My husband Ken had a best friend growing up named Charlie. In a time when kids rode bicycles all over town, explored down by the creek, and played outside until the stars came out, Ken and Charlie did it all together. They were in the same Cub Scout Troop, attended the same elementary school, built model cars together. When Ken’s dad took him fishing and on overnight camping trips in the woods, Charlie came, too. Those trips became even more meaningful after Charlie’s dad died at a young age.
The best friends lost touch after they graduated from high school and went to different colleges. But when Ken attended his high school reunion this year—his first ever—there was Charlie, also attending his first reunion. It’s amazing how much these two men still have in common, and how they’ve bonded again as if the years had never passed. Then Charlie told us a story that touched my heart.
When he was fourteen, Charlie gave his life to Christ. His youth leader told him to think of a special person who didn’t know the Lord, and make a commitment to pray for him every single day. Charlie chose Ken’s dad.
Dad was a kind, gentle man who worked as a master woodcarver for an upscale furniture company most of his life. His parents divorced when he was young, and being poor, he didn’t fit in or feel welcome among church-going people. He left school after the eighth grade and went to work to help support his mother and sister. Even after he married and had six children of his own—my husband being the youngest—Dad never did feel comfortable enough or “good” enough to attend church. He was a wonderful, loving father in every way, which is why his family, and “adopted” family members like Charlie, loved him so much. But he never said a word about faith in God.
It’s so hard to find a way to talk to our closest family members about our faith and our need for Christ. We get together every year at holidays like Christmas, and we want so badly to lead our loved ones to Jesus—and we just can’t seem to find a way or the words to do it. And so the years pass, and we always hope there will be a better time, an easier way to say what’s on our heart. And much too often, the end comes before we ever have a chance.
Charlie faithfully prayed for Dad every single day—all through his college years, all through the years that he and his wife were raising their family. He moved to a different city, and he and Ken weren’t in touch any more, but he continued to pray, wondering if his prayers had ever been answered.
Before he died at age 82, Dad went into the hospital for the last time. Charlie’s mother happened to work in the same hospital and, remembering him from their days as neighbors, went up to his room to see him. She asked how he was doing, and Dad said, “I’m at peace. I’ve given my life to Jesus, and I’m at peace.” Charlie’s prayers had been answered at last.
This Christmas season, Charlie’s story challenges me to do two things. First, to never, ever, stop praying for family members to give their lives to Christ, no matter how long it takes. I’m praying that I’ll find the right opportunity this Christmas, and the right words to say in a loving way. And second, I’m challenged to make a commitment, like Charlie did, to faithfully pray for someone who has touched my life, even if I may never know if or when those prayers are answered.
But I do know that we’ll see Dad in heaven, someday. And for that assurance, I say, “Thank you, Jesus.” And thank you Charlie.