TITLE: When The Bird Flies Free - Part I
By Catherine Craig
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“There I go again, thinking I’m standing….”
My son, Paul’s, deep voice on the phone paused; I could picture all brawny six feet plus of him, rolling his eyes, with his sideways smile. My husband Jeff, Paul’s step dad, watched me as I cradled the phone, the object that had just interrupted our couple’s devotional time, in my hand.
I pushed the speakerphone button.
“I know better, Mom,” he continued. “I know what happens when I think I’m standing, and then, I fall…every time!”
“Yeah, Paul How well we understand. Sorry to have to go Paul,” I interrupted, hating to but feeling I had to. “Jeff and I need to finish our devotional, and jump into the day hon.”
“Okay Mom, I’ll talk to you later.”
“I’ll call you this afternoon; we’ll talk more then, Paul,” I said.
Jeff opened the devotional and I, the passage to read. I read, “If the Lord delights in a man’s way, he makes his steps firm. Though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.” I looked up at Jeff and smiled. “I’ll have to share this with Paul this afternoon.”
“No,” he directed, “I think we need to call him now, and read it to him.”
I picked up the phone and pushed redial.
“Paul, I have something to read to you,” I said, and then read the passage to him.
“You know Mom,” Paul chuckled, and then responded after a moment, “I have something to share with you too. Can you turn to Luke 13:20?”
I did, and read, “Again he (Jesus) asked, “What shall I compare the kingdom of God to? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.” I stopped. That passage had stymied me for a long time; it was a difficult one.
“Mom, you know, I was talking to God about my sin, and how hard it was to beat. I don’t deserve heaven; I know I’m not worthy. I beat myself up all the time; but I know when the devil is coming at me with accusations,” he said. “I prayed to God about what I was feeling and God gave me this Bible verse, the one I gave you.” After a brief moment, he explained, “This guy that was in jail got out. He called me to see how I was doing the other day; he’s a truck driver. We talked about this Bible verse. My friend explained it to me, “Paul, God doesn’t ever give up on us. He just keeps adding more and more yeast, putting up with this, picking us up and setting us back up on our feet. We’re never “done”, and won’t be until He comes. But He never gives up on us, does he?”
Jeff and I waited.
“God’s love is like an ocean that never ends. Our sins are as a big as ocean too, bigger. But, even if I sin a thousand times, all those sins died with Jesus when he died once. He only had to die once, Mom, for all the sins I commit. That means he doesn’t have to die a bunch of times for each sin I commit. He loves me, Mom. The Bible says, “He Who began a good work in you will continue it until the day of Jesus Christ…”
“Oh, yeah Paul. That’s a big one,” I answered, fully aware that self-forgiveness and falling back into trying to earn the salvation that Jesus so freely provided was common for me, and for others I’d talked to. Jeff remained silent, shaking his head in agreement. We were both aware of this struggle – a common one.
We talked for a few minutes longer. I listened, marveling at the life-changing mysterious power of God. About a year before, I’d begun praying, “Whatever it takes, Lord, please bring my kids back to the faith I’d brought them up with, faith in You! Whatever it takes…”
Tears welled up in my eyes, and I fought against the telltale sniffles that would have betrayed my emotional state to Paul as he spoke. This was my precious son – my oldest boy– that I’d walked through the fires with as a teenager when his world was shattered by divorce. He’d been in out of jail as a boy; it was there through a prison ministry he’d found the Lord, and learned about Him solidly.
When he walked away from his youth, he said, “Mom, I can’t believe that was me in there. I don’t know that person I was.” For almost two decades, he stayed true to his word. Paul stayed clean.
Then, almost twenty years later, I believe in response to my prayers as a mother, God once again used a short stint of isolation through prison confinement to regain Paul’s attention. This time, though, unlike in his younger wild days when he was truly in trouble, Paul waited to be cleared of charges he pled self-defense to. Month after month for four long months, my son used the solitude of prison confinement to read his Bible, and find the faith he’d thought was almost lost to him. In fact, he reached out to encourage other inmates, who began calling him, “Preacher man, Paul”.
My heart had soared, as I watched Paul change. I did what could be done as a mother of a son facing such things, while placing the entire situation in God’s hands.
My faith was rewarded when he was released on parole. That particular county in Georgia had an eight-percent conviction rate, harsh and extreme. The attorney warned us that if the case went to court, my son would face twenty years, almost for certain, innocent or not. Besides, we were out of money. We couldn’t have retained his lawyer for any trial procedure; his defense would have been hit-or-miss, dependant upon a public defender appointed to him.
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