The JJM team had been meeting with this particular house of young men for a while. Slowly working through the pillars of faith. Ray who usually serves at a different institution just happened to be the visiting teacher for the week on “Forgiveness”. It was not the first time he had been asked to teach on this topic.
Ray and his wife volunteered with their church youth group where he taught monthly. As Ray prepared for a lesson on “forgiveness”, he was convicted. The Spirit pressed on his heart. How could he teach on forgiveness when he hadn’t forgiven his father? At first, the conviction surprised him. It was true Ray hadn’t spoken with his dad in nearly 15 years, but he’d thought he’d already forgiven his father. As Ray continued to prepare for the lesson the Spirit unveiled bitterness harbored in his heart. So, he sat down and wrote a letter to his father. He outlined the transgressions that riddled their shared history and how he forgave him. Ending the lengthy letter with “take this as you will between you and God. This forgiveness isn’t for you—its for me to be obedient to the Lord and let go”.
Ray never received an apology, but his heart was relieved of its burden. When he taught “Forgiveness” at youth group, he was overcome with emotion as he explained what it meant to forgive from the heart.
Ray taught a similar lesson on Forgiveness inside a Juvenile Detention Center. He shared his own journey of forgiving his dad with about a dozen young men. When he’d finished, one of the young men approached him, “I need to do this. I need to forgive my father, but I don’t know how I can do that.”
“With time and with God’s help, that’s how.” Ray replied.
Ray was at the same institution for a special family visitation day where JJM was providing fun treats like ice cream or Chik-fil-a to the youth and their families. During visitation time, that same young man came up to Ray “My dad is here. I forgave him because of the story you told.”
“No, you forgave him because of God. I’m so proud of you!” Ray replied. Then walked to the young man’s father, looked him in the eye, shook his hand and said “Thank you for being in your son’s life.”
The father replied, “Absolutely, always.”
God is absolutely, always in the lives of those who love him. The stories he’s given us might just change the story of someone else.