are you talking about?” he asked incredulously.
“I saw him! He’s here! Come quickly!”
“I talked to him! Now come on!”
Marvin, his mind and imagination starting to spin out, began the walk down to the lobby. Suddenly, in the distance, he saw the one man in the world he believed he would never set eyes on again. As he walked up, he just stared at him. It was like looking into a mirror. He stopped. Shanea, tears streaming down her face, looked at both of them as if to say, well?
“Hi, son,” his dad said.
“Well, how did you get here?”
He shrugged. “I walked.”
They looked at each other some more.
“Something told me to come to this church,” his dad said. “And then Shanea noticed me."
“So you didn’t know this is my church?”
“I had no idea.”
Shanea couldn’t stand the anticipation.
Finally, Marvin slowly stepped forward and with unsure arms, filled them with his dad’s shoulders and there, they held each other, both saying nothing, lost in shock. Upon hearing that a dad and son were about to reunite, a crowd had gathered and waited, including some of Marvin’s relatives who just happened to be joining him at church on this particular morning. There wasn’t a dry eye among them.
The next few moments would be critical. Would Marvin find resentment bubbling to the surface fueled by countless nights of wondering how his dad could be away from home taking and selling drugs when his little boy needed him? Or would he rest on the love and forgiveness given to him by his heavenly Father, and then offer it to his earthly father?
“What can I buy for you, dad?” Marvin asked, glowing like a 100-watt bulb. “I want to get you everything you need.”
• • •
Shanea stood at the top of the aisle in white, flanked by her father. As the music played, she beamed to see Marvin standing at the end of the aisle, waiting for her with what was perhaps the broadest smile of his life. He was smiling to see his bride, but that wasn’t all. Just a few feet away stood his dad, the dad he spent his lifetime dreaming about. He had arrived on time wearing a tux and a proud grin. Marvin’s pew had only one person in it, but that was all he needed.
The wedding went off without a hitch. The day was glorious and Marvin and Shanea felt that God had lovingly confirmed their marriage, evidenced by the gleaming older gentleman sitting in the seat of honor at the reception, shaking hands and smiling as he received congratulations.
Marvin confessed to Shanea that the day that he went out and bought his dad all the things he needed, he had spent quite a chunk. Shanea confessed to Marvin that on that Sunday when he told her not to tithe, she went ahead and did it anyway. The amounts were the exact same. They had spent twice as much as Marvin had hoped.
But Marvin couldn’t have cared less about the money. For over at table number one, eating cake, was his tenfold.
When Marvin asked his father to make a toast at the reception, Mr. Caldwell stood and drew a piece of paper from his breast pocket and read:
God is amazing, I decided to go to church one Sunday at Rock Church. There is my son, whom I hadn’t seen in 17 years. I didn’t know what to feel. My child loved me this whole time and I thought I had lost the love of my children. This is such an honor that my son has me here to be a part of his most sacred day, for him and his new bride. As a father, this has to be one of my proudest moments in my life, to toast my son and his new bride. Thank you God for this honor and thank you son for letting me be a part of your future. I love you both.