Encouraging Fathers to Push Through Walls

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One of the most meaningful ministry experiences I’ve ever had was at a prison!  I was asked by a member of my church to go with him as he went to visit his son, Mark.  The first time we visited Mark he was in trouble.  He had misbehaved (he had mental issues) and so when we visited him, we could only visit with him through a crackly phone and a thick (and dirty) glass wall.  As we visited afterwards, both the dad and I commented about how hard and calloused his son looked.  We prayed together that God would somehow cover Mark with grace and forgiveness.  We prayed for his hardened heart, that it would somehow be softened.   We prayed for someone who would come along Mark’s side and guide him to a new way to be. As we prayed, this father with so much love in his heart wept uncontrollably in fear and love.

A month later we returned and as we were visiting through the glass and over phones, a prison chaplain came up to us and shared that he had seen us before and that he might be able to talk to the warden to see if Mark might be allowed to meet us in person.  He mentioned that he had been visiting with Mark on a regular basis and had seen some positive change.   30 minutes later, a prison guard came up to us and said that they had made arrangements to allow Mark to visit with us in a private meeting room.  

With tears in my eyes, I watched as Mark and his father embraced for the first time in almost a year.  I witnessed the “scales from Mark’s hardened heart” fall away as he felt the warm and loving embrace of his father.  His father, the only one who had visited Mark in the last 5 years.  His father, who never once missed a chance to visit the prison.  His father, who had written the prison chaplain just a month ago begging him to find a way to reach Mark in the prison.  His father, who had taken me out to lunch and out to golf and made friends with me just so he could work up the courage to ask me, his pastor, into this tender and vulnerable shadow in his life.  This father, who teaches us all how to love as a real and true father loves: unconditionally, unwaveringly, and without end.

This Father’s Day may we encourage fathers everywhere, by our actions and words, to love like Mark’s dad…NO MATTER WHAT! 

Your friend and pastor, so privilege to walk with folks in the shadows, Brook

Tim Schaaf