This story is about “The Prodigal Father” and how his identity was revealed to me. The story could also have been entitled “The Angel of the Street.” I will let the reader decide which title is most appropriate.
On Monday morning October 11 of last year I drove to Durango to pick up Beth at the bus station. I had not seen Beth for a long time and hardly recognized her at first. She had been “doing the streets” for many years, the vernacular of those who have no home, and possibly even prefer the life-style of gypsies. Her body was bloated by poor diet and poor hygiene; her face betrayed the scars of abuse. The once pretty face was now only a part of a memory. A pair of tennis shoes, frayed shorts, a meager top and sweatshirt was the extent of her wardrobe and belongings. A small coin purse contained the remainder of her Social Security disability check, the extent of her earthly wealth. There was alcohol on her breath even though it was still early in the morning. When we saw one another there was an awkward moment of silence before we embraced.
When we first met Beth, Tammy was still a part of her life - her little girl of five or six. She seldom and reluctantly spoke about her husband who was in prison. In fact, it was a long time before she told me her last name. That was seventeen years ago when we still lived in California.
I had met Beth while counseling at one of the churches we attended. I always encouraged her and prayed for her. I always saw her as a person with great inner beauty, potential and integrity. I always sensed that God had a unique and important calling for Beth. I believed that her tormented mind and emotions would be healed and then the glory of God would be revealed through her and all would marvel at His beauty in her. That was seventeen years ago; and I still believe that what I saw is true and will come to pass for all to see.
Ever since I met Beth she has struggled with thoughts of suicide. In fact, it is a miracle she has not succeeded. Fear, anger, confusion, deception and every conceivable abuse of her body have added many extra years to a woman who should still be in the prime of her life. I must admit that at times my love for her grew threadbare; but by the grace of God it has stayed intact and I pray that it always will.
Beth tells everyone she meets about Jesus. She is very bold that way. She cries over those facing eternity without their Lord and Savior and easily parts with her last penny to help someone who is needy - even if their need is a pack of cigarettes. The sandblasted sign on our display wall she liked the best reads: “Once, long ago, my Lord took a weathered piece of wood and on that piece of wood He wrote a love song in blood.” I tell you these things that you might also love Beth and cradle her in your prayers without condoning her vices.
It was not easy to have Beth as a guest in our home for two weeks. The spirits molesting her continuously prodded her towards suicide. The intent of suicide was a part of many of her conversations with us. Daily she wanted to return to California to commit the act there. Almost every night she would slam cabinet doors for hours in a futile attempt to drive away the demons that she could both hear, see and that continuously taunted her. No one in the house was able to get much sleep. Nothing we tried made the slightest impression on the tormenting spirits that were bent on destroying Beth. This went on for ten days before peace was restored to our home.
The spirits that were bent on destroying Beth were also bent on destroying us. Although I am not able to hear or see them as Beth does, fear, anger, confusion and exhaustion have convulsed my being on numerous occasions and have tried to drive me to the brink of extinction or insanity. However, whenever I am at the point of losing my balance, I run to my prayer meadow near our house for answers and relief. There I have previously engaged the powers of darkness in spiritual combat. I had come to that point once again while Beth was here and fled to that private place during the middle of the night.
A small slice of the moon illuminated accustomed pathways. As soon as I stepped into the arena of total aloneness, I cried out to God for help. Help came quickly. First I was reminded of and shown the beauty and preciousness of Beth’s soul; and that the battle was not between Beth and us, but against spiritual powers of darkness that were bent of destroying her body and soul. Then I was given a short refresher course in spiritual warfare: (1) The battle is the Lord’s! (2) The victory is the Lord’s! (3) The glory is the Lord’s! (4) Thank Me (the Lord) for the victory before you see it accomplished!
I hurled these statements of truth at the powers of darkness; and as I did, the doom and gloom of failure, fear, anger, confusion and exhaustion dissipated into nothingness. I returned home and went to sleep with a confidence and peace that passes all human understanding.
Beth slept soundly that night for the first time in ten days. There was no more banging of cabinet doors. The next morning she asked me if she could stay a little longer. For the rest of her stay Beth focused on the words, “Thank you Jesus for the victory.” Whenever the enemy now attacks my own mind concerning Beth, I get back on track so to speak by thanking Jesus for her healing. It’s the very best remedy I have found so far. But the story is not over and the best part is yet to come.
I took Beth back to the bus station in Durango on October 26. Before she boarded the bus, we visited with one another for a few minutes. Her final words and my final words startled me. She said, “Peter, I see Satan standing over there tormenting me with thoughts of suicide, telling me that I was stupid for expecting to be healed, that the whole trip was a waste.” I felt I needed to counter those words and replied, “Beth, when you see Satan and he attacks your mind with death and destruction, tell him that Jesus and me are praying for you.”
No sooner had I spoken those words, the Holy Spirit gently corrected me. “No, Peter,” He said, “Not Jesus and me, but Jesus in me.” And as I pondered those words in my heart, I received an unexpected healing. Many things came into focus. New clarity came into my thoughts; and new life came into my emotions. It was as if I had been seeing life through a camera, but was never able to focus the lens correctly. I never saw a clear, sharp picture. I always saw a split image through the lens. There was Jesus and there was me. Sometimes we were very close, at other times far apart; but we were never one. Then suddenly the words of the apostle Paul from the book of Colossians became my personal revelation, “Christ in me, the hope of glory,” - not “Christ and me, but “Christ in me.” Indeed, I have received a great gift; for now we are “one.” I see only one image through the lens of my camera. The Gospels are now more alive than ever before. Its pages are like a personal experience, a personal adventure.
But there is more, much more . . . As I drove back to Pagosa Springs, about an hour’s drive, the words, “Jesus in me,” kept washing through my soul. It seemed as if I was being given a new heart, a Father’s heart. And indeed, that is what happened. Let me tell you how I know.
A week later our son Dan called. We had not heard from Dan for a long time. We did not know where he was or what he was doing. We only had the premonition that he was lost in the jungle of a big city. When he left home ten years earlier at age nineteen, he vowed he would never come back. This broke his Mother’s heart but did not hurt my feelings. I had none. My heart had become cold and non-caring towards Dan. But the moment I heard his voice I loved him, a strange and wonderful and new emotion. “Jesus in me” loved Dan. I was no longer a “Prodigal Father.” There now was room in my heart for Dan, lots of room!! I saw Dan as I saw Beth, precious and beautiful in the sight of God. I had been healed at the bus station. I could love again. The father could welcome home his lost son, a son who had only the clothes on his back to his name.
I said, “Dan, God has changed my heart. I love you. You are welcome to come home. You don’t have to cow down to me; I love you.” Two days later I picked Dan up at the bus station. I did not recognize him at first. Our embrace was not awkward. Anger, bitterness, disappointment, betrayal - all those deadly thoughts and emotions stayed at the bus station. The healing between father and son is one of the greatest miracles. Thank you, Jesus. I acknowledge You Lord, Savior and Miracle Worker before all men.
Beth called while I was writing this story. I believe with all my heart that the Glory of God will be revealed through her and that many “street people” will find their way back to their “Father’s House” because of Jesus in Beth, the Hope of Glory. I love you Beth; I love you Dan. I dedicate this story to you and all those who are as yet afar off. The world is sweeping you and others like you into dumpsters as if you were worthless souls. May your pain, your agony, your confusion write a story through my pen that will touch hearts and set the captives free.
And now we have come to the end of the story of “The Prodigal Father.” More epistles might follow. You may write and ask for them.
Serving Jesus as Stretcher Bearer, Peter D. Laue
Especially for Fathers Audio Downloads