At the end of the session on forgiveness, the leader gave all an opportunity to quietly sit and ask God whom we needed to forgive. In the midst of the quiet, sprinkled with sniffles, whispers and tears forgiveness took place. She then asked if anyone wanted to share what God had done during those precious few minutes. My dear friend Sherry gathered herself and stood to her feet in humble gratitude. Her forgiveness had been ongoing for a long while and that day was like a wax seal on a private letter. Yet she dared to peel back the seal and share it with us.
Her words still echo in my heart, “My dad wasn’t there on my birthing bed, but I was there on his death bed.” Forgiveness of an absent father, had given her the privilege to go “be” forgiveness. Her story stirred us all as she told of finding her dad after a lifetime of separation, only to be found sitting on his deathbed two weeks later. Forgiveness had preceded this restoring miracle. There were no memories to thank him for, but the power of forgiveness had opened the doorway to sit on his deathbed and thank him for the one good thing he had given her…. LIFE!
The story underneath Sherry’s life makes me want to stand on tiptoes to watch her faith walk. Not only had she lived without her father, but also her son has been gone from her life for 11 years. Gone…no visits, no phone calls, and no text. Nothing!
Throughout these many dark years Sherry has exuded joy. The joy of receiving God’s forgiveness in her own life has extended to forgiveness of many others, including her birth father and her son. Her heart has been deeply restored and in turn she now helps others find a restored heart. (Sherry leads women through “Restoring Your Heart” groups. For more information, click here.)
I have watched how Sherry has guarded her heart through the years, not allowing bitterness, depression, hopelessness or unbelief to rule her life. I feel sure she has had numerous opportunities to give in to these enemies of the heart, but she has quickly drawn on her faith and sent them running in the opposite direction. With both humility and gratitude, I have watched her hold her heart to God and let Him deal with all of its wounds and brokenness.
Sherry’s story has caused me to re-visit the story in the bible referred to as “The Lost Son” or “The Prodigal Son”, found in (Luke 15:11-32). The son has rebelled and turned from the father and gone and spent his inheritance. He is now homeless, hungry and humble and repentant desiring to return home even as a servant in the household. In this condition he returns home to the father. The verse that shakes me to the core is verse 20.
“So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.” Luke 15:20
I have always pictured this father standing on the porch expectantly watching for his son’s return. He didn’t wait for the son to crawl through the dust begging, pleading and performing for forgiveness. No, he had already forgiven his son and was standing on the porch watching and waiting for his return.
While praying for Sherry’s son and other prodigals, it was as if I heard the thump of the Father’s feet jumping off the porch. In my spirit, I heard the words; “Jesus came down from the porch of heaven and came running for you.”
He watches, He woos. He knows where we are. At the first sign of our return, He comes running with arms wide open. Forgiveness was taken care of at the cross. We need not crawl through the dust, pleading with our rehearsed speech, but only accept the forgiveness the cross has provided for all who receive.
Because we are greatly forgiven, we freely forgive others. We forgive absent fathers, rebellious sons and daughters, ourselves and every other person that has wounded us in any way.
As seen in this story in scripture, forgiveness leads to freedom, joy and celebration.
Prodigals, parents of prodigals, Sherry, prepare the fatted calf, the robe and the ring. Get the party planned! Watch for your son’s return. By faith we are on the porch with you watching for his return.
Pray on the porch.
Watch from the porch.
Worship on the porch
Plan the party on the porch.
Expect God to answer.
“Lord, stir our hearts to pray with expectancy. Where we have grown weary in praying and seeing no signs of change, give us passion to pray knowing that you hear us and you are at work.”