Dear Reading Friends, have you ever told God, “I’m not ready”? Below is a true story, shared with me by a man I’ve ministered to. (Names have been changed.) You can see how a simple event in this man’s life changed the way he now sees God, and how God touched his life to respond to the gospel. I hope it means something to you.—David Telbat
Dad, I’m not Ready
by D.I. Telbat
Carlos Valencia had been in prison for eighteen years, and not once had he responded to the gospel of Jesus Christ. He’d heard it preached on the prison yard, and he’d seen it shouted from the dayroom television by famous preachers. But every time Carlos felt God tugging at his heart, drawing him to respond, Carlos pulled back.
“I’m not ready,” he’d told God over and over again. He’d told God he wasn’t ready for so many years, that pushing God away was getting easier every time he felt that yearning to approach Him. “No, God. I’m not ready yet.”
One day, Carlos signed up to use the telephone. Years had passed since he’d called anyone in his family. It seemed it was just easier for everyone if he reached out to no one, and no one reached in to him. The pain of the past was too uncomfortable. He didn’t want to intrude on anyone’s life, and he understood that no one wanted to include him in their life, either.
But Sophia was different. Sophia was his sister, and when Carlos had gone to prison, Sophia had taken in Tanya, his daughter. Tanya had been just an infant when Carlos had wrecked the car, killing his wife, Tanya’s mother. Tanya had grown up knowing only Sophia as her mother.
Sophia had written Carlos on birthdays and occasionally sent him pictures of Tanya growing up, attending a school function, or doing her homework at the dining room table. But today, Carlos was putting it all on the line to make a call.
Tanya was over eighteen now, and eighteen years was a long time to not talk to or see his daughter. Carlos couldn’t go another year without letting Tanya know he still loved her, and how sorry he was about the past, about his substance abuse, and his selfishness. Maybe Tanya was old enough to understand, and maybe she was mature enough even to forgive him.
The line of men to use the telephone moved forward, and Carlos hurried up to the phone for his turn. He dialed slowly, reading the number from a piece of paper. The anticipation made his hands tremble. Today would be the day he would speak to his daughter!
Sophia answered warmly, and they visited a few minutes about the last time they’d actually communicated verbally. But after a lull in the conversation, Carlos asked if he could speak to Tanya. The phone was muffled as he heard Sophia speaking to someone else nearby. Tanya was there!
“Carlos, maybe not right now,” Sophia said softly to him. “She gets your letters, though, so keep writing. She’s just not ready. You understand.”
Her words seemed to cause all the blood to drain from his cheeks. Not ready? Tanya wasn’t ready to talk to her own daddy? Not ready . . . Not ready . . . The words went round and round in his head. They were his own words, the same words that he’d said to God countless times. Now, his own daughter was saying them to him!
He couldn’t help but wonder if God felt the same pain he felt, not hearing from His child.
Politely, Carlos said goodbye, and as quickly as possible, he found his way back to his cell, where he collapsed on his bunk and faced the wall. The tears seemed to sting more that day. The pain was immense, but for the first time, he realized a door had opened to his own Father—God.
“I’m ready now, Father,” he whispered through his weeping, and he let go of all his pain, the past, and his shame. Forgiveness engulfed him for the first time, and he knew somehow he was still loved by God, his Father, who had been waiting for a long time to talk to him.
Carlos lifted his head that day and sat up with new optimism. His own daughter had helped him see that his stubbornness had kept him from speaking to his Father. Now, he knew he could talk to his Father about his daughter talking to her daddy. And maybe, as Carlos had warmed to God, Tanya would warm to her own father.
He was now ready.
You can read many more of D.I. Telbat’s inspiring short stories here.
NOTE: Our thoughts and prayers are with those affected by the current hurricane.
COMING UP: Join us next time for David’s Author Reflection, “Hope that Cannot Fade.” (It also has a small glimpse into a theme found in Dawn of Oppression, upcoming Book Two of the Last Dawn Trilogy.)