Wednesday, November 18, 2009

What Do You See Now?

This rough man sat, nay, slouched in his chair across from me, his right arm dangling across his thigh, the other arm thrown back casually over the back of the seat. There was silence among the other men, as this tattooed, dark thug began to tell his story.

"I am serving a life sentence for the rape and murder of my girlfriend. A few years back, I spent some time with this prison ministry team and gave my life to Jesus. I have repented of my crimes, I have sought forgiveness from those whom I have hurt. But there is this thing that I can't seek forgiveness for. I killed my girlfriend. It was wrong, but she's gone and cannot forgive me. But then the pastors here tell me that it's done and God has forgiven me. So what I want to know is this: what do you see when you look at me?"

Oh my goodness. Lord. Have. Mercy. Did I mention the tattoos? Did I mention that I was terrified in his presence? Did I mention the big arms and RIP on his neck? What did I see when I looked at him?

Up to this point, I had been sitting on the edge of my seat, back erect, feet planted lightly under me, as if ready to bolt like an anxious cat. At hearing his question, the weight of conviction became so heavy in my heart, pushing me back in the chair with an exhaustive exhalation. What did I see when I looked at him? As my body hit the back of the chair, the voice of the Lord began rushing through my ears:
He was made in My image. He's been redeemed by My blood.
He was made in My image and has been redeemed by My blood.
I took in a long, slow, deep breath, as I prayed inwardly, "You said You would give me the words to speak. You said You would tell me what to say. I need You now, as all words fail me."

I sat deep in the chair for what felt like an eternity before I could move my mouth to even form a word. As the words began to approach my tongue, I slowly leaned forward, toward this brother of mine, till my arms were resting on my legs and my sole focus was on his face alone.

I opened my mouth by the grace of the Spirit alone and said, "You call yourself a Christian. I claim the same. You have surrendered your life to the power of Christ. I have done the same. There is no crime you have committed that is any worse than anything I have ever done. In the eyes of God, I am no better nor worse than you. So what do I see when I look at you? I see the blood of Christ covering over my brother, washing you of your sins, making you white as snow. And what I can tell you, with all confidence, is this: by the promise of the Word of God, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the authority of Jesus Christ, You. Are. Forgiven."

Breathe deep. Pause for another eternal moment.

Have you ever seen a soul released? Have you ever seen a burden lifted? Have you ever seen a heart restored? It looks a lot like a grown man, covered in scary tattooes, with sad eyes full of gory life stories, hanging his head low as a single tear rolls down his life-stained cheek, too ashamed to make eye contact, too humbled to say another word. It looks a lot like a brutal, hardened criminal softening at the simple words of a foreign girl sitting across him.

Ah sweet forgiveness. How quickly and simply you release your beauty to the most undeserving, unsuspecting souls. The very boot that crushes you receives the absolute best that you have to offer. Your essence clings to it, travels with it, becomes part of it, and rubs off on others.

Ah sweet forgiveness. There is no limit to your giving. And it didn't stop there...

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  1. Thank you for sharing your story with us... I am asking the Father to show me, teach me, what I need to learn through your testimony. I have experienced the power of forgiveness, God's forgivness, obviously in different ways than you, but I know I must continually be reminded of the power of the blood of Jesus to set us all free from the bonds of bitterness. Thank you for being willing to share your powerful story to help us become more like Christ.

  2. I've enjoyed reading your story! It's been a blessing. Thanks for sharing!


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