Today I want to tell you a story.
But this is not a pretty story. In fact, this story’s horrors may keep you up at night. So if you only like the nice ones, go ahead and move on because…
There’s nothing nice about murder.
This story begins many, many years ago when a baby girl was born to her proud father and adoring mother. Like every little girl, Megan loved to twirl and dance and laugh out loud. She played baby dolls and drew pictures of the sun and the stars and green trees beside pretty houses.
She poured love and embraced life.
But as so often happens for fairly-like little ones, Megan struggled through the painful metamorphosis from girlhood to womanhood. Something snagged along the way. Pain invaded her safe cocoon. Misunderstanding and confusion and rejection and helplessness conspired to wreck her once-safe world.
So Megan ran away.
Away from the madness. Away from hurt. Away from a world gone bad.
But as she fled the darkness, her feet stumbled into that blackest of pits, catching her there, gripping her tight—drugs.
This little girl who once swirled to the applause of her parents, descended into the dark relief of nothingness.
Years passed. Years that should have been filled with boys and bouquets and snapshots of a life lived at the edge of joy. In their place were pictures of a hallow-eyed waif with too-limp hair and too-dull eyes. Pictures that never made it to the scrapbooks.
Her parents tried to help.
Oh how they tried! Rehab and rescues and searching and letting go.
But the lost girl stayed lost to all that love. Lost on purpose.
And then one day the unthinkable twisted the nightmare into terror.
Megan was murdered.
Her proud father had to hear. And so did her mama. How their baby, their beautiful, angel-haired, twirling little girl died alone.
And somehow it seemed to all who knew, that Satan won that day.
All those prayers. Didn’t God hear?
But this story didn’t end at Megan’s murder.
Maybe her story just started… maybe there’s a whole lot more to Megan’s life than her gruesome death… and maybe, just maybe, Megan is watching beneath the arms of God as this next saga of her story unfolds.
Megan’s adoring daddy, you see, is not a man to let things lie. He’s a man of action, of can-do-must-do-will-do drive. And he’s a judge. The black robed, stern visaged, gavel-pounding guy behind the oak stand. His name is Tom.
Now I know what most of you are thinking. Daddy gets bad guy and bad guy goes to hell! Right? The good guys cheer and all the mamas all the world over sleep a little easier tonight.
But that’s not this story.
The bad guy did get caught. It took a long time and a lot of men and a lot of mamas with a lot of fire to get this guy. But they did it. They got him. And they locked him behind steel so he could never hurt a lost little Megan ever again.
And he didn’t even say he was sorry. Not once. A really bad guy.
And Megan’s daddy— Tom— the judge— still grieved deep.
But somewhere in his mourning something happened.
Something strange and otherworldly and unexplainable. Something about faith and the Father. Something foreign to all the rest of us watching.
Tom forgave the man.
Reaching deep into that part of the soul no one sees, Tom’s yearning for peace turned him to the One who called himself the Prince of Peace. And so he opened the book about that strange one and searched inside the words to find what no one else could give. What he found there shook his heart.
Words about mercy to the undeserving, and grace for brutality and forgiving the unforgivable.
Words like “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
And Tom, the one on the outside of those prison walls, felt his soul set free.
In fact, with the freeing of his heart, came something more. Something hard to believe but true none-the-less.
Tom, the-little-girl’s-adoring-daddy, that Tom, went behind the bars to tell the man, that very bad man who had murdered his daughter, about the One whose words set him free. And that bad man who had never even wept a tear, that one who had not so much as said I’m sorry, broke apart.
While guards held guns and no one watched, Tom talked. Words about One who died on purpose for men like him. Bad men. And good ones too. And how the God-man knew what He was doing when He hung from that sin-scarred beam. And how He had the bad man’s face and Megan’s face and Tom’s face all tucked into His heart as He writhed in pain.
And Tom kept talking.
Words about why and words about how. Words about life to the man who brought death to his daughter.
And when the man asked why, Tom just cried. A lot. And...
The one who wielded the knife and shed the blood and heard the screams— shattered in the face of forgiveness.
And I think Megan knows.
And twirls a bit before her other Father with a glee and gladness and joy not known since her little girl days.
And so do I.
And so should you.
Because that’s not just an ugly story about a world gone bad. And that’s not a story where the evil one wins.
That’s a story about One who sets the prisoners free.
All of us.
From my heart,