An Unexpected Letter

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I originally wrote this for a weekly devo on whillschurch.org.

We got a letter this week….from the guy who robbed us. The gentleman was arraigned last Friday. I was unable to attend due to a wedding, but Dawn went as our representative. He offered a verbal apology in court that day. We received the letter earlier this week. Allow me to share some of the contents here.

“Dear Mrs. Dawn Neher,
I wanted to write this letter, to offer again, my apology to both you and the congregation of your church. For I was only able to offer a brief apology while in the courtroom, I wanted to at least offer a further explanation [as to] how God is using this situation to change my life.

My past is sketchy to say the least, for I have been in and out of jails and prisons from a young age. Drugs have always been my escape from everyday situations and that’s how I’ve delt (sic) with problems I didn’t know how to face…

Regardless of my past, I do not use that as an excuse for my actions and behavior. I except (sic) full responsibility for the things that I’ve done…”

The gentleman continues on for 4 more pages. He gives a timeline of the events, how he was caught and confession. He has prayed and repented, believes he has a relationship with Jesus but also stated that his faith up this point has been “jail-house religion.” He has started both AA and NA in the prison as well as attending Bible studies. He shares some of his favorite scriptures then closes the letter with this…

“I wanted to offer you and your church my deepest apologies. I am truely (sic) sorry for what I did and I do know that that might not be enough… I pray that this letter will in some form or another express to your church the circumstances and my apologies, and that you might be able to one day except (sic) that. I’ll continue to pray for your church that God will do great things for you and through you. God bless.”

It’s a good letter. And while there is always a chance that it is just the result of “jail-time religion,” I see no harm in accepting it at face value either. God’s in the miracle business and the hardest miracle to pull off is the changing of a human heart.

Here is the letter I’m sending back to him…

My dear [name removed],

I apologize for not being at your trial. I was officiating a wedding but am glad you got to see Dawn. I imagine the letter was not an easy one to write.

It’s good to hear how God is using these circumstances in your life. The truth of the matter is that you have been prayed for by our church since that Monday morning we walked in and saw our stuff gone. After the initial shock…and anger…subsided, we’ve been praying for you. That God would capture your heart, that somehow through this ordeal you were brought to faith in Him. It sounds as if this may be exactly what is happening with you.

You wrote in your letter that in the past you’ve had “jail-house religion” and you were a “stony ground Christian.” My prayer for you is that this renewal is the beginning of a deep, abiding relationship with Jesus. That you would know how wide, how deep, how high and how long His love is for us.

To that end I’ve included a devotional book that has been very meaningful to me – My Utmost For His Highest by Oswald Chambers. While the daily devotionals are short in length, I believe you will find them to be deep beyond measure.

You asked for forgiveness. Know it has been given. I appreciate your prayers for our congregation. Know we are also praying for you.

let your voice be heard...