An abusive, black-hearted father colored my childhood a despondent gray. After suffering years at his hands, I vowed to never trust someone in that position or role of authority again.
Until almost seven years ago, when I met my father-in-law, Art Fore. Art, six feet tall, two-hundred and thirty pounds with rich black hair and thickly-bearded, didn’t tolerate any degree of sarcasm—much like my father. But that’s where the similarities ended. Art was kind, sincere, and trustworthy. Qualities I’d never experienced in a father figure.
Rare qualities were commonplace for this man, though.
A former Minister of Education, Art served as a Pastor of a church when he felt the Lord call him to a new level of freedom. One Sunday Art preached his sermon, then came down to the floor to pray during an altar call, and after the last worship note was sung he carefully unfolded a piece of paper and read. He shocked everyone with his resignation.
At forty-three, Art quit his job; his secure, comfortable job. And packed up his family to move to the middle of nowhere on a hundred and seventy acres in East Tennessee. But not the picturesque rolling farmlands one would imagine. Actually, Art’s new homestead was two thickly-wooded mountainsides with a few usable acres of flat land at the bottom where the two mountains joined. And through the chest-high grass stood a condemned shack, infested with bees and rodents.
This was his new normal. No job, money, running water, or electricity. But he had family. And he had God’s support.
The family camped out for five weeks while Art cut trees from the mountain and built a room on the back of the shack. Eventually they ran an electric line in order to keep the food cold. By winter, the family moved inside, clinging to the temperamental warmth of a wood-burning stove.
Art threw away his watch. He worked from sunrise to sunset every day turning his new land into a homestead. He grew food for the year, raised pigs and chickens and, for a minimal amount of income refinished and built furniture out of a self-made woodshop. He never held another formal job and never attended another committee meeting for the rest of his life.
My father-in-law was the poster-child for freedom. He should be a Lifetime movie-of-the-week. My admiration runs maple-syrup thick for this man who gave his entire life in search of freedom. And achieved it. Art helped me overcome my belief-barriers about authority figures, restoring my hope in father-types.
If I could choose one word to describe what God wants for us it would be freedom. “When the Son makes you free, you will be truly free (John 8:36 NCV).” Jesus spilled his blood on our behalf to grant us freedom. Freedom from hell, freedom from the penalty of the law, freedom from the dominion and vices of sin and freedom from the soul-scars of emotional wounds.
Imagine being free from the constraints of society, as Art was. Imagine being financially free. Imagine being free from the fallout of past hurts. Imagine being free from whatever holds you in captivity.
Precious Father, may we fully grasp that you are on your side and that you want us to be free, whole. Even today, Lord, grant us a sneak peek of what living a life of freedom looks like—that we may be motivated to pursue freedom with all our being.
Jo Ann Fore is an author, speaker, and writing coach. She is passionate about making a difference in the lives of other women. Most noted for her authentic vulnerability, Jo Ann captivates her audience with faith-filled messages caramelized with a powerful promise of hope. Visit Jo Ann at www.JoAnnFore.com and www.facebook.com/WriteWhereItHurts. You can also download a free chapter of Jo Ann’s latest release, Inspired Women Succeed at www.inspiredwomensucceed.com.