Saturday, January 21, 2023

I’ll Pay for It

I remember the first time that I met my father-in-law.  It was in early May and I was just finishing up my Sophomore year of college…though I had already 3 years under my belt.  I can’t help it…it is in my over achieving nature. He was coming to pick up his daughter from her first year of college and I was going to meet the father of the prettiest girl in school. 

I first laid eyes on him as he stepped out of a 1997 Ford Expedition.  It was a Thursday afternoon, and I noticed his white beard, his comb over and his khaki pants.  I soon discovered that he wore khaki pants every Thursday…and every Tuesday…and every other day of the week that ended in “y.”  In fact, when he sat in this behemoth of a vehicle you couldn’t tell where his pants ended and the khaki colored seats began. 

He greeted me and I met his wife who was the bearer of the identical image this man’s daughter who I had been “seeing” for the past 3 months. He invited me into the dark green SUV.  I sat in the 2nd row of the oversized vehicle as it rumbled into the Holiday gas station near the college.  The man stepped down out of the enormous truck and began filling the fuel tank with 87 octane unleaded gasoline.  The unit drank in nearly 30 gallons of fuel and cost a mere $27.  The 4.6L V8, as with any V8 consumes gas like a high school boy swallows pizza.  

He finished his filling…stepped back into the vehicle and stated, “Wow! 50 miles per gallon, that’s down a little bit from last time…must have been the headwind.”

The overarching irony of this man was perhaps the paradox of his amazing generosity, coupled with his intense frugality, of which has been known to be called “cheap” in certain circles.  He had a history of conservative fiscal discernments, which included buying “used” spark plugs and infamously ordering 1 large beverage and 4 empty cups to quench the intense thirst of his then four young children from a McDonalds drive through.

He proceeded to transport the four of us, himself, his wife, his daughter…and me…a panic stricken pale face northern Minnesota boy who was smitten with the beauty of his youngest offspring, to Old Chicago Restaurant in Minnetonka, Minnesota. Old Chicago was a casual but expensive pizza place, at least comparative to the only other pizza place I visited, which was Pizza Hut.  Not because I liked Pizza Hut better…but rather because I worked there…and I could eat there for FREE.  I came to learn that he and I shared some of the same conservative fiscal discernments.    

The man’s daughter and I sat next to each other in the large booth while he and his wife sat across from us.  I was careful not to sit too close to the beautiful girl as the last thing that I wanted was to get on the bad side of the bifocaled authority before me.  A bearded waiter came by to take our order.  Immediately I could tell that the spectacled man liked and respected the waiter. 

“Are you all ready to order?” The waiter asked.

“Yes, we are,” the man said, “You look like an honest fellow.  I always tell my wife ‘You can always trust a man with a beard,’ isn’t that right Marilyn?”

“Just give him your order Ken.”

“Ryan why don’t you start…what will you have?”

“Oh, I don’t need anything…how about just a water…do you charge for lemon?  I’ll have some lemon if there is no charge.  Also, are these saltine crackers complementary? I will just have them.”

“What!!? This is on me…order what you want.  I will pay for it.”

“Are you sure?”


“Then I will have a calzone…why don’t you fill it with mozzarella, pepperoni, ham, bacon, sausage…do you have any other meat in the house? Maybe some ground beef too. Maybe some mozzarella sticks too…and pie…peach pie if you have it…for dessert…and maybe a beer…I mean a root beer.”

“Anything else?”

“Hmmm…I don’t know…we’ll just start with that I guess.”

“And for you sir?” the waiter asked the beautiful girl’s father.

“Are these crackers complementary?” He asked.

Kenneth Dobert, became my father-in-law just 3 years later and I came to learn that “I’ll pay for it,” was a mantra that extended infinitely beyond that first encounter.  When there was a question of finances, you would often hear this man’s voice, “I’ll pay for it.”  He paid for innumerable things…from missionary needs and church debts, to pastors’ vehicles and hospital bills.  It was incredible to see how generous this man really was, especially in contrast to the frugalness of his nature.

I left that day with a picture of another generous man…the MOST generous man.  Ken paid for many things.  The Lord blessed him to be able to do so, yet there was one thing that he could NOT pay for in people’s lives.  He could NOT pay for their sins.  But Jesus could…and DID! I also left that day…and began to grow a beard.

The Spirit of God has continued to remind me of His grace.  He reminds me that I had a debt that I could not pay…but Jesus DID pay it. 

Because Jesus paid my debt and forgave me, I think I can now understand a little more clearly what Jesus is asking when I read, Matthew 6:12.  He has forgiven me…and because of that…I can forgive others.

May you come to ask Jesus to forgive what only he can forgive and be drawn to likewise forgive others.

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