Maybe in some ways I’m just a starry-eyed idealist, but I believe with all my heart that people can change, that anybody can change. And why can’t they? I believe in a God who saw fit to include in His Bible these words: “If anyone be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things pass away, all things become new” (2 Cor. 5:17). People can change. God is in the transformation business. The man who wrote that Bible verse was once Church Enemy #1 yet became the church’s greatest missionary. Being a pastor in a local church, I get a ringside seat to watch God change people. I’ve watched the fearful find courage, the greedy turn generous, lost people found, haters learn to love, and sinners become saints. Watching people change for the better is one of the great joys of my life. And it reinforces my faith that God can change anybody.
I was reminded of that just today. I called to check on one of our church family who is stricken with Alzheimer’s. Her memory is pretty much all gone now. Life consists of spending a few hours each week at The Caring Place and staying home the rest of the time. When I called to check on her, her son answered the phone. Her son—a man who spent much of his life in trouble or in jail or both, a man who was so messed up and checked out that his parents had to raise his son. I had a lot of agonizing conversations about him with his mom and dad who never gave up on him or never stopped loving him. Sadly, his dad died some years ago, still praying and hoping for his son to change.
Anyway, this son and I had a nice chat on the phone about his mother. She lives with him now. He takes care of her. He keeps a steady job. He’s changed. He’s a different man in the same body. Just before we hung up, he said something that struck me deeply. And he said it with the tone of lingering regret: “I only wish dad could see how I turned out.”
“I suspect he knows,” I said. “Somehow, I suspect he knows.”
Now the Bible is not clear on whether people in heaven can see us down here on earth, and it's also unclear about what they might know of what’s happening in our lives down here. But this we know for sure: God sees, God knows. And after all the prayers this man’s father offered up for him over the years, I suspect when his son changed, God let his dad know about it. Approaching him with the wry grin of a man who was about to give someone a gift, God must have taken as much joy in telling him as the man did in hearing it: “Clay, you know your son you prayed for for years? He turned out okay.”
Praise God who can change us all!