I don’t know if any of the rest of you do this, but I seem to compose most of my blog posts in the early, pre-awake hours of the morning. The near fully-composed post materializes sometime in the night. It floats above my head, waits patiently for me to get into that almost-awake state, and then makes its presence known. I don’t know if it slaps me across the head or whispers tenderly in my ear, I only know that at some point, my eyes spring open, I reach out and snatch that ready-to-go idea, and fly to my laptop, where I try my best to convey what I heard.
That’s what happened this morning. I awoke knowing I wasn’t finished yet with Charlie; knowing I had at least one more Charlie story to share. And this one is my favorite.
Charlie didn’t meet Jesus until he was an adult, and in those BC years, he did a lot of hard living. He never went into details with us, but it wasn’t necessary. (If you ask me, all the “Before Christ” years are hard, on some level.) But he started talking one day about a particular friend he’d had during his really wild years. Apparently, they’d had some sort of falling out and parted as enemies. Charlie was quick to say that the final insult belonged to him. He’d done something to this friend that caused him great shame once his conscience woke up. In fact, once God got a hold of Charlie and began to lovingly peel away those calloused layers, Charlie was pretty much horrified at what he’d done to his friend. It became a source of torment to him. Both he and the friend had lived in Seattle during that time, but twenty years had passed, and though he’d tried, Charlie hadn’t been able to track the man down. “Jesus,” he’d pray, “I don’t know where my old friend is and I have no way to find him, but I need his forgiveness.”
After a while, Charlie had no other choice but to hand the hurt over to God. He felt completely helpless to fix the offense. But every so often, something would remind him and he’d have to pray again, “Please forgive me.”
Some months after this old transgression began to bother Charlie, he flew from Seattle to New York to visit some old friends. During the trip, he noticed a flyer for an outdoor Christian concert and decided to go. The music was loud and Charlie had a great time all by himself dancing up front near the band (once a Woodstock guy, always a Woodstock guy, you know?), and when it was over, he walked around the back of the stage to leave. Just as he was rounding the back corner of the stage, he happened to look up and notice one of the roadies rolling up an electrical cord.
The guy turned his face toward Charlie … and Charlie found his friend.
Despite the wound, despite twenty years of separation, Charlie and his friend/enemy embraced — long and hard. And when Charlie could speak, the first words he said were, “I hurt you … and I’m so sorry. Will you forgive me for what I did all those years ago?”
When the man smiled and shook his head, the enemy dissipated. “Charlie, I’m a Christian now. I forgave you a long time ago.”
When I think about this story, a dozen lessons come to mind. I think about what a miracle it is when Jesus tenderizes a grizzled heart. I think about what a wild adventure it is to be a Christian. And I think about the power of forgiveness. But the bottom line here is really this: God took two enemies and turned them into brothers. And then, because He loves to surprise His children, He arranged a little family reunion.
How can you not love a God like that?