Revelation at the Rollo Table
By Jan Coleman
When Jerry G. agreed to serve as table leader on a recent Tres Dias weekend, he never expected it would shift the gears of his life. “Going through my first weekend was somewhat mechanical for me,” Jerry admits. “I was awed at the way it was all set up, the way hearts moved.” Still, there were no epiphany moments for Jerry, no huge revelations, but enough happened to make him want to come back to serve on teams ever since.
On this weekend, after one of the spiritual director rollos, the table talk zeroed in on God the Father, how he is our example of grace, care, and love. The floodgates suddenly opened, and with uncensored honesty each candidate expressed his difficulty envisioning, much less embracing, God as his Heavenly Father. Linking all their stories was the theme of abuse, rejection, abandonment by the men in their lives. Jerry went suddenly silent. It was his epiphany moment. “I am one of those absent dads.”
Thirty years ago, young Jerry went through a painful divorce. As a church youth leader, he observed so many families torn apart by divorce with the kids used as pawns. It was an agonizing decision, but he felt the best thing for his son was to relinquish his parental rights to his ex-wife and her new husband. Surely, it would be better for the boy to be raised in a loving Christian home, instead of being tossed back and forth. “In hindsight it was the wrong thing to do,” he declares. On their last day together, his little boy asked if they could go for ice cream, but time just ran out. “I always regretted that,” Jerry says.
Eventually, Jerry married and started a family. He was up front with his two children. “You have a brother out there, and someday you’ll meet him.” Jerry felt confident that as soon as his son turned eighteen, he’d look him up. But it never happened. “He must be a contented young man, settled and reconciled to his life with no need to find me,” Jerry concluded.
Fast forward twelve years. Jerry is sitting in the rollo room, wondering what God is up to by placing him with these particular men. During Saturday’s table chapel visit, as the guys pray and pass the cross, Jerry’s heart hurts. “Here I am, the person who is supposed to be facilitating, guiding these men, and God is working in me!”
Later that night the Lord pressed on him, “Go and find your son. Set things right.” After the weekend, Jerry felt strongly that he must first tell his reunion group. “When God lays something on my heart,” Jerry says, “I share it with them. They confirmed what God was prompting me to do, and said they would hold me accountable.” While an Internet search came up empty, he found his former wife and mailed her the lengthy letter he’d written to his son, with a request she forward it to him.
A week later the phone rang. “Dad, it’s me.” Two hours later father and son were still on the phone. Twenty-six years melted away. “I answered all his questions honestly, and I invited him to be honest with me,” Jerry says. “In listening, I recognized the same abandonment issues the men revealed around the table. Those three days with them were the key in helping me understand what my son went through all those years.”
Four tours in Iraq with the Army helped diffuse his son’s anger and confusion. Finally stateside, his wife urged her soldier husband: it’s time to contact your father and settle your troubled heart. It’s no coincidence that this conversation took place just about the time Jerry sat in the rollo room hearing those men tell their stories.
Father and son were recently reunited. As they took a long walk to catch up and plan ways to become a part of each other’s lives, Jerry understood how the Lord readied his heart for that moment. “It took several weekends of serving on teams to get me to the place I needed to be forrestoration with my son, but God’s timing is perfect.”
Before father and son began their historic walk, Jerry insisted on one thing: that they stop for Ben and Jerry’s ice cream first. God’s story had come full circle.