Saturday, October 21, 2006
His kindness leads us to repentance
When Candyce--the baby of the family--was about 10 years old, the Lord spoke to her in a marvelous way. It changed us both, I think, and helped me to better understand the kindness of God . . .
Candyce was a unique child, much different in temperament than her sisters. Let's suffice it to say that she inherited her grandfather's (on her dad's side) Scottish temper and stubborness and her grandmother's (on my side) Bohemian free spirit. The combination of her personality with my limited parenting skills made for some pretty intense interactions. On a daily basis!
During a particularly difficult season with Candyce, I heard about a play that was coming to town. "The Fire and the Glory," galvanized by 24-hour prayer teams around the country, was a dramatization of the realities of eternal judgement--and was purported to be changing lives wherever it went.
I thought a little change would be good for Candyce. She'd accepted the Lord when she was 6, but her recent behaviors made me wonder if she'd forgotten who was Lord of her life. I was honestly concerned that my pre-teen was gravitating toward the rebellious road that I had once walked, and I hadn't a clue how to re-direct her path.
I hoped this play was the answer to my prayers.
"Candyce, tonight I'm taking you to a play that will scare the hell out of you," I told her one morning, after we butted heads over something.
I suppose I couldn't blame her for not being excited about our outing after an introduction like that, but I really hoped that Candyce would be so sobered by the eternal consequences of bad choices that she would be transformed into a more manageable child.
She didn't speak to me as we drove to the church (who could blame her?) and quickly found a friend to sit with once we arrived. The play was every bit as intense as I'd expected. It opened with a car full of teenagers who'd died in a car accident. They were ushered into a room where a great Angel looked up their names in the Lamb's book of Life. If their name was found written there, the Lord Jesus Himself came and embraced them, and personally escorted them to their new eternal home.
If their names weren't found in the Lamb's book, swarms of horrible demons accosted them and dragged them kicking and screaming into the fiery pit of Hell.
(They had fake fires burning, but you could smell the sulfur. The demons were incredibly scary).
This scene, with dramatic variations, was repeated for about two hours. After the play ended, an altar call was given and people streamed to the front of the church. I looked around hoping to see Candyce's repentant little face in the crowd, but I eventually spotted her on the back row, sitting with her friend.
I could see tears still glistening on her cheeks.
Well, that's a good sign at least, I thought as we walked silently back to the car.
On the drive home, I asked Candyce if God had spoken to her.
"He did," she said, still sniffing and blinking back tears.
"So, what did He say?" I pressed. The words "shape up or ship out" came to my mind.
"He (sniff) told me He loved me (sniffle) and that my name is written in the Lamb's book of life."
I looked over at my daughter. Her face was wet with tears, her expression softer than I seen it in many months. She hadn't just heard the Lord's gracious words--she was experiencing their reality. Greatly humbled (and yes, ashamed), I knew I was on holy ground as I sensed His Spirit ministering to hers.
Later that night, after she'd been in bed for several hours, I could still hear her sniffling as she wept in response to His unconditional love.
I don't know what eternal impact that evening had on Candyce (that is her story to tell), but I know that I was forever changed. The Lord's kindness to my daughter led ME to repentance--I repented for my harsh words, unrealistic expectations, and conditional love toward her. That night, more specifically, Candyce's encounter with God, changed my perception of Him and how He relates to His children.
As Graham Cooke, a pastor from England is fond of saying:
"God is the kindest Person I know."