Second Chances: What would you do, would you forgive?
Posted on behalf of, and written by, one of my best friends, who has inspired me over the years.
Recently, I read Max Lucado's writing on "Grace for breakfast." It's the story of Peter and Christ, the bond of friendship and the betrayal of a friend.
It brought me to a place of thought for my own best friend who had been part of a crime. He had been tried, convicted, punished and served time. During that time, he had reacquainted himself with God and developed a deep connection and certainly, an undoubted unbreakable bond with God. Released from prison and from sin, he has felt God's grace.
How did it all begin? "I just need you to take care of her, make sure she isn't touched, while I am away", his friend said.
Saying Yes To A 'Friend'
My friend looked away in disbelief. This was wrong. He knew it.
But it was so startling that his friend had kept this horrific secret and a person was being kept against their will.
Would it go away if he ignored the situation? What was his friend capable of? How little did he know of his friend of 17 years? What else did this mean to the safety and security of his friends' family? A million images and ideas resonated in his mind.
He looked at his friend who was eagerly awaiting his answer, and agreed. He said "yes".
When asked later why, as a grown man, he would say yes to something clearly wrong, the answer was simple to him: "he was my friend. I did not know how to say no. I thought it would just go away, I'd do this and it would just go away."
Reconnecting To God in Prison
When my friend was first arrested, I was tormented with disbelief. But my heart was filled with love. My father asked two questions of me. "Do you think Judas' mother loved him any less than Jesus' mother?" and “has he always been a good friend to you?"
My response to the first question was thoughtful, as I had never considered love in these terms. My response was "no". The second question was an astounding "yes". My father’s response was "then continue being a good friend to him. Love him more than ever, give him of yourself because he needs you now, more than any other time. If Christ can forgive, then so can we.”
I think standing in my friend’s shoes that morning and listening, observing him as he related this non-fiction tale, God presented me with Grace. I was filled with questions and he provided answers, there was no conflict in my heart, nor in my soul, just peace and acceptance.
I thought of how he reconnected to God in prison. Did it mean that prisoners have a lot of time on their hands and therefore focus on the Bible? Is it a means of passing time? Were they looking for atonement?
Perhaps it's all of these things and more. But sitting with my friend, walking in his shoes as he told the story was a most peaceful time for me. I listened with my heart open.
One Decision Alters a Life
He served his time. Good people serve sentences, when one decision alters a life. The road outside is not easy. Friends have left, a family broken, an absent father to a child left to reconnect with and build a nurturing relationship, unlimited in debt to a mother who stood by, stood up and waited for a son to return.
A man released to become a wholesome valued member of society. A family man, a compassionate man, willing to help others in need including released inmates. A man who is willing to give what he can to friends and strangers. A man whom God has touched and the Holy Spirit has come into to give a new perspective and peace to the second chance he has been given in this life.
In that cell, I imagine what Max says about Peter as told in the Bible: "my friend turns and looks. Jesus has come. Not just Jesus the teacher, but Jesus the death-defeater, Jesus the king.. Jesus the victor over darkness. Jesus, the God of heaven and earth."
A Second Chance
For one of the few times in his life, my friend is silent. What words would suffice? The moment is too holy for words. God is offering grace to his child, my friend.
What do you say at a moment like this?
What do you say at a moment such as this?
It's just you and God. You and God both know what you did. And neither one of you is proud of it. What do you do?
You might consider doing what Peter did. Certainly my friend did. I know that for sure. Stand in God's presence. Stand in his sight. Stand still and wait. Sometimes that's all a soul can do. Too repentant to speak, but too hopeful to leave-we just stand.
He has come back.
He has invited my friend to try again. Jesus invites you to try again. This time, try with him.