At C1, we are committed to being used of God to see lives radically transformed by Jesus. It’s why we do what we do at church. It’s why we sacrifice and serve and slaughter sacred cows for breakfast. It’s why we trust and hope and believe and give and work and pray. It’s a cause for which I am willing to risk everything and fight anyone. Here’s why.
His face lights up a room. He is the life of the party. He’s a brother that will stand by you when no one else does. He learned that kind of loyalty the hard way. In younger years, he was a “player.” He hustled. He hustled drugs. He hustled people. But mostly he hustled himself. Finally, the bottom dropped out. Busted for drugs, he was sent away. When he left, most wrote him off. Heck, he wrote himself off.
“I was a terrible father and a terrible person, it was best if I just disappeared,” he said. “Not only did my wife ask for a divorce, but she also asked that I give up all rights to my 6 month old baby girl. She thought my daughter would be better off without me in her life. I agreed. A judge agreed. And just like that, I was no longer a father.” He signed the papers and walked away. The decision killed him, but when you see no way out of the chaos, you want desperately to protect those who you drug into the chaos with you. Besides that, he was already dead.
Prison does a lot of things to a man. It swallows some and never gives them back. To others, it serves as a wakeup call of hope. My friend woke up. He began to seek truth. He began to seek life. He began to seek Jesus. Prison spit him out and he came out a better man.
Afterward, he began to fight his way back into life. He studied, he worked, he gathered with others at “the tables” where they worked and fought back into life together. One day his quest for truth and Christ led him to our church. He met Jesus there and a new life soared to a new altitude.
He had always been articulate and intelligent, now he became wise. The church was a place where he thrived and matured and learned to love deeply. God did an amazing work in his heart and before long he was a successful businessman and a valuable asset to his company. If you ask him about it he smiles and says, “God is good.”
Everything was good, well…almost everything.
He had made peace with his past long ago. He had worked the steps and had the conversations and fixed what could be fixed and trusted God to grace what he couldn’t repair. But there was a big piece missing to his comeback and his heart that he couldn’t fill, because it involved someone he couldn’t reach. He longed to make peace with his daughter. Wherever she was, he just wanted tell her how much she meant to him and how much she meant to his best friend, Jesus.
On good days, it was always there to tint the clouds of joy. On bad days it wrapped its tentacles around him and squeezed. It was painful. Its’ dark shadow fell on every victory and sharp sting pierced every defeat.
“Every time I walked into a buddy’s house,” he said, “I always looked at the refrigerator door. I looked there because in every home where there are children, there are pictures or letters hanging there. Something a son or daughter had created to express love to their parents.” He pauses here and a strong man chokes back tears.
“I know it’s crazy, but for 20 years, letters on refrigerator doors haunted me,” he said. “It was a reminder of what I’d walked away from. It reminded me of what I had wasted and could never get back. It was painful, but I knew it was something I couldn’t fix. No one could. Well...almost no one.” He smiles.
It started with a young adult woman reaching out to find her dad. It culminated in a letter. In between, there were tears and prayers. In between, there was a first Christmas together and lots and lots of conversation…about life, and love, and forgiveness, and the difference Jesus makes.
Then the letter came.
I just wanted to say thank you from the bottom of my heart for all you have done for my family. I’ve been a pain in the butt, but you’ve stuck with me through it all. You may not have been there in my childhood, but you came into my life exactly when I needed you most. You’ve taught me how to play offense and taught me how to face my fears. I was such a broken person before you came into my life. I would be in such a horrible place without you.
I love you.
Thanks for everything.
If you ask him about it, he’ll smile and say, “God is good.” If you want to see it, he’ll show it to you. It’s hanging on his refrigerator door.