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Make that Call
Philip Yancey and the possibility of reconciliation.
A couple of weeks ago I finished reading Philip Yancey’s memoir, Where the Light Fell. Yancey has always been a favorite writer. He’s an extraordinary wordsmith, applying his inquisitive mind and careful pen to explore some of the deepest and most difficult questions of the Christian faith. His books such as Fearfully and Wonderfully Made, Where is God When it Hurts? Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference?, and Soul Survivor have been particularly meaningful.
This work is a memoir, where he applies his skillful craft to his own life, bringing his many readers even deeper into the pain of his childhood, the ongoing care and struggle with his brother, and the slow work toward reconciliation with their mother. I’ve been reading Yancey for thirty years, but I didn’t know that all along he was trying desperately to make peace in his family and was his brother’s keeper.
I listened to the book, the first time I heard Yancey read his work rather than see his words and phrases leap off the page. It was touching and personal and full of grace. He’s a man who sees more years behind him than ahead of him and is working, intentionally, to make peace and make amends wherever he can. It’s refreshing in that when many write a memoir to settle scores, he’s writing one to talk in fresh ways about grace.
As I listened, I began to think about the possibility of forgiveness and reconciliation. Though I’m several decades younger, Yancey’s story made me think of my role as a father. I want to make sure I’m not creating deep wounds by my inability to demonstrate and vocalize my love for my kids. And wherever possible in all of my relationships, I want to work to make amends, seek reconciliation, and make peace, where possible.
For some reason, this book made me think about my (late) mother. It’s still surreal to think that she’s gone. A week before she passed, my wife urged me to fly back to Chicago and see her. It was a quick decision and I had to get a flight and make arrangements. We didn’t have certainty about her dementia and how long she’d live. But after talking with my sister, I sensed she didn’t have much time. So I took my oldest daughter with me and we saw Mom. She was a shell of herself, really, but she murmured the words to me, “I love you, Daniel. I’m proud of you.” As a forty-five-year-old man, I still needed to hear that. We said goodbye. We sang hymns. And then two days later she went to be with the Lord.
Hearing Yancey’s honest thoughts about the journey his life has taken made me think of my own. God often takes us on winding paths and along crooked trails that, when we look back, we see him guiding us all the way. Often that involves suffering, hardship, and even betrayal. Of course, I don’t want to compare my life to others who have endured far far worse. I’ve had it pretty good, better than I deserve. But even in the hard things, God has given me peace.
I want to say to anyone reading this, is it time for you to pick up the phone? Time to call that estranged family member or friend and just . . . try. It could be they hurt you and you need to talk and tell them they’ve been forgiven. Or perhaps you need to call and ask forgiveness. If you are waiting, if pride is keeping you back, make the call. Let the Lord heal this relationship.
Since writing Where the Light Fell Yancey was diagnosed with Parkinson’s’ disease and in telling his readers, wrote this phrase which typifies his grace-filled outlook:
My future is full of question marks, and I’m not unduly anxious. I have excellent medical care and support from friends. I trust a good and loving God who often chooses to reveal those qualities through his followers on earth. I have written many words on suffering, and now am being called to put them into practice. May I be a faithful steward of this latest chapter.
Faithful stewards. Let’s all strive to be just that. And when we fall short, we can trust the One who is always faithful.
As a reminder, my book, Agents of Grace is available now from Zondervan.
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