If you love someone who has gone astray, never, ever give up praying for him. Our Heavenly Father is faithful to the end...shouldn't we be as well? This true story demonstrates the faithfulness of God.
Avery lived a rough life and it showed on his face. His brown eyes had a sadness to them and the deep lines in his face were not from laughter.
Have you ever heard the old Country Western song entitled “I’m My Own Grandpa?” Well, that song pretty much sums up Avery’s 56 years of living. His wife Karen was wife number five, and he had children born from wives and non-wives alike. Some folks described him as ‘colorful’ or ‘interesting,’ but one thing was for sure, when family members got together, Avery was sure to be the topic of discussion at some point.
But there was just something about Avery, something charismatic and loveable, yet eluding. He was tall and ruggedly handsome, hot tempered and quick to speak his mind. But yet, there was also a gentleness about him; a compassion…or perhaps it was even sorrow.
A couple times in his later years, he made reference to a long-ago and dark event that haunted him. Something so bad he thought even God Himself would not forgive. That was the reason he wouldn’t talk about God…and why everyone else talked about him (Avery).
Family folk knew most of what he’d done in his life, and they couldn’t help but wonder what in the world he was trying to hide. What could be so bad as to warrant such coldness; such distance? And their wanting to know ran the gamut from caring to curious to being flat out nosey, but one thing was for certain: no matter what, everyone loved Avery.
At family reunions when everyone gathered and held hands to pray before eating, Avery quietly took a step back, refusing to participate. He stared straight ahead, making sure not to look anyone in the eye, his face stone-cold.
Avery was one of 13 children, all born deep in the hills of Kentucky, and most of them had checkered pasts as well. As many became converted and joined a denomination of Southern Baptists, the subject of God arose often. And usually it was at the dinner table…with great enthusiasm and raised voices. When Avery was present, he just slid his chair back, folded his arms across his chest, looked down at the floor and didn’t talk. Sometimes his face would get red and without saying a word, he’d stomp out of the room, leaving folks to wonder what was troubling his poor heart.
Many of his relatives prayed for him over the years, and they weren’t afraid to tell him so. “Go ahead,” he’d reply, his tone almost mocking.
Years passed, yet neither time nor God seemed able to soften Avery’s heart. He never turned from his ways; he never acknowledged the prayers that were prayed on his behalf or the love of those who refused to give up on him.
Late one Sunday evening, Avery was hospitalized with double pneumonia. For the next five days, he underwent a barrage of tests, blood draws, medications and more tests, and two times that week he suffered heart failure. During his stay, a visiting priest came to see him. They talked for a while and before leaving the room, the priest gave Avery a cross. “I’ll be back again tomorrow to see you, if you’d like,” he said, and Avery nodded. True to his word, the priest came back twice to talk with him privately.
On Friday night around 6 p.m., Avery was standing at the window, waiting for the doctor to sign his release so he could go home. His bags were packed and Karen sat on the bed reading a magazine. When his sister, Carol, called from Ypsilanti to check on him, he joked a little and was in good humor, even though he was still quite weak. During their conversation, Avery mentioned the visit from the priest, but didn’t go into detail. Carol detected a peace in his voice that had never been there before. The short phone call ended, they said their goodbyes and hung up.
“Where’s my cross?” he asked Karen as he put the receiver down. She told him it was packed away in the suitcase, and he asked her to get it for him.
Avery took the cross and walked across the room to sit in a chair. Wheezing, he laid his head on the headrest and closed his eyes. With both hands tightly holding the cross to his chest, he said quietly, but loud enough that Karen could hear, “Oh, thank you, Lord. Thank you for what you did for me.”