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I received an envelope today. One that I thought would eventually come. One that I had welcomed even. But when it was in my hands, staring me in the face, it surprised me.
My father speaks. Again. It’s still the same what on earth is he talking about stuff. Ads. Poems. A subscription to a magazine he reads in prison. So typical of my father.
But then there is a note. One that pricks my heart. I’m NOT going to let it overwhelm me. The little girl who would curl up in a ball and cry for hours is replaced by a calm woman. So I read the words.
Sorry. I come begging. I am hungry. Can you and others send me a secure food package?
Once I get past the initial incredulous response of EXCUSE ME? another emotion wells up inside. One that I think my Heavenly Father has been waiting to flourish in me. It’s a mixture of pity and sorrow. I choose to view it as compassion. Compassion for another human being, asking for help.
Do I turn him down? Do I continue to let him suffer, as if being locked in a prison cell for life is not enough justice? Do I hold out being compassionate toward him with conditions that he FINALLY admit who he is?
Or do I offer him compassion? Because I can. Because I know that it would be what my Jesus would do.
Matthew 25 (ESV)
35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,[a] you did it to me.’
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
I have a choice. I can stand in my own righteousness. And BELIEVE me, I’m quite justified to leave this man to rot away alone in the desert. He has destroyed so many lives… But I don’t want to stand in my own righteousness any longer. I nailed my life to Jesus’ cross. And I stand on HIS righteousness. That means I am to do what he asks.
So, now I make plans. Plans to bring a little bit of comfort to my father. I’m not sure what he means by he’s hungry. I’m sure the prison system is feeding him…then again, I don’t know MUCH about it. And although I believe 100% that he needs to stay where he is, I will not allow him to be mistreated. It’s the right thing to do.
And I’m not scared to upset my family about it anymore. This isn’t about bringing him back into our lives. This is about following a higher call than this life has offered. This is about showing compassion to a man who doesn’t deserve it. It’s about letting go of my comfort to offer someone else comfort. It’s about bringing hope and peace into darkness.
You see, at the core of that man is a soul; a soul that I hope can be reconciled to his maker. I cannot make him repent, admit who he is, fall on his face and seek God. I CAN do what I am called to do: Love Mercy. Seek Justice. Walk Humbly with My God. This living righteous is HARD work in some ways.
So, I had to share. I know that the bulk of the dance with my father has passed. Now there’s a new song, new steps to learn, a new day. Ultimately, if the price of compassion buys my father complete reconciliation with his God, then it’s worth it.