LOOKING BACK AT MY PAST
In many of my prayers, I reflect quietly where I came from and how I became who I am. The road that I took when I ran away from home was the same road that took me back home. I ran away from home in my teens three times. It was a time in my life when I could not please my father. To avoid being beaten severely, I took to the road with my mother’s help. After a period of cooling and promises from my father not to lose his temper with me, I would crawl home like a beaten pup.
My father and I were not compatible. He was too fast, and I was too slow in responding to his demands and wishes. The road back home was hard and apprehensive. I did not know what to expect. During my growing up, leaving home was humiliating and coming back was even more so. Once I was back, my father always forgave me and embraced me as if nothing had ever happened between us. To my neighbors and friends, I felt that I had egg all over my face. I felt shamed because I had disappointed my father. My father was very religious and did not let me go dancing or have a beer with friends. I was not straying like the Prodigal. I behaved well in the eyes of those who knew me, but not to my father who feared that he was losing me to the world. One day, a friend met father in passing and complimented him on the well-behaved son he had at the party. That day father came into the workshop and in the presence of another employee wept before me. Father’s tears were not in vain. I learned that one does not have to leave home to find temptations; we do bring them home with us. God’s warnings passed on to me by my parents have kept me from becoming a Prodigal.
My parent’s prayers, especially my mother’s, kept me from straying or falling into serious blunders. Was I without faults or mistakes? Of course, I did what boys do and got away with silly pranks, but nothing criminal. At an early age, I tried several time to read the Bible, but never read beyond Genesis Chapter Two. It was my mother’s teaching and warning that kept me on the straight and narrow path Christians talked about. The seed that my parents sowed into my heart sprung up in times of trouble and unforeseen tragedies and helped me, not just to survive; but, to emerge as one with energy and courage to help others in similar circumstances. Like my mother, the first thing I do is whisper a prayer. It calms my anxiety and places me in the hands of a loving and forgiving Heavenly Father.
Simon Peter has been somewhat of an idol to me. He had the Lord Jesus praying that he would come back. The Greek has “epistrepsas.” Next to the words grace and faith, this is the most blessed term for man. It means that man can turn around from the direction in which he was headed. He can turn his back on his sins or his failures. He can start all over again. Our English translation reads “repent.” Only Nicodemus was told that he must be born again. On all other occasions, Jesus demanded that men “repent.” To repent is man’s job. It is not just feeling sorry for his sins; but, man also must turn his back on those sins. It does not mean that man will go straight forever. I wish this were so. But being mortal clay, I got dusted by the pitfalls of the world. I did require repeated washing or repenting from the little maggots , which attach themselves to the new person in Christ. Praise to God for the ever present chance to repent. Without it I cannot be purified and without becoming holy no one shall see God.
Peter, too, was told to repent. The Lord was giving him another chance. In fact, the Lord wanted him to return to his role as leader. This humiliating experience made Simon Peter a more understanding leader. He had lost his sure-footedness. He had become a person who knew what it felt like to fail and be embarrassed. Peter was ready at last. He now could sympathize with his brethren who were hiding behind closed doors. And when Jesus asked, “Simon do you ‘agapas’ (love) me?” Peter responded with the words “philo se.” Jesus repeated the question with “agapas” and Peter stuck with “philo se.” On the third time, Jesus also asked with “phileis me” and Peter answered with “philo se” (Jn. 21:15-17). Even though both terms have been translated as love, their application is strikingly different. Before the fall, Peter would have answered with “agape se.” That is, “I love you Lord and I am willing to die for you!” The reformed Peter had become much more cautious. Literally, the word “philo” means “I friend you.” What the big fisherman was saying was, “I am not strong enough to die, but I am strong enough to be your friend.” This is where I am at with Jesus as my Lord. Unlike Peter, my only link is in prayer and I feel lifted when I do.
Prayer does bring people back from self-devastation and it brought me back from my disabling accident. It turns people into better leaders, even small ones like me. Take the wayward man, who became Saint Augustine. When his praying mother expressed concern about her son to the Bishop, he consoled her by saying, “The child of so many prayers can never be lost” (Wa. 229). Take Whitefield, the great eighteenth century evangelist, who traveled with a handicapped companion. Some times the man was in such pain that he could not attend the meetings. Nevertheless, while Whitefield preached, he prayed (Wa. 229). There is a story of a minister, who was kneeling at the bedside of a dying lady. When he was about to rise, she said, “Wait a moment. I want to pray for you.” She laid her hands on him and prayed. Then she told him, “Fourteen years, ever since you became my pastor, I have offered that prayer for you every morning and every night.” The minister left her with tears in his eyes and a warm heart. Every one of these men became able leaders because someone had taken them under the wings of prayer. They were simple people, like you and I, who prayed and their prayers were answered and made leaders out of backsliders.
I owe it to my mother’s prayer for not having been a backslider, but I was far from being of any service in the kingdom of God. I was already studying to be a minister, when I came home early and heard her pray for me, in the basement, that God would keep me in His will and ways. I know she continued praying for me while I was a pastor, and she has instilled that desire in me to pray for all my loved once, including those not so lovable. John Newton penned these words:
“Then let us earnest be,
And never faint in prayer;
He loves our importunity,
And makes our cause His care” (Kn. 268).