Mike F. was one of the neighbors I wanted to reach for Christ. He had abused
women. He had been a street tough, a drug-user, a drunk. He was big, six-four,
two-hundred-fifty pounds, the kind of guy you want on your side in a fight. The
kind of guy youre careful never to anger.
His stepdaughter had been visiting our Sunday school elementary class, so I
decided to visit the parents. I learned Mike and Debbie were both on a third
marriage, struggling to make this one work. Mike operated earth-moving
equipment in construction and threw down the beers like swigs of water on a hot
day. He was friendly, though, and I liked him.
Debbie had accepted the Lord years before, but had drifted away from Him and
seemed eager to make a new connection. She became involved in the church and,
though she came sporadically, she had a sweet spirit.
Mike and I talked about Jesus for more than a year. Mike would listen,
argue, admit it when I made a good point, laugh when he felt hed cornered me. I
came to the point where I felt it was do or die. But he just laughed and said,
I dont know about this stuff. I have to think about it some more.
I got frustrated, but I decided not to give up. Mikes conversion, if there
was to be one, was not on my schedule, but Gods. We sparred and continued
talking, always me trying to edge him a little closer to Christ.
At one point, in a fight with Debbie, Mike smashed a glass on the table and
cut his hand badly. He couldnt work and went on unemployment and disability.
Money was tight for his family. Several times, I helped them financially,
thinking a little sacrifice might get Mikes attention.
He thanked me for the help, but he still resisted commitment to Christ, even
though he came to church occasionally with Debbie.
I remember one day asking Mike what he did before he met Debbie. He said,
Made license plates.
Really! I answered. That sounds like fun.
Debbie laughed. Mark, dont you get it? Mike was in prison. They make license
plates in prison.
I felt embarrassed, but Mike said, Dont worry about it. I can still come to
your church, right?
I said, Of course. Maybe you can start a class for ex-prisoners. Do some of
those personalized license plates.
Mike always liked my sense of humor, but he still hadnt become a
I wasnt thinking about him when one day he visited me at church. I did it,
he said. I accepted Jesus.
I was astonished. What happened?
It got through, Mike said. You got through. Something got through, anyway.
He laughed, the big booming laugh I always enjoyed. It was all those talks, he
said. I pretended not to be interested sometimes, but my ears were always open.
Youre the only person who has ever given me any hope. Youre the first Christian
I ever met who didnt hold prison against me.
I was amazed, and we embraced. As Mike spilled out more of the story, I was
struck dumb with joy at what God can do with even the hardest of hearts.
One day he had been playing with his two-year-old son, Jason. As he watched
the boy, he was suddenly filled with that warm fatherly affection and pride
that all fathers have toward their sons, and he suddenly whisked Jason up,
kissed him and told him over and over how much he loved him.
Thats when it happened. Mike said to me, It was like God spoke right there
in my heart. I could almost hear it. God said, You know how you feel about
Jason, Mike? Thats how I feel about you.
Mike stared at me, his cheek trembling as the story welled out of him. I
broke up right there, he said, his voice tender. I thought of all those years I
spent being a hell-raiser. Hurting people. Prison. How I hated everyone. God,
too. But thats how He feels about me, like how I feel about my son. Its
Mike laughed, and his wide, scarred face broke into a broad smile. No one
ever loved me like that, he said. And now it will never end.
We became close friends, and he told me more about his dismal past, wishing
he hadnt hurt God with so much sin. I told him all was forgiven now. God loved
him as he was.
He still had a hard time believing that.
It was a powerful lesson to me. Ive often found myself telling Mikes story
to others when they wonder how God can love them so unconditionally as He
Sometimes, when Im down and I feel rejected and lonely, I hear those words,
too, in my soul. You know how you feel about your family, your wife, your
parents, Mark? Thats how I feel about you.
Its a wondrous feeling. And a treasure.
Mark Littleton, of Gladstone,
Missouri, is a writer, speaker and author of 63 books.
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