The Trade, Chapter 14

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Ruth’s father turned away from the guard and looked out the window, contemplating how unusual it must seem that he was hoping and praying his daughter would go to jail. He strongly wished he could continue to take her place, but in light of the events of the last 12 hours, that would require that no one ever heard her story. That her injuries were too severe. That God’s will was to reunite him with his daughter for those few moments only.

Just then a doctor in scrubs came into the waiting room. “Mr. Smith?” Unsure of whether he needed to speak with the man in the orange jumpsuit or the one in the prison guard uniform, he addressed them both. “Which one of you is Ruth’s father?”

The man in question froze for a second in fear of what he was about to be told. Then moving to stand, he said anxiously, “I am. How is she?” The doctor motioned for him to stay in his seat and took the chair next to him.

“Her injuries weren’t as bad as we feared. She’s stable and in recovery now. We think she’s going to be fine.” The weary and worried father heaved a great sigh, put his head in his hands, and unashamedly wept grateful tears of relief. The other two men were a little taken aback by this overt display of emotion, but being fathers themselves quickly felt their own hearts stirred, and the guard even found himself wiping away a tear.

“A nurse will come and take you to recovery in just a little bit, Mr. Smith,” the surgeon said as he rose from his chair.

“Thank you, doctor,” he replied with a grateful smile. “Thank you for all you did for her.” The doctor returned his smile, nodded, and left. Falling back into his chair and overwhelmed with gratitude, the soon-to-be-released inmate looked at the guard sitting across from him. “And thank you for letting me stay with her.”

“Sure,” he responded with a tentative smile. “And thank God, huh?”

“Oh, yes!” And with that Ruth’s father began a prayer of praise and thanksgiving, not silently now but with a voice empowered by a Spirit-filled faith, speaking with such familiarity and love that the guard was tempted to look around to see if there was someone else in the room. When he finished, the guard told him he wanted to know God like that, and that he knew now he needed to know God. With great joy and humility, the prison inmate led the prison guard in a prayer of repentance and faith, and when they both said “Amen” they stood and hugged each other as new brothers.

And then looking out the window at the gently falling Christmas snow, the older brother recalled the story again. “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” Turning to the guard he said, “Christmas is about new life. That’s why we rejoice. And, boy, have I experienced multiple new lives just today!”

With that, having spied the familiar and smiling face of the ER nurse coming towards them from the direction of the recovery room, he put his arm around the guard and said, “I am overjoyed at being able to reconcile my wayward child to myself. How much more must God rejoice when we are reconciled to him!” And then patting the guard’s back he turned and nearly ran to meet the nurse, leaving the guard standing there smiling yet still a little bit stunned. Sitting back down to wait, knowing the inmate would return, he began to ponder the unique events of that Christmas morning…the one he had just experienced and the one over 2,000 years ago.

In the peaceful quiet of the early dawn, alone with his thoughts, he was able to recognize a peace in his heart and a feeling of hope that he hadn’t felt in years. Grateful for this new life as a reborn child of God, he thought perhaps there is another father and child reunion, another reconciliation, that God will bless him with. Pulling out his phone, he looked for a number he hadn’t called in over a year. I won’t wake him up, he thought to himself, but this young man will be getting a call from his dad. A call to return…to forgive and be forgiven.

And as he slipped the phone back into his pocket, he heard a familiar tune now softly filling this small but comfortable hospital waiting room, where many before him had also found their thoughts consumed with matters of life…and death. A Christmas carol that had never meant much to him in the past but one that he now knew defined his future. With a full heart and a sure hope, he closed his eyes and listened with new ears to every single word.

Joy to the World, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the World, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

The End