Monkeys and Donuts--Part 2
Read Part 1 here
When my parents finally met they were either running from a broken home or were in the midst of a home soon to be broken. Divorce a common thread in their story. The destructive force that the bomb of divorce represented to each family was felt completely. They both wanted out of the chaos they could not control, and rightfully so. My dad chose to hitchhike across the country multiple times on the hunt for adventure and meaning. It was a different time back then but still dangerous. That’s what the large knife strapped to his leg was for.
My mom’s response was to grow up as fast as she could. Fake ID’s and nights on the town even in her early teens. At the time both my mom and dad may have called it freedom, but what it really represented was a desperate response to the pain in both hurting families. The kids being the innocent bystanders of the ensuing shock wave of the broken relationships of their parents.
The night my parents crossed paths for the first time was not special for any other reason than they met. My dad had hitchhiked from California to Delaware and was working in the extended family’s restaurant. My mom and her friend were two beautiful girls sitting at the bar for drinks. My dad took notice as any young man would. Knowing they were too young to be sitting there and mostly excited that he had a reason to interact with them, he had the girls thrown out of the restaurant. That may have been the end of the story but I’m forever grateful it wasn’t. Shortly after, my mom’s friend was hired at the restaurant and invited my mom to a party the employees were having one night. There they properly met and started their relationship. Dad wooed her with long drives across Delaware in his convertible MG and in due time they were married. Two years later I was born, the oldest of four kids that would eventually make up our branch of the Chudnofsky clan.
While Jesus had always been with them through the good and bad, they had yet to meet Him. However, because of His relentlessly loving pursuit of them it wasn’t long until they did.
Dad remembers the days of what he calls the “Jesus Freaks.” You could see them from a mile away. Dad wasn’t one to avoid risky situations but when he saw one of those “Jesus Freaks” walking down the road, he would cross the street. Every once in a while dad would find himself caught in a conversation with one of these Jesus followers which often made him feel uncomfortable. God was pursuing him.
Looking back, Dad’s first interaction with any sort of church was being bused to Sunday school as a young boy. His mother would load the kids on the bus every Sunday to send them to church. I’m sure it was for their own moral development. I’m also certain these times served as a much-needed break from the kids for my grandparents. Regardless of the reason, God began to build a foundation of faith in my dad early on in life.
However, in his adolescence church wasn’t even a thought. It wouldn’t really come into his mind until after us kids were born. My dad remembers occasionally listening to the Moody Bible Institute’s radio show as a young father on his way home from work. He met Jesus during one such occasion. He heard the gospel via radio, and as he did, the Spirit of God opened my dad’s eyes to His truth. My dad prayed the prayer of invitation at the end of the show and walked away with his hope in Jesus of Nazareth.
For my mother things would take a few more years. She saw the changes in my dad and was probably skeptical they were real. His passion for a life bigger than himself began to show and it was alluring to a young mother. Days filled with diapers and crying children can seem unending. A life filled with adventure and wonder often only feels like a dream. That’s the life that Jesus offers.
What pushed mom over the finish line with regard to her faith was us kids. There was a situation with my brother that made her nervous. It wasn’t anything memorable. Just one of the many illnesses or wounds we gathered as children. If you’re a parent you know what I’m talking about. She interceded on my brother’s behalf to a God she was unsure about. God showed Himself faithful to listen. From that moment on she trusted in Him.
My parents’ first experience in church was when I was young enough not to remember. It happened to be Father’s Day. Feeling as if they were supposed to go to church on Sunday now that they were following Jesus, they found a congregation close to where we lived in California. Since it was Father’s Day, the pastor had every dad stand up. He then proceeded to announce age ranges starting in the 40’s and had those men sit. He then worked into the 30’s and 50’s. The idea was to find the oldest and youngest father in the room. My dad soon realized he was the youngest father and was invited on stage with the oldest father; a man in his 90’s. My dad stood there in flip flops as the pastor and elderly man stood there in suits and was awarded a package of socks for being the youngest to father a child. He never went back.
My parents soon found their church home at the Arcadia Vineyard. I have fond memories of growing up in that church. My parents served with the youth so we always had people over the house. They led home groups. We had parties. In short, they served God and invited us kids into the adventure. When I was 13 my parents answered the call to walk away from everything familiar and safe to be a part of a group of people staring a new church in Washington State. We sold off what we could, loaded up the moving truck and drove the 22 hours up to our new home in Washington.
My parents’ walk of faith has been an adventure. In short, they have demonstrated to our family what it means to trust in a faithful God and sacrifice for His Kingdom. In spite of brokenness entering their stories, as it does for us all, Jesus shows up and makes it all worthwhile. Their story is not over and neither is ours. Jesus continues to move in our lives and for that I’m forever grateful. He continues to show Himself faithful to my family on good days and in hard times. He continues to tell His story through us. He continues to teach us tenacity and hard work. He continues to use the brokenness we go through for good somehow. I’m not sure how He does it, but He does. And it’s an adventure. And the stories He tells are full of wonder. And it makes it all worthwhile. Even the hard stuff. I’m thankful for faithful parents who show us kids how to suffer well, obey beyond reason and live the adventure God is calling us into.