PATHWAY TO HIS PRESENCE
Perhaps some of you will recognize this story written by an unknown man:
“Many years ago, I was sentenced to federal prison. I had a beautiful wife and wonderful children. I said to her, ‘Honey, don't write to me. I won't write to you. The kids should not know their dad is in prison. If you want to, go ahead and find another man - somebody who will be a good father to those boys.’
“I do not know if she kept her part of the bargain. I kept mine. Last week when I knew for sure I was getting out, I wrote a letter to our old address. It’s just outside of Jacksonville. I said to her, ‘If you are still living there and get this letter, if you haven't found any one else, and if there is a chance of you taking me back - here is how you can let me know. I will be on the bus as it comes through town. I want you to take a piece of white cloth and hang it in the old oak tree right outside of town.’”
When they got back on the bus and were getting a few miles from Jacksonville, all the teenagers moved to the man's side of the bus and pressed their faces against the windows. Just as they came to the outskirts of Jacksonville there was the old oak tree. The teenagers let out a yell and they jumped out of their seats. They hugged and danced in the center of the aisle. All they said was, “Look at it! Look at it!”
Not a single white cloth was tied to the tree. Instead there was a white bed sheet, a white dress, a little boy's white trousers, and white pillow cases! The whole tree was covered with dozens of pieces of white cloth!
What an illustration of God's mercy - how God treats you and me – undeserving as we are! If you recall, in the song the white cloths were changed to yellow ribbons.
This wife showed unconditional love at its best. She could have hung an old sheet with the words, “I will never forgive you,” or “If you apologize to me, I will consider taking you back.”
Instead, she reached down into her heart and pulled out an “I forgive you completely” sentence and posted it all over the tree with white cloths.
What about you? Is there someone you need to forgive? Would you consider finding an oak tree, tying cloths of love all over it, and giving forgiveness to that one who has offended you?
Jesus did. Instead of white cloths tied to an oak tree, He allowed others to tie Him to a cross and asked His Father to forgive those who put Him there.
The Rev. B.J. Funk is associate pastor of Central UMC in Fitzgerald. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.