This week, we continue our discussion with Ricky Garza. As a child, his dad was a meth addict and dealer, which caused their family to be evicted over and over again, and bounced his dad in and out of jail repeatedly as well.
When Ricky was in middle school, there was a time when his dad was spending a stint at the Vista jailhouse when he had an epiphany. From behind the bars, his dad could see the houses in the distance and realized that there were families in those homes living life together and making memories. Meanwhile, his own family was out there making memories of their own… all without their father. He suddenly realized just how much of his own children’s lives he had already missed out on and was filled with regret.
So, while in jail, he began going to chapel and meeting with the chaplain.
And he got a new “celly”, or cellmate. Over the next two weeks, Ricky’s dad and his new celly talked about life, past experiences, big picture things, and even God. They were able to get a hold of a Bible and would read God’s word together. Then, during a cigarette break, his dad went back to his cell to share a cigarette with his new friend and he was gone. After looking around, he asked the Sheriff’s Deputy where his celly went off to.
The Deputy replied, “Garza, no one has been in your cell but you for the last two weeks!”
Immediately, his dad was convinced that God was working in his life. He was suddenly hit between the eyes with the reality of Hebrews 13:2, which says:
Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!
It was an experience very similar to when the apostle Paul came face to face with Jesus and was forever transformed.
At the end of his sentence, Ricky, his mother and his sister picked their dad/husband up from the jail on a Saturday; and the first thing Ricky’s dad said was, “We’re going to church tomorrow.” And that’s what they did. This was a huge surprise for the entire household, since they hadn’t attended church at all for all of Ricky’s twelve years.
But, as Ricky puts it, his dad’s transformation was still somewhat of a gradual one, as EVERYONE had to grow accustomed to this new worldview. For the past twelve years, Ricky called the man “Dad”, but never really knew what that word meant, or if it really applied to his dad. So, when Ricky heard words like “I want us to go to church” or “I want us to do more as a family”, he took them with a grain of salt, as he learned to do with all of his dad’s empty promises over the years. Over the next six months or so, Ricky was a cautious observer when it came to his dad.
Then there was the church Men’s Retreat they went to.
New to the whole Christian life and church experience, they just did what they were told was the right thing to do. And this weekend was supposed to strengthen their father-son relationship. Ricky had no idea what to expect, and it was exactly the unexpected that he experienced. Midway through the weekend, during a time of worship, while all the other men were singing a hymn, Ricky turned his head and looked up to see his dad.
But his dad wasn’t there.
Instead, his dad was down on his knees, crying like he never had before. It was an entirely new moment for both of them. Ricky couldn’t help but feel like his dad had gone soft. He was weak. Then he realized that he wasn’t weak. He was transformed by God’s power.
Ricky was struck with the reality that God is real and He is performing miracles all around us everyday. And his dad was a living, walking miracle. Even as a young seventh-grader, Ricky realized that God was working in his family. He prayed then and there, “Ok, God. Whatever you want me to do, I’m going to do it. You’ve changed my dad, and my family, so I will follow whatever you want for me!”
Ricky even noticed, over the next couple weeks, that his dad’s speech had completely changed. Gone was the cursing and anger-filled rants. His hunger for drugs, alcohol and other addictions were totally gone.
Rick Sr. was a new dad. And Ricky LOVED his new dad!
Even today, they are incredibly close. Ricky even had his dad stand next to him as his best man at his wedding. He’s a wonderful example of a Godly husband, dad, and grandpa.
As Ricky’s story shows, every one of us is on a journey, and there is no way of predicting where someone is going to end up while on that journey. Too often, kids are written off, based on their parents and how they are impacted by their parents’ decisions.
But, just like Ricky and his father, God’s transformative power is there waiting for each and every one of us!