He quietly sobbed as he remembered nodding yes to her last request. She died. Yes, the cancer that pained her every move and stole her breath won but he would not let it destroy his memory of her. That was a year ago, almost to the day—December 24.
Social workers placed him in a small Catholic orphanage just outside of town. His father was in prison and had been for years. He was an angry man—one whose bouts with alcohol left anyone around him fearful of his violent rage. He had never provided for his fragile family and that was one of many reasons why Johnny and his mother suffered. He had no sisters or brothers and no family to claim and raise him.
Johnny tried his best to be a light. But his small size invited bullying by hardened kids who believed in the survival of the fittest. Despite caring nuns, warm food, and a bed, Johnny did not feel safe. So, on Christmas day, while the kids eagerly opened their gifts, Johnny grabbed his only possession, his candle, slipped out of the building and ran and ran and ran.
In his forest refuge the young boy pondered his fate. He knew he would probably freeze to death when the sun went down but somehow, he was unconcerned. Maybe he would join his mom. Maybe it didn’t matter. He just knew that life was too hard and he was very tired.
Miles away at the orphanage, a man knocked twice on the door. Sister Providence opened it and looking over the stranger, asked what he wanted. “I’d like to see Johnny,” he quietly replied. She then asked him who he was and looking down at his old, weathered shoes he answered, “I’m his father.” He pulled out his wallet and showed her his driver’s license. “Please come in!” Sister Providence invited.
Chaos is seldom the friend of peace. Sister Providence could not find Johnny and none of the nuns remembered him opening his gift. The boy was nowhere to be found and panic quickly set in—none of the kids knew where Johnny was. While they yelled his name and searched the grounds, the visitor left, walked outside to his car, climbed in and slumped his discouraged frame over the steering wheel. “O God! Please help me.” Five words were all he could muster. Slowly, regaining composure, he spoke again. “Lord, you know where Johnny is. Please protect him. And please Lord, if You truly care, help me find him. Don’t let my terrible parenting be the cause of his ruin . . .”
A rap on the car window startled him. Standing tall stood a young man in tattered jeans and a bright blue windbreaker jacket. He rolled down the window and before he could even ask what the young man wanted, the fellow said, “If you’ll open the passenger door I’ll show you where Johnny is.”
“Get it, please get in.” The young man circled the car, sat down next to him and pointed down the road. “This way-drive down this road.” Questions swirled through his mind, questions he yearned to ask this confident youth. How did he know Johnny and where he would be? What was Johnny like? How long had Johnny been in the orphanage? But no words escaped his mouth. He did ask the young man his name but received no response, only pointing, clear pointing down one road and then another for several miles.
Finally, his guide calmly said, “Stop here. Over there; Johnny is sitting over there in that grove of blue spruce.” Needing no further encouragement, he turned off the engine and ran across the dirt road toward the trees. Before plunging into the woods, he looked back at the young man to be sure he was headed the right way and to see if he was following. But there was no one there. He looked up and down the road in vain. Confused, but aware of his quest, he walked into the woods until he spotted Johnny’s small frame leaning against a tree looking outward into the sun-quenched meadow.
He strode up to the young boy and placed his hand gently on Johnny’s shoulder. The lad looked up into his face and fearfully asked, “Who are you and how did you find me?”
“I’m your father, Johnny. I’m your dad.” Then he fell to his knees and holding his trembling son in his arms, let loose the stream of tears that had waited so long to be set free. They held each other tightly and slowly as time passed the hurt of a thousand pains slipped into the waiting soil while peace slowly warmed their frames.
“Johnny, what’s this in your hand?”
“My candle. Mom gave it to me before she died and told me to be always be a light.”
“Son, I met the true light in prison. His name is Jesus. We celebrate His birth on this very day. Jesus changed my life. He gave me hope and He helped me put away the bottle that made you and your mom so afraid of me. I’ve changed. I’m no longer angry and I’m learning how to truly love people. I’m so sorry for hurting you. Now I want to love you and raise you as my son the right way. I know Jesus will help us. If you’ll trust me, I promise to be a great father for the rest of my life. And if you’ll trust Jesus, He will help you be the best light you can be—just like your mother wanted. Merry Christmas son.”
“Merry Christmas, dad.”
Isaiah 9:2—The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; a light has dawned on those living in the land of darkness.
We live in such a dark world that we must not waste the tiniest piece of candle.—Charles Spurgeon in The Power of Prayer in a Believer’s Life
©2019 Daniel York ARR. Reveration is the weekly devotional ministry of First Cause. If you would like to receive these devotionals go to www.firstcause.org and click on the “Click here to receive weekly devotionals” box. Unlimited permission to copy this devotional without altering text or profiteering is allowed subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.
Ecclesiastes 12:10-The Teacher sought to find delightful sayings and to accurately write words of truth. (Holman CSB)