Meg picked up a small stone and tossed it into the murky pond outside the prison walls. Ripples fanned out in circles around the stone’s entrance into the water. She grabbed another rock, a bigger one, and threw it with greater force. The larger ripples and greater upheaval in the pond gave her a small measure of satisfaction.
“What a perfect picture of what Daddy did to our family,” she thought bitterly.
When he had done the unthinkable and run over a woman during one of his drinking binges, leaving her dead body on the street while he lapsed into an alcoholic stupor. The conviction of vehicular manslaughter, the relentless hounding by the media, the subsequent prison sentence, the whispering among her friends in middle school, the alienation … all of it had landed like a boulder in smooth water. The ripples that followed spread like metastasized cancer – grotesquely deforming every cell of their lives.
That had only been the beginning. Her mother’s debilitating depression, dependence on food stamps, the inability to pay for health insurance, life in shabby income-based apartments, the need for Meg to stay home and work instead of going to college…ripples. They may as well have been hit with a tsunami.
She sat down on the weathered bench next to the pond and turned her eyes to the prison gate. His sentence was up and he’d called last week, asking if she’d come pick him up today. Since Mom’s death, he literally had no one else to call. Whatever…she’d pick him up and drop him off at the homeless shelter.
She threw another rock. More ripples.
“How do you like that, Daddy?” she thought. “What you did made all our lives a living nightmare these past fifteen years. You may think you were the only one to pay for your crime, but we were punished, too. Big time.”
The gate finally swung open. Meg hardly recognized the man who walked toward her. Years of paying the price for his sin had aged him thirty years, not fifteen. They stared at each other in awkward silence, the father’s eyes brimming with a million unspoken confessions.
“Don’t hug me,” she thought. “Don’t even try.”
He seemed to get the message and just stood there.
“Hey, Meg. Thanks for coming. It’s good to see you. You sure haven’t changed much,” he smiled.
“Yeah, well, you have. You ready?”
She turned toward her car.
Her father made a valiant attempt at small talk in the car. It seemed an eternity before they finally pulled up to the shelter and the man opened the door and got out. Before closing his door, he leaned in and said, “Thank you, Meg. I know you’re angry with me for everything that’s happened, and I don’t blame you. I just want you to know… I’m sorry. I’ve made peace with God, Meg, and I’d like to make peace with you, too. Do you think that’s possible?”
Meg glanced at his eyes and saw remorse, sorrow, and a grief that flowed from genuine repentance. He waited, longing for reconciliation, and then reluctantly closed the door.
Meg drove on, putting all her weight on the gas pedal and tightening her hands into painful fists around the steering wheel. She headed out of town, away from the pain, the confusion, the anger. She finally pulled over, tears making it almost impossible to drive.
“What kind of Christian am I, anyway?” she sobbed. “He’s my father! I’m supposed to love and forgive him, Lord, but I can’t. I’m sorry, I just cannot do that.”
She sat there in the silence, as ripples from eternity past lapped gently against the hard edges of her heart ….
Another time, on a far away hill, the Creator of all hurled a very different stone into the pond of humanity. The Rock was a man, the Son of God, hung on a cross for crimes He did not commit. His blood pooled at the foot of that tree, and when he breathed his last words, “It is finished,” ripples, strong and mighty, shook the earth and tore the veil that separated man from God. The ripples flowed from a heart of compassion for His children. A tsunami of love began in that moment and will continue to stir the waters of hearts on into eternity…. pardoning the guilty, setting captives free, encircling His beloved with love and forgiveness.
Meg exhaled a great cleansing breath…and headed back into town.
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