Thursday, December 11, 2008

Life's Long and Winding Road

I talked recently to a man who is in the middle of a painful divorce in which he sees his young son much less frequently than he would like. Moreover, it is clear that his soon-to-be ex-wife does not believe their son needs his father much and bad-mouths dad to the boy. I will tell you as a preacher that one of the most painful aspects of observing divorce is seeing parents (both fathers and mothers) hurt their kids in order to hurt one another. Their frequent selfishness and immaturity is heartbreaking.

One of the things I will tell this man is that life is a long and winding road. Even if he can’t be the daily, physical presence in his son’s life that he wants to be now, he should give his best effort. Redemption sometimes comes far down the road. All we can do is try to live with integrity, make restitution for our wrongs and seek to improve, and then let the various verdicts of peoples’ opinions and judgments run their course. If this man loves his son and is devoted to him, his son will realize that. And if he treats his ex-wife in a godly way, and conducts himself righteously, God will bless that effort.

I thought of this recently upon learning that Chuck Colson, a Christian whose life journey I find very inspiring, was presented with the Presidential Citizens Medal by President Bush. Consider the irony: President Nixon established this medal in 1969, when Colson was his Special Counsel and a widely acknowledged and often despised hatchet man for the administration. Colson eventually went to prison for Watergate-related crimes, but prior to his arrest a friend influenced him to give his life to Christ. His short prison-term impressed on him the shortcomings in prisoner rehabilitation and prompted him to discern God’s call to devote his life to this. He launched Prison Fellowship ministries, which has sought to bring faith-based rehabilitation to prisoners world and effect long-lasting change in how our society “does” imprisonment. Prison Fellowship’s ministries have expanded into numerous other areas of Christian training and witness around the world. The scope of Colson’s life work since his imprisonment is breathtaking.

But he was a hated man before Watergate and a derided one afterwards. His conversion was seen by many as a fraud, a ploy to reduce his court sentence. One writer compared Colson embracing Christianity to W.C. Fields embracing the Temperance Union (i.e., unlikely). Later he was accused of using his ministries to build wealth, even though he has donated all royalties from dozens of books and other efforts, including the $1 million Templeton Prize, to Prison Fellowship.

But recently he stood in the very White House where he was an ethically and spiritually lost soul forty years before and was honored for his noble contributions to this country. At age seventy-seven, he knows what a long and winding road life is.

The apostle Paul writes, “One thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and pressing forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:12-14). We cannot change the past; we can only learn from it, make amends to people when possible, and press on. Some of our biggest failures will present opportunities for powerful redemptive successes. Past enemies can become friends. What seemed hopeless can become a source of great joy. Jesus walks with us on the road.


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