Learning About My Real Dad
We can't always see what God is doing. Ray McKelvy tells of his walk with God, meeting his wife, and his estranged dad being invited back into his life. In reconnecting with his father after 29 years, he learns that his real story was much more than he thought.
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We can’t always see what God is doing. Ray McKelvy tells of his walk with God, meeting his wife, and his estranged dad being invited back into his life. He learns that his real story was much more than he thought.
Learning About My Real Dad
Dave: You know one of the best things that ever happened with my relationship with my dad?
Dave: You’re it! It’s you.
Dave: Yes, you’re sitting right here; and when you came into our family, you forced—I mean with a will/the Ann Wilson will—you forced my dad and I into a relationship that we didn’t have.
Ann: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.
Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on our FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today.
Dave: You forced my dad and I into a relationship that we didn’t have.
Ann: Because I saw the brokenness, and I was sad for you. I could tell that your dad was sad, too; so I was asking some questions that made you very uncomfortable.
Dave: Questions my dad and I never ever talked about. I was afraid to go there, and you just brought it up. I was shocked that he wanted to talk about these things.
Dave: I tell you what: we get to talk to Ron Deal today about a lot of things; but one of them is the critical relationship with our dad. So welcome to FamilyLife Today, Ron.
Ron: Thank you for having me back.
Dave: Glad to have you here.
As many of you know, Ron leads our blended family ministry at FamilyLife and has a blended family podcast called FamilyLife Blended®—and sat down with some friends of ours recently—
Dave: —and talked with them about their marriage, and their relationship, and a their relationship with their dad.
Ron: Ray and Robyn McKelvy are a pastoral couple. They work in a local church in Nashville, and they are Weekend to Remember® speakers and have a lot of great influence.
I sat down with them, sometime back, for our FamilyLife Blended podcast and just wanted to hear Ray’s journey, growing up in a blended family. It was amazing what came out. We already heard in the previous program lots of details/family secrets. If you didn’t hear Day One, we want to encourage you to do that. Today, we are picking up the story where Robyn really comes into his life.
Ron: And just like you guys, she helped push him a little bit. Don’t spouses sometimes help us by pushing us in directions?
Ann: —even when we don’t want it.
Ron: That’s exactly right.
Dave: That’s it; it’s a good thing.
Ann: It is a good thing.
Ron: It is.
Dave: I would have never gotten to where I got with my dad without Ann.
Ron: That is fantastic. You know, we say all the time around here: “Our mates are a gift from God.” Sometimes, the gift includes making us move in directions we don’t necessarily want to move. Sometimes, that’s the Holy Spirit working through our spouse; and that certainly happened in Ray’s story. I think people are going to love hearing this.
[Previous FamilyLife Blended Podcast]
Ron: So from the time you were 13, and your mom and stepdad divorced, you lived partial with your aunt and uncle; some of your siblings were with mom; somebody was with—
Ray: —our dad, Raymond.
Ron: —that you later found out was not your biological dad; but yet, nevertheless, played the role of dad and was significant in your life.
There were a number of years there, where your mom was still single; is that right?
Ray: Right; so after she and my stepdad were divorced, she never married again.
Ray: So from [when I was] 14 on, she was a single mom.
Ron: And what about Charles? Did the relationship with him kind of materialize, because of you guys getting married and Robyn insisting you learn more about him?
Ray: Yes; this lady sitting to my left was very insistent and persistent. We were engaged, making this list of who is invited to the wedding. She asked me if I wanted to invite him; and I remember saying, “Not really.” I remember Robyn just asking me—she says, “Don’t you want to meet your biological father?”—I said, “No, I don’t.”
To fast forward, we were married two years; and my mom came to live with us. I am preparing to go to seminary by this time. I walked in on a conversation with Robyn and my mom; do you remember that?
Robyn: —in the kitchen.
Ray: Yes, in the kitchen. What did you/you tell what you did.
Robyn: I remember asking about Charles Bush, and I remember her saying she had no idea. She was really kind of mean about it—“I have no idea where he is; and when I find out where he is, then I will let you know,”—or something like that. I’m like, “Okay; cool! [Laughter] I just want to know if you know anything.”
A couple of weeks later, it was going to be our last week in Kansas City—
Ray: Oh, no; I’ve got to tell this story.
Ray: I remember overhearing her conversation. I said, “Robyn, why/just leave it alone. Why are you asking?” She said, “I just feel like you need to know your dad.” I said, “I am 28 years old right now; I don’t feel a need to know him. We’ve got our own family now.” She said, “I just feel like you need to know him.”
I just said, “Well, I’m not going to go looking for him. He’s going to have to come to my doorstep.” Robyn said, “Well, I’m going to pray that he does.” She began to pray; this was around October or November of that year. She prayed November, December, January, February, March, April, May.
Now, May was the month we were going to move to Texas so that I could go to seminary. In fact, it was the last weekend in May; it was Memorial Day weekend. My mother came to us; and she said, “Hey, I’m going to meet with some friends this Saturday. We’re going to do a picnic/have a party. Don’t wait up for me, but I will go to church with you guys tomorrow”; because it was our last Sunday at our church.
Robyn: —and Ray was preaching.
Ray: Yes, I was the youth pastor, getting ready to preach a farewell message to go to seminary.
I remember, that Sunday morning, I got up early; I left; went to church. I was in my office; the phone rings, and it’s Robyn. She said, “You’ll never guess what happened.” I said, “What happened?!” She said, “Your mom came in our bedroom this morning and threw a—
Robyn: —a matchbook
Ray: —“matchbook on the bed; and it has Charles Bush on it, and his phone number and address.”
Robyn: The man lived like four blocks away from us—[Laughter]—four blocks!
Ron: Oh my goodness!
Ray: She says, “Your mom wants you to call him and invite him to church.” I said, “Okay, I will.” Robyn said, “Here is the number”; and I pretended to write the number down.
Ron: I want to go inside that; why did you pretend? You didn’t want to contact him because—
Ray: I’m thinking, “I’m preaching my last sermon at a church, where I loved.”
Ron: Yes, not the ripe climate to—
Ray: Yes! I’m not going to—
Ron: —reconcile and try to figure out a relationship with your dad.
Ray: I had already said, “I don’t want to know him; I’ve got my own family. We’re going to have our third child. I’m going to seminary; I’m going to be a pastor,”—or whatever—I didn’t know what I was going to be.
Robyn: And we were moving the end of that week. This was Sunday; we were leaving on Friday.
Ron: Got it; time is of the essence.
Ray: Yes! So I didn’t call him; but sure enough, my mom came to church. She said, “Did you hear what happened?!” I was like, “Yes.” [Laughter] She said, “Ray, it was the strangest thing.” She said, “I showed up at this party, and I’m seeing all these old friends.” She said, “Right in the middle of it, he walks through the door.”
Ron: Huh? Wow.
Ray: She said, “The first thing he said to me was: ‘I want to meet him.’” She said, “He wants to meet you too.” [Laughter] I’m like, “That’s a lie”; it was just not true. [Laughter]
She said, “Did you call him?” I said, “No.” She said, “Ray, just give him a call this afternoon. Invite him over or invite him tonight,”—because we were going to have a special Sunday night; they were sending us off on Sunday night as well—she said, “Invite him Sunday night.” I said, “Okay, I will.”
Sure enough, Sunday night, I didn’t call him. My mom, obviously, knew that I didn’t. So now, it’s Monday morning. It’s Memorial Day. We are packing, and I look out the window. I see this man getting out of my mom’s car. I go, “Oh, she went and got Charles Bush.” I remember saying, “He’s going to have to come to my doorstep.”
Ron: And here it was.
Ray: Here it was.
This is going to make me cry again. [Emotion in voice] I had no idea what to say; I had so many things running through my mind. I’m 29 years old by this time. He comes to the door; I open it. The first thing that comes to my mind is/I say, “I know who you are.” He said, “Who am I?” I said, “You’re my dad.” [Emotion in voice] Tears flowed, and he started crying as well. We grabbed each other’s hands and just kind of stood there. I remember going to the couch—Rob, I don’t know where you were—I think you were still in the kitchen.
Robyn: —hiding, probably. [Laughter]
Ray: I remember us sitting on the couch; and I, in a matter of—I want to say
20 minutes—I knew more about my life than I knew in 29 years; because he filled in some gaps.
Ray: He had shared with me how my mom wanted them to get married. She was 16; he was 18. But he said, “Ray, I couldn’t bring you into my life.” He said, “I was an alcoholic.” He said, “I used to party with my own mother”; he said, “She would put beer in my bottle to put me to bed at night.” He said, “I have never known a day without drinking.” He said, “I didn’t want to bring you into that situation; so I told your mom, ‘No.’ She said, in so many uncertain terms, ‘I don’t ever want to see you again.’”
My mom and my dad, Raymond, who were neighbors—the McKelvys and the Harrisons were neighbors and friends—my dad, Raymond, loved my mom; he said, “I’ll marry you”; and they kept the secret.
Dave: And you are listening to FamilyLife Today—where boy, oh boy—as we listen to Ray’s story, man, you find out information he never knew. That reality changes life. I mean, it’s like: “I thought I was this. I’ve now discovered it isn’t; and my reality now is totally changed, because of that information”; right, Ron?
Ron: Yes; you know, here is something about human nature—we all do this—in the absence of information, we will fill in the gaps—
Ron: —and make up a story that makes sense to us.
Well, he had poor information. And in a heartbeat, he discovers, “My dad cared about me so much. He actually thought it was better for me to not be near him.” Now, we can have a conversation around that line of thinking—
Ron: —but the meaning there is: “You were loved.” Ray didn’t know that! I mean, that changes everything.
Ron: How many times do we do this with God? How many times do we just go: “Oh, I know what God thinks; I know what He feels about me”? And we just haven’t really considered all the right information; and when we hear it, it’s like it can change everything in our lives.
Dave: Yes; I tell you—I had an experience about my dad, which was 30 years of my life thinking the worst thing that ever happened was my dad left—that’s a long story; but the short of it is it might have been one of the best things that ever happened, because God was able to raise me in a different way; and it was a gift. That information changed my life! It’s like, “Oh my goodness! I can see God differently; I can see my dad differently. I can see my family differently,”—exactly what we have learned from Ray.
I want to know:—
Dave: —“What happened next with Ray?”
Ron: Exactly. Now, let me just remind our listeners that, when I started my conversation with Ray, I asked him to tell the story from a child’s point of view. Well, I’m about to turn the corner and ask him to think about it now as an adult/as Ray understands it now.
[Previous FamilyLife Blended Podcast]
Ron: As the adult man that you are today, looking back, where was God the Father in all of this journey for you when you are having experiences with earthly fathers?
Ray: I knew you were leading up to this question. That part of my story is so incredibly glorious. I did not grow up going to church very often. I remember memorizing the Lord’s Prayer when my parents were/around that time of getting divorced. I didn’t know where it was; I had to look in the index and just ask my grandmother if I could borrow her Bible. I just had this wanting to know God.
Ron: Yes; sure.
Ray: I remember that afternoon memorizing the Lord’s Prayer. I also remember initiating a time to start going to church when I was 13. This is when my mom and stepdad were together.
In a sense, God was drawing me right at the time when I found out about my biological father, right around that same time when my parents were getting a divorce or my mom and stepdad were having their rocky relationship. I entered ninth grade; I was 14, so it’s all about the same time.
Ray: Fourteen years old: I end up at one of the worst high schools in Kansas City; but God was at that high school. He was waiting in the form of my drama teacher. [Emotion in voice] It just makes me weep when I think about it. My drama teacher was a crazy Jesus-loving person. [Laughter] And she was bold about: she talked about Him; she would pray before class started. We were like, “You can’t do that! You can’t pray! This is public school.” She would go, “Honey, Jesus is my boss.” [Laughter]
She started a Bible club at our school. I remember she invited me to this Bible club. I attended that Bible club; gave my life to Christ;—
Ray: —began to go to another church, the church that she attended; was mentored by the pastor of the church. He was just a great example. Was he flawed?—yes; but he was a great example of a man, who was faithful to his wife.
He saw something in me, so he had the church pay for me to have piano lessons. He saw something in me, and I began to—along with my teacher that led me to Christ—I started to leading worship at our church, went to Bible college, graduated from Bible college, came back, became the youth pastor and the worship pastor, met my wife through those circumstances; and the rest is history.
Ray: But it started with a lady, who was unashamed for Jesus Christ.
Ron: Yes; I got chills thinking about God pursuing you in what would end up being some of the biggest crisis moments of your life—some of the—the age where you were the most vulnerable in so many ways. I know we can’t always see what God is doing; we just can’t. Sometimes, it takes years and years; then we look back, and we go, “Man, I can connect the dots.” But it is pretty clear that He was there.
Ray: Ron, I will tell you this: had God not intervened, right at that moment, I would be a black statistic, because even though I had only been a Christian maybe four months, I had a new relationship. I knew that those trials/I knew, even by that time, how trials would create strength.
My drama teacher sent me on this path of Scripture memory. I had over 50 verses memorized in one weekend, but I was just immersed in the Word of God. I was able—even through those breakups; even when my mom left, and we were separated—I remember sending her tracks with the gospel being a part of it. I remember praying for her to come to know Christ, which she did later. I remember praying for family members coming to know Christ. So right at that pivotal moment, Christ stepped in.
I look back, and I go, “God, You fathered me; You parented me in such a loving way.” I would not be the man I am today if that had not happened.
Dave: You’ve been listening to FamilyLife Today—where, boy, oh boy—what a conversation Ron Deal had with Ray McKelvy/Ray and Robyn both. Give us some wisdom, Mr. Counselor, over there of what we’ve heard today.
Ron: You know, we entitled that podcast: “Growing Up in a Blender.” It’s a series that we do, from time to time, where we interview people about their childhood experience; but then the subtitle was: “Who Is My Daddy?”That really kind of captures Ray’s journey there: “ Well, who is my daddy?” I mean, that is a question we all have to ask—not just my earthly father, or father figures, or stepfather, or the different people who enter into our life—but “Who is my daddy?” Ultimately, of course, it is God.
Look at how God pursued Ray.
Ron: It’s an incredible story of God’s pursuit, and that is a mirror for all of us. Your story may not be anything like Ray’s; but God is still pursuing you—always has, always will—with a Father’s heart.
Dave: God is a good Father; He is a pursuing Father. He was always there, and that means that anyone of us, who is in Christ, is a beloved child of God. I walk with confidence—
Dave: —even though my relationship with my earthly father may still be broken—that’s not my identity—my identity goes vertical. Ray revealed that to us in a beautiful way.
Ann: The thing I was thinking too, guys, was I love the idea of telling our stories. Even asking, “Do my kids know my story?” because there is a lot of healing that comes out of that—even for our kids knowing where we’ve come from, where God is taking us—is always an important part of our journey and their journey.
Ron: You know, if there is any shame in your story, saying it out loud is one of the ways we heal.
Ann: We get released.
Ron: We do. It’s/the Bible calls it confession; right?
Ron: But we just say, “It’s telling our story.” It can be a healing moment to share your story with somebody you trust who will handle it well.
Dave: Every time you are with us, that is sort of what happens.
Ann: It does! [Laughter]
Dave: Thanks for being with us, Ron.
I want to encourage our listeners to listen to FamilyLife Blended on wherever you listen to podcasts, or FamilyLife.com, or our FamilyLife app. All I know—and I was on one of those—
Ron: You were; our very first “Growing Up Blended” in this series was your story.
Dave: Yes; where you put me on the couch, and you had me confess. [Laughter]
Ron: Episode Number Two: go listen to it.
Bob: I know some of you subscribe to Ron Deal’s podcast, FamilyLife Blended. It is available on the FamilyLife app, or you’ll find it wherever you get podcasts. If you want to look for Episode Two, where Ron talks with Dave Wilson about growing up blended, or if you want to subscribe to the FamilyLife Blended podcast, go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com—there is a link there—or go wherever you get podcasts and look for FamilyLife Blended.
Ron has just completed a new book called Preparing to Blend. It’s a pre-marriage manual for couples, who are beginning a blended marriage. If you know someone who is in that situation, or if that is you, consider mentioning this book to your pastor or whoever is doing your pre-marital counseling, or going through it together as a couple, so that you can be ready for the issues you will undoubtedly be facing in your blended marriage.
You can find out more about Ron’s book, Preparing to Blend, on our website FamilyLifeToday.com. If you’d like to order a copy, you can order online; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY; that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
Now, we are excited. This weekend, we’ve got hundreds of couples, who are going to be joining us at one of our Weekend to Remember marriage getaways. We’ve got getaways happening in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Destin, Florida; Estes Park, Colorado. Next weekend, people are going to be joining us in Williamsburg, Virginia; San Antonio, Texas; Cambridge, Massachusetts; Philadelphia; Portland; Corte d’Alene, Idaho; Sacramento, California. There is a lot of ministry going on right now.
David Robbins, the president of FamilyLife, is here with me. David, one of the things we get excited about, here at FamilyLife, is on Monday morning, all of the real-time feedback that starts to come our way from couples, who have been with us at one of our weekend getaways.
David: Yes, I just read one this past weekend of a woman who put on her feedback, “Hey, I came as a roommate; but I left as a wife again,”—and just the transformation that can happen in a few days.
You know, we’ve done over half of the Weekends to Remember getaways that we’ll do this fall. We have 12 left, as you’ve said, Bob. It is so fun to see our team come back and be out there again, having a full season of Weekends to Remember. It’s a blast for our teams to be with volunteers and see these couples go before the Lord and make space for one another, because we know our marriages require intentional attention. That’s exactly what Weekend to Remember does, and it does so bringing people before the throne room of God, encouraging them to pursue Him. The transformation is so encouraging; and our teams are having a blast, getting out there, doing it.
Bob: Well, you can find out more about the Weekend to Remember marriage getaway—find out when it is coming to a city near where you live—go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com; the information is available there. We hope you’ll join us at an upcoming getaway or think about giving a certificate for a getaway to your kids, maybe even your grandkids, as a Christmas gift this year. There is information about that online at FamilyLifeToday.com as well.
We hope you have a great weekend. Hope you and your family are able to worship together in your local church this weekend. I hope you can join us on Monday. Crystal Paine is going to be here to talk about what ought to be at the center of our parenting—and it’s a simple word—it’s the word, “love.” What does love-centered parenting look like? We’ll look at that Monday. I hope you can join us for that.
On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. Have a great weekend. We’ll see you Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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