Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS (Don't write about the song) (04/16/15)
TITLE: Backyard Redemption
By Gary Ritter
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My father cheated on my mother. I asked him, “How do you justify that?” He told me to worry about myself. He’d deal with God when the time came.
The worship leader demoted the pastor’s sister from lead vocalist. She demanded it was her right to be primary singer. The pastor supported the worship leader, his sister caused a huge stink, ruptured the church, and half of it split off.
After years of watching the hypocrisy I had enough. For years I’d struggled with drinking too much. One night in the bar a pretty woman came on to me. Till then I’d resisted such temptations. That time I realized what a waste my so-called righteousness had been. We woke up in her bed.
My wife asked where I’d been. The children missed their daddy last night. I walked out of the house, had several beers on the front porch, got in the car and headed over to seek solace with my new girlfriend. On the way I got pulled over for DUI. That was the beginning of my encounters with the law.
I lost my license but needed to work, so I continued to drive. My girlfriend thought we should live together, so I moved in with her. My kids asked, “Daddy, why don’t you live with us anymore?” When I got mad at them for being rude, my wife said, “You’re not seeing the children when you’re with that woman. If they’re exposed to her, I won’t allow you to visit them.”
Two months after I stopped paying child support in retaliation, my wife filed suit in court and garnished my wages. In anger I got drunk. The cops stopped me and the judge sentenced me to prison for a year. He said, “I hope you learn the consequences of your actions.”
My wife’s father wrote me a letter about Jesus. He pointed out how I’d screwed up my life and that of my kids, but God could redeem me. I knew all about religion. I already tried it. It didn’t work. The man’s letter ticked me off real bad. What right did he have judging me? I had my life to live and I was determined to do it my way.
He kept sending me newsletters from various ministries that spoke of redemption and a new life in Christ. Every six weeks or so he sent me a new mailing. He even sent me a book. In each envelope he usually wrote a brief note explaining why he did it. He said it was because he cared. Typical was: “God turned my life around. He forgave me though I sinned against Him. He can do the same for you.”
The last time he wrote he included the parable of the Prodigal Son and proceeded to explain how much like him I was. He stressed God’s forgiving love, how necessary repentance was for my sin, just as this son realized how desperate and broken he was. When he described a relationship with Jesus in terms of the father’s grace and mercy, I broke down. Was it possible God would let me return to Him? I had despised Him, spit on Him, squandered the wealth and inheritance He’d given me. I’d lived in a foreign land of fleshly desires, eaten the slop of pigs, and found it all wanting. Look where I’d ended up.
I fell to my knees. What value was my life? None. I’d given up everything I ever owned. “God, forgive me,” I cried. “Jesus, I need You!”
Peace came over me. Light entered my soul. I’d be released from prison soon. I had the opportunity for a new beginning. In examining my life I saw that God had showered me with many blessings. I’d blamed others that I missed them. That was unfair. My own choices led to my falling away. God, in His church, among His people, was there all the time.
How ironic. While I searched the world for meaning in life, Jesus wanted to give it to me, but I was deaf and blind. He was there, in my own back yard all this time.
Story generally true; fiction nonetheless.
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