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REPAIRED BY LOVE
© 2004 by Sandra Pavloff Conner
By the time Kana had spent half an hour with Cade the following Saturday evening, she knew that their relationship could never equal what she and Lionel Butler had with each other. She enjoyed Cade’s company, and was glad for his friendship, but she knew she would never love this man.
When he walked her to the door and asked about calling her for another date soon, she looked into his eyes seriously and spoke. “Cade, I need to be completely honest with you. I’ve enjoyed the time we’ve spent together, and I’m glad we’re friends, but there’s someone else that I’ve developed serious affection for, and I don’t feel that it would be of benefit to you or me either one to try to develop our relationship into anything other than friendship.”
“I see. I didn’t realize that you were serious about anyone.”
Kana grinned. “Well, to be honest, I wasn’t sure myself until this week. But now that I do know, I think it’s only right to tell you right away. And … I’m sorry if I’ve inadvertently led you to believe that there was something more between us.”
“No, you haven’t, Kana. And I haven’t had time to develop any seriously romantic feelings for you yet, so don’t worry. I’m not going to be insulted or broken-heated over this news. I was hoping that we might be able to move into a more serious relationship in the near future, but I didn’t want to push it. And I enjoy being your friend too. That won’t change, I hope.”
“Good,” he said, grinning at her. “And if you ever want to go to lunch, or even dinner, just as friends, I’ll be more than willing to do so.”
She reached out her hand to him, and he took it between both of his and squeezed it gently. “I’ll remember that, and thank you, Cade. And I’ll be praying that the Lord will lead you to the perfect woman to make your life complete too. I know you said you’ve been so busy the past few years that you haven’t had time to think much about romance.”
“Well, maybe I’ll pray that the right one comes looking for you, and that you won’t have to work at it too hard.”
“Someone who’ll chase me until I catch her, you mean?” he said laughing out loud now.
Kana couldn’t help laughing too. “Something like that.”
“Well, I’ll try to keep my eyes open. Thank you,” he added, lifting her hand to his lips and kissing it lightly before letting it go. “Goodnight, Kana.”
“Goodnight and thanks again,” she said as she opened the front door. Cade started to his car and then turned around about half way there and called back. “Let’s not lose touch completely though, okay?”
“I agree. Goodnight,” she said and stepped into the house.
As Cade drove away he couldn’t keep from wondering who it was that Kana cared so much about. Well, whoever he was, he was sure one lucky man. And maybe it was time he did some serious praying himself about his own love life. At least his friendship with Kana had started him thinking about his future as far as a wife and family were concerned. Yeah – He nodded his head thoughtfully. It was time he started letting something fill his life besides work.
With the decision about Cade, Kana knew that she had cleared the field for her relationship with Lionel Butler. So when he called about a date for the following Saturday, she was ready to accept. In fact, they began to spend at least a couple of evenings together each week, besides the incidental times they had a snack together after church or met at family gatherings.
And it didn’t take long for the rest of both families to understand that the two of them were an item. Everybody considered that good news. In fact, one evening after a meal at Darrin and Eve’s, while Kana and Lee were walking in the yard hand in hand, Eve leaned over to Darrin and Gram and whispered. “Those two were absolutely made for each other, don’t you think?”
“Sure seems like it,” Darrin said.
“I’ve been sure of it for quite a while now,” Gram answered.
About a month later, Darrin came in to work one morning looking worried, and Lionel was quick to ask him about the cause. His brother sighed, taking off his jacket and flinging it down haphazardly on a chair. “I know you don’t want to talk about this, Lee, but I got a call from dad again last night. He sounded pretty bad. He was coughing a lot and I could tell he was pretty sick. I knew the last time Eve and I visited that he wasn’t doing well and was having trouble with his heart, but he wouldn’t talk much about it.”
“Well, I’m sorry to hear he’s sick, I guess, but I can’t say that I really feel much of anything at the news.”
“I know, but … I guess I just thought I should tell you. And … I want to go down and check on him personally. Would you mind holding down the fort Friday and Saturday morning by yourself?”
“No, you know I wouldn’t. Go whenever you need to.”
Darrin nodded his head. “Thanks,” he said, laying his hand on Lionel’s shoulder for a moment. Then he picked up his coat and hung it up and started back into the other part of the shop.
Sunday, Darrin still wasn’t home, and after church, Kana asked Lionel if his brother was ill.
“No, he went to Greensboro to visit our dad. Evidently he’s been sick, and Darrin wanted to spend some more time with him. He called Eve yesterday afternoon to say he’d be staying until today.”
“I see,” she said and let it go at that, but it bothered Kana a lot that Lionel couldn’t seem to forgive and let go of the past. They were scheduled to have lunch together, just the two of them, after service, so while they were waiting on their food, she decided it was time they talked openly about his feelings concerning his dad. After all, if the two of them were headed for something more serious, they would be sharing all of these kinds of things anyway.
“Lee, I’d like to ask you something,” she finally got up enough nerve to say.
“Sure, what is it?”
Kana cleared her throat a little nervously. “Well, it’s about your dad.”
He leaned back in his chair with a sigh. “Oh … Kana …”
She reached out and took his hand. “Please don’t take that attitude, Lee. This is very important.”
“No, it isn’t. Not to our relationship.”
Kana shook her head. “I don’t think that’s true, Lee.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, if you’re having this hard a time forgiving someone who’s hurt you deeply – and you find it impossible to let go of the past – it could have a great deal to do with our relationship.”
“How will it affect you and me?”
“In a lot of ways really. For one thing, just suppose we eventually got serious enough that we decided to marry and have children. You said something one day about wanting at least seven or eight children of your own. What would we tell them about their grandparents? They’d have my parents, of course, but what would they have on your side of the family?”
“I wouldn’t want them to have to have what’s on my side.”
“But Delly obviously loves her grandfather – your father.”
“This is a ridiculous conversation. A lot of kids don’t have grandparents.”
“Okay, granted, that’s not the most important point, but I thought it was worth making.”
“Well, what do you consider the most important point?”
Kana was quiet for a moment and then looked straight into his eyes. “Well, to be totally honest, I suppose, if you continued to refuse to forgive your father and give him another chance, I guess I’d have to wonder how you would deal with me if I ever did anything that hurt you. Would you hold it against me too, instead of forgiving me and forgetting it.”
“You’d never hurt me the way he did.”
“You don’t know that, Lionel. I’m a human being too, and I don’t always do everything right. But it isn’t just me. What about other people? And more than that, what is your refusal to forgive saying about your relationship with God? You know, His Word says in 2 Corinthians that He has forgiven everyone.
Lionel was quiet for several moments, and then the waitress came to set their food in front of them. They automatically bowed their heads, and after a minute, Lionel said, “Since you’re the Bible scholar, perhaps you’d better do the praying over our food.”
The words stung Kana, and worried her, but she prayed a short prayer and started eating.
“I’m sorry, honey,” he said, reaching for her hand. “I guess what you said hit me kind of hard.”
Kana smiled at him, but she spoke in a serious tone. “I didn’t mean for my words to hurt you, Lee, but it’s good if they hit you kind of hard, because this is a very important subject with God.”
“Kana, you don’t know what my dad was like … or what it was like living with him.”
“No, I don’t,” she said. “But God does, and He still says we have to forgive. It’s for our own sake. If we don’t, the unforgiveness will poison us. A lot of people are sick right now just from holding anger and unforgiveness against someone else. If we refuse to let it go, it will fester inside of us and eventually destroy us. Besides taking us completely out of right fellowship with God Himself.”
She paused to take another bite or two and then continued. “Besides, if our Lord Jesus died in order to be able to forgive your dad, just who do you think you are, that you can refuse to forgive him? It seems a little like you’re saying you’re better than God.”
Lionel put down his fork and just sat and looked at her for a long moment. Finally he spoke. “Kana, I understand what you’re saying, but I can’t deal with it right now. I’m sorry. Could we please drop it for now?”
She sighed and nodded her head. “All right, Lee. Just so you understand that this is something that will come between the two of us if you can’t eventually get it resolved.”
He nodded his head in understanding, and they both just continued to eat their meal in silence.
On his way to take Kana home, Lionel’s cell phone rang. When he answered, it was Darrin. “Are you calling from home?”Lionel asked him.
“Yeah, I got in about an hour ago. Eve said you and Kana went out to eat, and I thought I’d try to catch you before you got home and ask you to swing by here after you leave Kana.”
“I’m not sure exactly what time that will be.”
“Doesn’t matter. I’ll be here. I need to talk to you, and I’ll go ahead and tell you that it’s about Dad.” Lionel breathed an exasperated sigh.
“I’m sorry, Lee, but I’m not going to let this go. There are some things you need to understand clearly about his condition. What you do with the information is up to you, but I’m not going to neglect telling you about it in detail.”
“All right, Darrin. We’re almost to Kana’s house now. I’ll just drop her off and be right over. Might as well get it over with.”
“I’ll see you in a few minutes,” he said and shut off the phone.
“That was Darrin?” Kana asked quietly.
“Yeah,” he answered, sighing painfully again. “He wants to talk to me about something he found out concerning Dad.”
Kana’s mind was churning with things that she wanted to say to Lionel, but she knew better that to do so now. He was going to have enough to deal with when he got to his brother’s house. They pulled into her drive, and Lionel got out and opened her door, accompanying her to the porch.
“Thanks for lunch,” she said as they walked up the steps. She put her hand on the doorknob.
“Kana?” Lionel spoke hesitantly. “Are you going to refuse to kiss me goodbye just because we can’t agree about my father?”
She reached out and cupped his cheek with the palm of her hand. “No,” she whispered and kissed him softly and briefly on the lips. He reached for her, but she pulled back gently. She placed her fingers over his lips, looking into his eyes. “You can’t hide from this thing by trying to throw yourself full force into romantic activities with me, Lee.”
His mouth dropped open, and his eyes grew wide. “What a thing to say!”
“But it’s what you’re trying to do. You’re trying to focus yourself completely on the emotional and physical relationship between the two of us in order to push this other subject out of your mind and not deal with it yet.”
“I give up!” he said, throwing his hands up, whirling around, and heading back to his car. Kana watched until he had turned out of the drive and then went inside to pray for him.
Lionel tried to pray on his way over to his brother’s house. He tried, but he couldn’t seem to concentrate. His mind was whirling, trying to figure out if what Kana had accused him of had been correct. The more he thought about it, the more he realized that what she’d said was the truth. He had been running from his own thoughts and feelings concerning his dad for a long time now. And since the day he’d discovered what it meant to be a brand new creature in Jesus Christ, he hadn’t been able to pick up his Bible and read without feeling a nagging inside of him to face the problem with his dad and get it resolved.
Lionel knew that he himself had received forgiveness for everything he’d ever been guilty of. Maybe he hadn’t done exactly what his dad had done, but he had spurned the Lord and rebelled against Him ever since he had been a teenager. Yet he had been aware, the moment he accepted Jesus, that the Lord had forgiven all of it.
Finally, as he pulled into his brother’s driveway, Lionel was able to breathe a sincere prayer. “I know You’ve forgiven me, Lord, without any reservations. How can I do any less for someone else? … But I’m going to need a lot of help from You. … Please … show me how, Father.”
A quiet peace seemed to settle over him as he sat in the car, and after a couple of minutes he got out and made his way to the house. Eve answered the door and reached out and hugged him. Then she put her arm through his and led him to the living room. “I’ve made cinnamon chocolate coffee. I’ll bring you a cup.”
Lionel grinned at her. “I thought that’s what I smelled. Or maybe I just hoped it was. Make it a big cup, Evie,” he said, winking at her. As she left the room, Lionel walked over and put his hand on his brother’s shoulder briefly and sat down on the end of the sofa that was closest to Darrin’s chair. He leaned back with a sigh and smiled at his brother. It was his signature smile, full and warm and inviting, and Darrin took hope from it. “Okay, Dare,” Lionel spoke quietly. “I’m finally ready to talk with you about Dad.”
Darrin smiled and turned as Eve entered the room carrying a tray with large mugs of coffee and a plate of cookies. She sat it on the coffee table and sat down beside Lee.
“Well,” Darrin began, after taking two or three swallows of his coffee, “I mainly wanted you to know that I’ve found out that Dad is very seriously ill. He had been in the hospital the week before he called me. He’s back home now, but for how long, I don’t know. He did finally admit that the doctor’s diagnosed congestive heart failure, as well as some other conditions, and his prognosis isn’t very good.”
Lionel closed his eyes against the emotional pain he was feeling, surprised that he felt anything at all, and not knowing how to deal with it. Darrin continued.
“But I guess the thing that has me most upset is his soul. I’ve tried a number of times to talk to him about the Lord, but he just won’t permit it. The last couple of times, including this trip, he just shook his head and said, ‘It’s not for me, Darrin. It’s not for me.’
“But personally, I get the feeling – and I don’t know how to explain it really – but I keep getting the feeling that there’s something specific holding him back from being able to accept the Lord’s salvation. And he never lets me get far enough in our talk to explain how easy it is to receive Jesus.”
Darrin shook his head. He was leaning his elbows on his knees, his hands clasped between his legs. He looked down now at the floor and shook his head again, the pain he was feeling evident on his face.
“You don’t have any idea what it is?” Lionel asked.
“Not a clue,” Darrin said, sighing deeply and leaning back in his chair.
Lionel drank his coffee in silence for a few minutes. “Is there more that you think I need to know?”
“Only that he asked about you again. He always asks about you, Lee.”
Lionel nodded his head in response and looked straight into his brother’s eyes. “You don’t think he has long to live?”
“I got the impression that the doctors think he might not have long, but he wouldn’t really tell me anything specific.” Darrin looked at his brother, pain filling his eyes. “I just wish you could bring yourself to go see him … just once, Lee.”
Lee laid his head back against the sofa, closing his eyes. He was quiet for so long that it almost seemed he had dropped off to sleep. Eve and Darrin sat just as quietly, waiting. Finally, Lionel spoke softly.
“Well … I have realized that I don’t really have a choice about forgiving him. I’m not sure that I’m capable of doing it … but I’ve made the decision to do it.” He sighed deeply, opening his eyes and sitting up straighter. “I’ve trusted the Lord for everything else since I finally gave Him my life. I guess I can trust Him to help me forgive Dad too.”
Darrin reached out and gripped his brother’s arm. “I’m so glad, Lee. And I know the Lord will help you.”
Eve slipped her arm around Lee’s shoulders gently and leaned over and kissed his cheek.
“But … about going to see him …” Lionel spoke again. “I’m not sure about that. I’ll have to do some praying about it.”
Darrin nodded. “I understand.”
Lionel set his cup down on the table. “Well, I need to get home and do a couple of things before time for church. I’ll see you two there, I guess, won’t I?”
“Yeah,” Darrin answered. “I’m really tired, but I need the strength I’ll get from being in the service. It’ll do me more good than staying home and going to bed.”
Lionel smiled at him and patted his shoulder as he got up. Eve started to rise. “No, don’t get up Eve. I’ll see myself out. See you in a couple of hours.”
Following the service that evening, Kana asked Lionel if things had gone all right with his brother. He was walking her to her car as they spoke and he nodded his head. “Yes, pretty well. I did a lot of thinking after I left you, and I realized that you had been right.” He grinned at her. “And so what else is new, huh?” Kana grinned back.
“Anyway,” he added, sighing, “I decided that it was past time I faced the fact that the Lord had forgiven me for being so stiff-necked and rebellious to Him all these years, and I was obligated to do the same for Dad.”
Kana turned fully toward him and embraced him. “Oh, Lee, I’m so glad!”
“Well, I can’t say that the feelings are there yet, but at least I’ve made the decision.”
“So does that mean that you’re going to go see him?”
“I don’t know about that. I told Darrin I’ll just have to pray about that for a while.”
Kana nodded her understanding. “I’ll be praying too,” she said, squeezing his arm.
Lionel glanced around to see if anyone else was close by or watching. When he felt sure they weren’t being observed, he leaned down and kissed Kana. He had intended the kiss to be short, but his need of her encouragement and comfort kept him clinging to her for some time. When the kiss ended, he just looked into her eyes for a moment. “I love you so much,” he said.
Kana wanted to say that she loved him too. In fact, she almost let the words slip out, but then she caught herself. If she made that total commitment of herself emotionally, she couldn’t go back, and somehow, she just felt that Lionel still had to deal with some things of the past before he was ready for the future. So she just caressed his cheek gently, smiling at him as she turned to get into her car.
The following Saturday, since Darrin had said he would handle the shop and finally give Lionel some time off, Kana and Lionel took the whole day together. They went horseback riding in the morning and miniature golfing in the afternoon. They thought about going out to dinner, but decided they would rather just relax at Lionel’s apartment with pizza and some old Andy Griffith videos.
While they were just kicked back and relaxed later in the evening, Lionel reached over and turned the volume down on the TV and turned to face Kana as she sat beside him on the sofa. “Kana … I’d like to talk to you seriously for a few minutes,” he said, his fingers playing with a tiny thread visible on the shoulder of her shirt.”
He looked into her eyes. “You know I love you. More than I’ve ever loved anyone. And … I think you feel the same way about me … although you haven’t said so in so many words.” He sighed now, closing his eyes briefly and then capturing hers again. “I need to know how you feel about me, Kana. I want to talk about our future.”
Kana lowered her eyes and bent her head. Lionel waited. Finally, she raised her eyes to his and lifted her hand, caressing his cheek. “Lionel, I do love you … .” He started to reach out for her, and she pulled back a little. “But,” she continued. “I don’t see how we can talk about a future when you’re still living in your past.”
“You’re still living in all of the hurt and bitterness of your past.”
Lionel leaped up from the sofa, running his hands through his hair and beginning to pace across the room. He finally turned back to face her. “For crying out loud, Kana! I told you I’ve forgiven my father! What else do you want from me?”
She looked up at him with unshed tears in her eyes. “It isn’t what I want from you, Lee. It’s what I want for you. You’re in bondage to all of the memories and feelings from the past years with your father. They’ve got you locked up back there … and you aren’t free to plan anything for the future. I want you to be set free from the past. I want you to be able to let it go, so that it will let you go.”
She rose from her seat too and walked closer to him, looking into his eyes. “If I’m going to plan a future with you, then I want to have all of you … all of you, Lee … not just the surface part … the part that’s covering up everything deep down inside because you don’t want to bring it out and deal with it.”
“I’m not covering anything up. I’ve been honest with you about the past and what it’s done to me.”
“But what about what it’s still doing to you?”
Lionel hung his head. After another moment, he moved over and slumped into a chair, rubbing his hands over his face. “I don’t know, Kana. I don’t know if I even know how to try to deal with all of it any better than I have.”
“Would you like a suggestion from me?”
He looked up at her, and she was almost sure she saw hope in his eyes.
She walked over to his chair and knelt down in the floor beside him, taking one of his hands in hers. “I think you need to go and spend some time with your dad, Lee. I think that’s what it’s going to take to get you set free from all of this.”
He didn’t reply. He just looked into her eyes for a long time. Then he leaned back in the chair and closed his eyes. Finally he spoke softly. “I promise I’ll pray about it, Kana.” He opened his eyes and looked at her again. “That’s the best I can do right now. I will pray about going to see him.”
“And I’ll pray for you … and for him,” she said, squeezing his hand and smiling radiantly at him. Then he leaned forward and took her face in both of his hands.
“You did say you loved me … didn’t you?”
Kana nodded her head, still smiling. “I did say that I love you, Lee. And I do … very much.”
Lionel leaned further and touched her lips gently with his. The kiss was slow and lingering, as if he were drawing sweetness from her lips. And he was. He knew this woman was the sweetest gift the Lord had ever given him, and she made his life complete. Surely, he thought, as the kissed continued – surely with the Lord and Kana both loving him so much, he could find the strength from that to do what he needed to do about his past.
After Lionel took Kana home, he returned to his apartment and picked up his Bible to read. “So far, Lord, I’ve found all of the other answers I’ve needed right here in Your Word. Surely what I need now is here too … if I’ll just search for it.” Lionel sighed and leaned over and turned on the lamp on the table beside the sofa. “Please help me, Father,” he whispered.
The Tuesday night Bible class had been studying the book of Isaiah recently, and Lionel especially liked all of the chapters toward the last part of the book that told about how the Lord comforted his people and promised a Savior. He had left a marker where they had stopped last week, and without conscious thought, he turned to that place and began reading in the next chapter.
It was Isaiah 58, and God seemed to be talking about how He wasn’t happy with His people. He chastised them for trying to carry out religious practices, like fasting food, while, at the same time, failing to live right in their relationships with each other. As Lionel read through the chapter he came to the words where the Lord described what He considered a perfect fast.
“Is not this the fast that I have chosen? To loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens … to deal thy bread to the hungry … when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?”
Something stabbed Lionel in the heart. Those words almost leaped off the page at him. He felt as if they had been written in letters three or four times the size of everything else. He read them again: “… and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh.” Is that what he’d been doing? He leaned his head back, closing his eyes, thinking hard. In hiding himself from the past, had he been hiding himself from his father – and as a result maybe even hiding part of his real self from the rest of his family?
That’s what Kana was referring to when she said she’d want to have all of him. And it was true that he wasn’t in a position to give all of himself to anyone, because he wasn’t really whole. He sat quiet for a while longer, and finally he began to pray again. “Is this my answer, Lord? Is this really the solution … to stop hiding from my own flesh, my own father … and to connect with him again?”
There wasn’t a sound in the apartment. Lionel sat still and listened to the voice on the inside of him. He had learned enough to know that if he wanted to hear from God, he had to give him time and stillness. So he waited … and slowly … but very surely … Lionel recognized the truth that came to light in his spirit and then gradually penetrated his mind and emotions.
If the Lord had spoken out loud, the answer couldn’t have been clearer: Yes … he had been hiding himself from his own flesh and blood father, wallowing in the pain and misery of the past. And although God had the power to solve the problem, the next move was Lionel’s. God had to wait for him to make it before God could do His part.
Lionel slid from the sofa to the floor and onto his knees. “All right, Lord. I’ll go. You show me when and how … and I’ll go to see him. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do when I get there … but I won’t be rebellious against You anymore. I’ll go.”
The following week, Kana had two evenings taken up with parent-teacher conferences, so Lionel didn’t get a chance to spend any private time with her to talk about what the Lord had shown him. He did talk with her on the phone enough to tell her that he felt the Lord was showing him how to work things out. She was elated that he had made that much headway, and she looked forward to hearing the details.
Kana had spent many hours seeking the Lord concerning her relationship with Lionel Butler, and she felt certain that He had confirmed to her that Lionel was His choice for her. But she knew she needed to wait on God for the perfect timing of everything.
The only problem was that it was getting harder and harder to hold her feelings back and wait. She loved him so much. In fact it was such a struggle that she had taken to calling Vallie about every other night to get some encouragement. She was hoping the two of them could get together in person soon. But at least their friendship seemed to still be as strong as ever, and it helped her a lot to talk everything out with the one who’d been her best friend for so long.
The following Friday was scheduled as a school holiday, so Darrin and Eve hoped to go to her sister’s for the long weekend. Darrin had tried to get Lionel to take a few days off to repay him for the several times he’d given Darrin a chance to get away. But Lionel wasn’t wanting time off right now. The truth was, in the back of his mind, he was thinking that if he could convince Kana to marry him soon, he’d plan on taking a whole week for a honeymoon, if they could work around her school schedule.
So Lionel insisted that Darrin and Eve go for the weekend, and they were taking Delly with them. They decided to put up a sign announcing to their customers that they would be closed all day that Saturday. That way Lionel could do something special that weekend if he wanted. He planned to spend it with Kana, of course.
About mid-morning on Friday, the phone at the shop rang, and Lionel pulled himself out from under the hood of a car and managed to answer it just before the answering machine picked up. “Butler’s Auto Repair,” he said.
“Hello, this is Karen Allen from the administration office at Greensboro Hospital, and I’m trying to locate a Mr. Darrin Butler. I have this as his work number. Is that correct?”
“This is his workplace, but he’s out of town. I’m his brother. Could I be of help?” Lionel spoke in a normal tone of voice, but his stomach tightened into a knot. It must be something to do with his dad.
“Oh, are you Lionel Butler?”
“Oh, yes, I see now; you’re listed as immediate family also. I’ve been asked to notify Isaac Butler’s family that he was admitted very early this morning in critical condition.”
“Can you tell me anything more than that about his condition?”
“Well, it’s quite serious, Mr. Butler. The doctor has him in intensive care at the present time and is running a number of tests. Apparently, he’s been in significant pain. I was told that your father collapsed outside his home this morning, and a neighbor called an ambulance.”
“I see. Well, I’m grateful you called. My brother and his family are out of town for the weekend, but I’ll contact them immediately. Does – ” Lionel stopped to try to swallow the constriction in his throat – “Does the doctor expect him to live?”
“He’s not able to say for sure at this time, Mr. Butler. We’re doing all we can for him, but the doctor did indicate that his family should be notified as soon as possible.”
“All right. As I say, I’ll call my brother, and then … then I’ll come down there.” Lionel hadn’t realized he was going to say that, but when the words were out, he knew it was right, and it was what he wanted to do. “It will take me a few hours, but I’ll be there.”
“Fine, Mr. Butler. I won’t call again then, unless something changes dramatically for the worse. Is there any other number I should have in order to contact you?”
“Yes, let me give you my cell number, and if something does change please contact me as soon as possible,” he said and then gave her the number.
“I have it entered into the chart, Mr. Butler. Can I be of any more assistance?”
“No … no, thank you.”
“You’re welcome. I’m sorry it wasn’t better news. Goodbye.”
“Goodbye,” Lionel said, hanging up in something of a daze. He had to take a minute to collect his thoughts. He had committed himself to leave for Greensboro as soon as possible, so he’d have to shut down everything here and get home. But he had to call Darrin first. When he tried Eve’s sister’s number, there was no answer, and no machine, so he tried his brother’s cell. Nothing but a message saying the user was unavailable. Well, he’d close things up and go on home to pack an overnight bag and then try the house again.
While he packed, he thought about Kana and how much he needed her encouragement now. They had planned to go out to dinner tonight, but that would have to be canceled. He sat down for a moment, wishing with all his heart that she could go with him … but he wouldn’t ask that of her. He couldn’t. He looked at his watch and got up again to finish packing. He’d at least go by her house on his way. With the school holiday, she just might be there.
The thought of being able to see her made him hurry even more, and within minutes he was ready to leave. He tried Eve’s sister’s house again, but still got no answer. He checked his cell phone to make sure it was fully charged and shoved it into his pants pocket. He’d try again on the way.
Within twenty minutes, he was pulling into Gram’s driveway, and he breathed a deep sigh of relief when he saw Kana’s car. “Thank You, Lord. You knew I needed her prayers right now,” he said, getting out of the car and hurrying to the front door. Kana answered the door herself and surprise showed on her face, quickly followed by concern. She knew he should normally be at the shop.
“What’s wrong, Lee?”
Before he even said a word, Lionel stepped inside and wrapped Kana in his arms, holding her in a tight grip. She returned his embrace, knowing he was hurting although having no idea why. She prayed silently for the Lord to help him. He buried his face in her hair for a moment, breathing in the sweetness of her that always gave him a special kind of peace. Finally, he pulled back and looked at her. “I came because I need you to pray for me. I’ve going down to Greensboro to see my dad.”
He nodded his head. “The hospital called. Actually they were looking for Darrin, and since he wasn’t home, they called the work number they had for him. They said Dad was admitted early this morning in very serious condition. They’re not sure if he’ll live. I’ve been trying to get Darrin, and I’ll keep trying as I travel, but I believe I need to go right now.”
Kana put her arms around him again and just held him close for another moment. He tightened his arms around her like a vise again. She prayed silently for the Lord to show her how she could help him more.
He moved slightly, just enough to gently kiss her below her ear, and whispered, “I love you so much.”
Suddenly she knew what she was supposed to do. She wasn’t supposed to just pray for Lee as he went. She was supposed to go with him. Hadn’t the Lord been showing her that it had been Him who had brought them together? Her place was beside Lee, helping him to be all that the Lord wanted him to be.
“Lee,” she said a she pulled back enough to look into his eyes, “I’m going with you.”
His face registered surprise, but his eyes lit up with a new hope. “Are you sure you want to do this? You don’t even know him, and I’m not sure what kind of reception I’ll get.”
“But I know you, and it’s you I’m going for. And I know God, and He’s the One who’s telling me to go.” She looked at him with a question in her eyes, not quite sure if he wanted her to go or not.
Suddenly he grabbed her in a fierce hug. “Oh, Kana, thank you; thank you!” he spoke fervently in her ear. “Thank you, Sweetheart,” he said more softly, as he pulled back and laid his hand gently along her cheek.
She smiled at him, leaning her face briefly against the palm of his hand. “Now, when do you want to leave?”
“Well, actually I had packed enough clothes for one night, not knowing exactly what I’d find when I got there, and I was planning on leaving straight from here.”
“All right, I can do the same. It won’t take me more than a few minutes. Gram’s in the kitchen, so why don’t you go fill her in on what we’re doing while I pack a bag.”
“Do you think she’ll be upset to have you go with me?’
“Are you kidding? If she’d been in here, she’d have suggested it first!”
Her laughter cheered Lionel immeasurably, and it was with a much lighter heart that he headed for the kitchen to talk to the woman who, more than anyone else besides his own mother, had prayed him into the kingdom of God.
They made excellent time driving, and arrived at the hospital around 2:00 that afternoon. When they were shown to his father’s room, Kana leaned over to Lionel to whisper, “Do you want to see him alone first, Lee?”
He stood very still, trying to decide. Finally he looked into her eyes. “No, Kana … and it’s not because I’m afraid … or that I still have any ill feelings toward him . … I think it’s because you’re so much a part of me now – at least as far as my heart is concerned – that I don’t think I’ll feel right in there without you. Do you mind?”
Her smile filled her eyes as she answered, “Not at all. Let’s go in.”
Isaac Butler was the only occupant in the room, and he appeared to be sleeping, but as they approached the bed, he opened his eyes and looked at them. He squinted at first, and then as his eyes focused more clearly on Lionel, he sucked in a breath of surprise that was audible. He reached his left hand out toward them as he spoke in a weak voice. “Lionel? … Is it really you?”
Lionel had been gripping Kana’s hand fiercely, but at those words, he released her hand and took one giant step to his father’s side, reaching out and taking the trembling hand that was still held out in his direction.
“Yes, Dad, it’s really me.” He felt his dad’s grip tighten.
“It’s been a long time,” his father said in a voice that was a little stronger now.
“Yes.” Lionel cleared his throat. … “A long time.”
Kana stayed in the background, not wanting to interfere with what the Lord was doing.
Isaac spoke again. “I … I wanted to see you. … Doctor’s don’t know if I’m goin’ to make it this time. … Too much drinkin’ … too much everything for this old heart.” He sighed deeply and winced in pain.
“Are you in pain?” Lionel asked. “Should I get you a nurse?”
“No … no,” his dad’s grip tightened again. “They give me somethin’, but it don’t take it all away.”
“Would you like some water?”
“No, don’t waste no time on that … .” He sighed again, bringing on a spasm of coughing. When that subsided, he tried to continue, his voice weak and hoarse. “Not important. … I wanted to see you … to tell you …” He heaved another heavy sigh, and was silent for a full minute.
“Tell me what, Dad?”
His father looked right into his eyes. “To tell you that I’m sorry, Son. … Sorry about your mama … sorry about you and me … sorry about everything. … Too late to change it now, but I felt I had to … to at least tell you.”
Tears trickled down the old man’s leathered cheeks, and Lionel was astounded at the compassion that swept through his own heart for this man he’d hated for most of his life. God really had made Lionel Butler into a new creature. He squeezed his father’s hand. “It’s all forgiven, Dad.”
His father’s face registered shock as he heard those words, and his eyes questioned those of his son. “Forgiven?”
“It’s all forgiven, Dad. You don’t have to think about it anymore.”
His dad’s sigh this time was one of relief, and there was another lengthy pause before he spoke again, looking at his son. “Thank you, Lionel. … You always did have your mama’s goodness in you, Boy.”
Lionel inhaled a startled breath, and his eyes widened as he looked at his father, who spoke again. “Oh, I know you don’t believe it, but I really did love your mama … the best I could love anybody. … She was the only person in the whole world that ever loved me.” Tears began to trickle down his cheeks again. “She was always good to me, Lionel, no matter what. … And you … you was so much like her.” He looked away from Lionel and stared out the window.
Finally he spoke again. “Wish I hadn’t waited too late to get to know her God, so’s I could go and be with her.”
Every part of Lionel’s being came to attention. Was this his father wanting another chance at salvation? He looked at Kana, a question in his eyes. She smiled, nodding her head to encourage him.
He sat down on the edge of his father’s bed, and the old man turned to look at him again. “You know, it’s not too late to know the God she served, Dad. … If that’s what you really want.”
“I wouldn’t even know how to go about it.” He winced in pain again and put his right hand up to his chest. “Doctors don’t expect me to get out of here this time, so I don’t guess I can make it to no church.” His last words were more of a whisper as he struggled against the pain and congestion in his chest.
“But you don’t have to go to a church, Dad. Believe me, I know.”
“No. When I gave my heart to the Lord, I was alone in my own apartment. You can do it right here, if that’s what you want to do.”
Lionel nodded his head.
“How do I do it?”
“Well, it’s Jesus that you need, Dad. Do you understand who Jesus is?”
His father thought for a few minutes, and then answered. “When I was a kid, I used to go to a Sunday School class, and the teacher explained that He was the Son of God who came and lived on earth and died on the cross for our sins, but I didn’t know much about sins in those days. … I do now. … Then she said He came out of His grave and went back to Heaven to fix up a place for us if we’d believe in Him.”
“Do you believe that Jesus is who your teacher said He is?”
His dad was silent again for a few moments before answering. “Yes … yes, I think I do. He has to be real for your mama to have loved Him so much, and for her to have had the strength to put up with me and keep loving me. She sure had to get that strength from somewhere. So He must be real.”
“Well, then, all He requires is that you tell Him you believe He’s who He says He is; tell Him you know you’re a sinner and not fit to live with Him; and then ask Him to forgive you for those sins and come into your heart and take over your life.”
His dad’s eyes grew wide with wonderment. “You mean that’s all I have to do to have what your mama had?”
“That’s all you did?”
“That’s all it took, and I’ve not been the same since. Because, when we do that, Dad, and He comes into us, He makes us into a brand new creature … a brand new person, Dad. The Bible calls it being born again.”
Isaac took a deep breath to answer, but started another spasm of coughing. When he finally caught his breath again, he looked right into Lionel’s eyes. “I’d like to do that, Son. Will you help me?”
Lionel felt as if his heart would beat out of his chest. He’d never imagined even one day in his life that the day would come when he would be a Christian, being used by God to lead his own father to the Lord. Kana was openly weeping now, knowing in her own heart what Lionel must be feeling. Her joy for him – for both of them – was beyond adequate expression.
Lionel cleared his throat of the thickness caused by the tears he was barely holding back. “Sure, Dad. Why don’t I tell you one sentence at a time what you need to say, and you can say it after me … but only if it’s what you really want to say with all your heart; you understand?”
“Yes … yes, I understand.” He drew in another painful breath, coughed, and grabbed his chest again. But he forced out the words, “And it is what I want to say.”
“Then just say this to the Lord: ‘Jesus, I believe You are the Son of God.’”
Isaac closed his eyes and repeated, “Jesus, I believe You are the Son of God.”
“I believe You came to earth as a man and died on the cross for my sins.”
His father repeated every word.
“I believe You rose from the grave, and that You are alive right now.”
Again, Isaac said every word, his voice becoming stronger with each sentence, and Lionel continued.
“I’m a hopeless sinner, and I ask You to forgive me for all my sin.”
Tears flowed freely down Isaac’s cheeks as he said those words, and Lionel had no doubt that they were coming from a sincere heart.
“And I ask You to come into me and be my Lord. Take over my whole life, and make me able to live with You forever.”
Isaac breathed a sigh of relief as he spoke the last words, his eyes still closed. “Forever,” he said again slowly, seeming to savor the sound of the word. Then he was silent for a few moments. Lionel didn’t speak either, or move. He was too overcome by how the Lord had just used him.
Pretty soon his father’s lips spread into a smile, and he opened his eyes and looked straight at Lionel, surprise and joy written all over his face. He reached out and grabbed Lionel’s hand again, only this time there was more strength in his grasp. “It’s happened, Lionel! It’s happened! … There’s a … somethin’ … I don’t know how to describe it … Oh … yes I do … it’s peace, Lionel … peace! … and its just goin’ all through me!” That outburst led to another round of coughing, but as soon as it subsided, Isaac lay back grinning.
He breathed another relieved sigh and closed his eyes again. “Peace … real peace. … I never had peace before.” He opened his eyes again and looked at Lionel. “I never had peace in all my life ’til just now, Lionel. Thank you for helpin’ me, Son.”
“It was my pleasure, Dad,” Lionel said, grinning broadly himself, knowing he had never spoken any truer words in his life.
“You know, your brother tried a few times to talk to me about the Lord,” Isaac said. “But at first I didn’t want to have nothin’ to do with Him. Then … later … every time I’d think about maybe doin’ somethin’ about it … I’d remember how bad I was to your mama … and to you.” He choked back some tears again, and put his hand against his chest. Lionel could tell he was still having pain, but he was determined not to let it deter him from what he needed to say. “And then I’d say to myself … ‘You old … so and so sinner … God can’t forgive somebody like you.”
He had looked away while he spoke, but now he looked back up at Lionel with a light on his face. “But when you said that you forgive me … I mean … after all I did that made your life so bad … if you can forgive me … then I can believe that God can forgive me too.”
Lionel’s intake of breath was audible. The shock of what his father had just said was more than his mind could take in. It was Lionel’s own forgiveness for his dad that had convinced his father there was a God who could forgive him too. What would have happened ‒ Lionel was chilled all of a sudden at the thought ‒ what would have happened if he had never been willing to forgive his father and tell him that he had?
Lionel actually shivered from the cold that coursed through him. He knew what would have happened. His father would never have been able to believe in God’s forgiveness and would have gone out into eternity separated from the Lord forever.
“Now I can die in peace and go and live with my Jesus and your mama.” His dad’s words brought Lionel back to attention.
“Yes, you can Dad,” he said, smiling at his parent. “But maybe you won’t have to die yet. God’s a healer too, you know, and we’re going to pray for Him to give you some more years on this earth to live your new life and be a witness for Him.”
As Lionel spoke those words, he reached out for Kana and drew her to his side, putting his arm around her. “This little lady is a strong believer, and I know she’ll pray for you to get well.”
His dad’s eyes flew open again, and Kana could have sworn he perked up when he realized she was standing beside Lionel. “Well, you’re sure a pretty little thing,” Isaac said, his voice still hoarse, but a big smile on his face.
His eyes returned to Lionel’s. “Is this your wife, Lionel? You should have introduced her. Darrin never said nothin’ about you bein’ married, and I used to wonder why you didn’t have a wife and a passel of kids a long time ago.”
“No, Dad, Kana isn’t my wife … yet, but I’m going to remedy that situation in the near future,” he said, squeezing her gently. “Her last name’s Wallace right now, but not for much longer.”
Kana reached out her hand and shook the old man’s. “How do you do, Mr. Butler. I’m so glad to meet you on such a happy day.”
He grinned at her. “Yes, it is a happy day ain’t it? Very happy for me. I got my son back, and I got Jesus.”
“You sure did!” she said, tears still streaming down her face.
“Why didn’t you ever get married before, Lionel?” he asked, turning back to his son.
“Well, to tell you the truth, Dad, I guess I was just too afraid that I’d turn out like you used to be, and that I’d only make a wife and children unhappy.”
“Oh, no, no, Lionel!” his dad said, reaching out to lay his hand on his son’s arm. He winced in pain again, but refused to stop speaking. “You couldn’t never have been like me. You always had your mama’s goodness in you, don’t you know that?”
Lionel shrugged his shoulders. “No, I guess I never realized that, Dad, but it doesn’t matter any more, because the Lord was finally able to make me a new creature too. So I don’t have to worry about it anymore.”
The old man shook his head. “I’m sorry, Son … for causing you so much pain in your life.”
“Never mind now, Dad. It’s all in the past, and the Lord has changed all of that. Now, I want you to concentrate on getting well. Jesus is the Great Physician too, and He can heal cases the doctors think are hopeless. Kana and I will pray for you, and I want you to plan on getting stronger and stronger until you can get up and walk out of here.”
He got up from the bed and pulled Kana closer to his side, grinning, but still speaking to his father. “I’m planning a special event that I’d like you to come to. As a matter of fact, if you’ll pardon me for just a minute, I’m going to officially propose to this beautiful woman right now.”
Kana’s eyes widened. This was definitely the last thing she expected while standing in a hospital room. But the love in Lionel’s eyes engulfed her so completely that her surroundings faded away. Lionel turned to face her squarely, taking her lightly in his arms.
“Kana, I think you know this … but just in case … I’m telling you in specific words: I love you more than my own life, and I don’t want to live any more of that life without you in the center of it. Will you please marry me?”
Tears poured down Kana’s cheeks. She’d watched this man give his life to the Lord and become a completely new person. She had seen him walk out his faith in every aspect of his life and win over every obstacle with what he found in the Word of God. What a strong faith he had – and what a loving heart. What more could she want from any man? God had been bringing her to this from the time she had made the decision last May to spend her summer in Gatlinburg – maybe from longer ago than that. She couldn’t give him any answer but one.
“Yes, Lionel Butler, I’d be honored to marry you.”
Lionel kissed her lightly on the lips and then hugged her to him fiercely for a moment. Then, with his arm still around her, he turned back to his dad.
“Now, you see, Dad, you have a very important job waiting on you when you get out of here. There’s going to be a wedding that I wouldn’t want you to miss, and then there are going to be at least seven or eight grandchildren that will need a lot of grandfathering.” He looked right into Kana’s eyes as he spoke the last sentence, remembering the little talk they’d had in the restaurant several weeks earlier.
She smiled at him, the love in her eyes warming him thoroughly.
“You mean … you’d want me to be a part of your family, Lionel?” his dad asked, his voice wavering with his intense emotion.
Lionel looked straight into his father’s eyes. “Yes, Dad. I mean exactly that. Kana and I want you to be a part of our lives and our family from now on.”
He stepped back up to the bed, still holding Kana. He reached out and took his father’s hand in a strong grip, his eyes testifying to the fullness he felt in his heart.
His next words were quiet – but strong with the truth of what he felt: “I love you, Dad.”