Sunday mornings at our house are usually full of joy as we prepare to attend church. But there’s one difficult Sunday that I will never forget. I found myself awake, hours before my normal time, and unable to go back to sleep. My spirit was restless; I felt anguish within. I couldn’t identify any reason I should be filled with such anxiety and concern, yet there I was. Later, I found out why.
The phone rang, and a dear friend said, “John died a few hours ago.”
My tearful response, “Oh no! I waited too long,” was full of sorrow and regret. I knew my friend had been battling cancer for years, but I had not known the end was so near. I’d wanted to show my appreciation for leading Monday morning prayer at our retirement village. I’d also wanted to share with him that I had discovered this magazine, Victorious Living. John would have felt so blessed to know about this magazine’s involvement with prison ministry. But now it was too late.
Victorious Living came into my life because Roy, an inmate I correspond with, had sent one to me. His story had been published, and he wanted to share it with me. Even at first glance, I was blown away. What a fantastic publication filled with so many gospel messages of love and growth in the faith! I just knew that John, a chaplain for many years at a Tennessee prison, would be blessed to learn about this ministry.
I was especially excited to share the most recent issue (Issue 2 2016) with him, since it included a story I had submitted. I wanted to tell him how God, through this magazine, had enabled me to reach thousands of inmates through my writing. I’ve corresponded with inmates for years, but as I’m advancing in age, I’ve been struggling to keep up. I’d been fervently praying for God to help me continue to minister to inmates’ hearts. I may be aging, but I want my life to impact God’s people until the day I go home to be with my Father in heaven. Now God had answered my prayers…but I was sad that I would not be able to share this good news with John.
Later, John’s daughter shared with me some valuable material she’d found on her dad’s computer. He had titled the opening pages, “My Spiritual Journey.” The first sentence reveals the basis for his life:
I’ll say at the outset that I love Jesus, and I know Jesus loves me. I have a personal, passionate relationship with Him. Karl Barth, the great Swiss Reformed theologian, was once asked to put his theology into one sentence. He said, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” Well, the Bible does tell me so, but Jesus tells me so even more.
John had a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and had seen the glorious working of his heavenly Father in his life. As a prison chaplain, John had shared God’s love with many inmates. He was dedicated to the service of others, a father figure to many. Inmates admired his gift of listening.
Oh, how I will miss John, as will many others. I regret that I waited to show my appreciation, but I rejoice knowing that he is in heaven. I celebrate the legacy he left behind.
As for me, I’ve learned from my mistake. It may be too late to tell John, but it’s not too late to share words of appreciation with his loving family. Nor is it too late to tell others about him and the legacy he left behind. Through this writing, I seek to honor his memory and encourage others to live similar lives of service and love. I also commit to share this magazine—one that John would have treasured—with others and to further its mission to invade hearts with God’s love. I look for such opportunities everywhere I go.
I ask you, what are you waiting for? Is there something on your heart that you need to share with someone? Is there forgiveness you need to ask of someone…or forgiveness you need to extend? Are you grateful and thankful? Then tell someone! Don’t wait to show your appreciation like I did. You may not have another chance.
by Lucy N. Adams
Photo by Ben White