Years later the sack of groceries makes sense

Published 5:03 am Wednesday, July 5, 2023

By Les Ferguson, Jr.

Like most folks, I’ve had my share of heartaches, heartbreaks, and tragedies. Some of them were completely out of my control. Some of those difficulties were self-inflicted. And some of those struggles in the self-inflicted category were simply the result of not reacting appropriately to situations and circumstances.

Case in point: Way back in my early twenties, my wife and I dated for several years. But when we broke up, I was gobsmacked. I was miserable and miserable to be around. I didn’t handle much of anything in a good manner.

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Ultimately, I joined the Navy to find some positive way to move forward in my life.

I didn’t want to face the reality at the time, but the truth is we were living out our rendition of the lyrics sung by Dr. Hook, “She was too young to fall in love and I was too young to know…” But during all the trauma and drama of breaking up, I was in a dark place. I moved out of my parent’s home and was sharing a place with a friend from work. Neither of us made much money and truth to tell, it shouldn’t have been a surprise to me when life got even harder. But it did and I was.

During this time, my dad and I did not connect very well – again, self-inflicted. But in trying to live on my own, I mostly shut out my family and somewhat ignored the values I was raised with.

Did I mention life was hard? I shudder now to think about the conditions of that old trailer I shared with a friend. I really didn’t make enough money to be on my own – and I will always remember the day my father drove to my location, rolled down his window, and handed me a grocery bag of Beanie Weenies, crackers and other needed staples.

He didn’t say a single word. There was no condemnation, no “I-told-you-so’s”, and no outward judgment. I am sure he had definite opinions and feelings about my life choices at that point, but he didn’t preach or otherwise try to make me feel guilty or ashamed.

But that soft, barely formed smile and nod of his head spoke volumes of love, concern, and heartache over my situation. Again, at that moment I couldn’t really comprehend the mercy, grace, and compassion he was extending.

But all these years later, I get it now. After years of studying and preaching the Parable of the Prodigal Son, I get it now. After helping raise six young men, I get it now.

And after experiencing the grace, mercy, and compassion of my Heavenly Father, I remain gobsmacked. Years and years later, after tragedy and heartbreak unimaginable, I married that girl who broke my heart.

And my dad? Well, he’s still a compassionate father – he still gives me encouragement – he still exemplifies our Heavenly Father.

Wherever you are, whatever you are experiencing, there is always One who will meet you at the table with an abundance of mercy, grace, and compassion. There is always hope.

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take up my yoke and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28–30 CSB17)

Les Ferguson, Jr., is minister at Oxford Church of Christ. Write to him at