We are pleased to announce Real Mercy (volume 3) has a scheduled release date of August 2015. Wesleyan Publishing House has contracted Thad for 2 more books. In these current blogs, we’d like to share sneak peaks from volume 4. We hope you enjoy it.
Please note: Part One will be a devotion from scripture. Part Two will be a journal entry based on that scripture.
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Then the Lord said to Jacob, “Return to the land of your fathers
and to your relatives, and I will be with you.”
“I’m not leaving until I tell you the good part,” I insisted.
I hated seeing him like this. My friend’s body was tired, ravaged by disease and old age, his face pale and drawn, his soul not at peace. I could physically see his torment and, as a young pastor, I felt inadequate, not knowing how to comfort him.
“Don’t sugarcoat it,” he instructed, his voice still strong.
“At boarding school, they gave me a single room,” I started. “My advisor pushed me to stay busy – classes, sports, social events, that kind of thing. But night always came. I had to go to my room, close the door, and face being alone. Sometimes I’d put headphones on, play music from my childhood, and pretend none of it happened.”
“Never works,” he grunted.
“No,” I agreed. “Some nights got really bad. I’d lie in bed and all I could think about was the funeral, the hospital room, my family, scenes from the past – all of it – and I’d start to panic. This wail would come out of me, loud, too loud. I was afraid somebody might hear. So I’d leave. I’d prop open the back door of the dorm and head out into the night for as long as it took for the wailing to stop. Till I was too tired to cry anymore. Eventually, I’d find my way back and fall into bed.
“That lasted until one night I got caught. A dorm advisor saw me leave and decided to follow me. He and his wife had an apartment in the dorm.”
“Got in trouble, huh?”
“I thought so, but no,” I replied. “When he came up alongside me that night, I was so embarrassed he’d heard me crying. I tried to explain but all he did was put his arms around me and tell me never to go out alone again. ‘You knock on my door,’ he said, ‘and we’ll walk the streets together. That’s how we deal with matters of the heart. You got that?’ And from that point on, he watched out for me.
“It made a big difference,” I told my old friend. “This man never led me to Jesus. But he knew the monster’s first principle of tactical assault.”
“Get us alone,” he said quickly.
“He was a gift to me. He lived a simple message: ‘I’m here. You’re not going through this without me.’” I let the words hang in the air. My friend had the same gift and he knew it. Too many of us refused to leave him alone – especially now, in these last days. But all I got back was a slight nod of his head and a deep sigh.
“Go on,” he muttered.
“After that, I did what I thought my dad would do. I got my act together, graduated high school, went to college, and put my sights on graduate work. I raced through those years, stuffing grief down, pushing fear away.
“But one night, in my last year at college, a pastor and his wife invited me for dinner. They were old friends of our family. He’d actually been at my mom’s bedside a day or two before she died.”
“I know where this is going,” he mused.
“Pastor saw right through me. He didn’t buy my act for one minute. Half way through dinner, he looked at me and said, ‘I know those eyes. I had those eyes once, a long time ago. So full of sadness, so full of fear. It’s not easy, is it, holding it all in?’ Just those simple words and it was like his scalpel had scraped the scab off my heart and that wail, that old miserable wail, started again.
“I had to excuse myself from the table. I had no control of it. I went outside, like I always did, and there he was right beside me, refusing to let me go it alone.”
“But this time it was different, wasn’t it?” the old man sparred.
“Yeah, this time was different. The pastor had lost his wife and baby daughter in a car accident when he was in his twenties. He knew grief. He knew the monster. He knew Jesus. And he knew how to help me know Jesus too.”
My old friend turned his head away.
I knew enough in those days not to fill the silence between us with words. I sat back and waited. I saw a frown form on his brow. “I do know this,” he said. “The Lord sends us people at just the right time. He knows us. He knows how to lead us. It’s what He does. It’s your story, but it’s also mine.”
He got that professorial look on his face that I loved.
“And it’s always the same message, isn’t it?” he reflected. “‘I will never leave you. You never have to go through what you’re going through alone. I will be there, I will see you through.’”
I sat their quietly watching him. He did know. He did believe. Surely this would bring him comfort. But it didn’t. I could see it – the torment still there. The fear still in control, still in the lead.
And me, with nothing more to say.
† † †
“Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the dawn,
If I dwell in the uttermost part of the sea,
Even there Your hand will lead me, And Your right hand will lay hold of me.”