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The One Answer I Never Expected

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“All things work together for good for those who love God and are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28) 

There was a question that had lingered for years in the back of my mind, and I knew that my father was the only person who could answer it. And when the opportunity came for me to ask him, his reply was the one answer I never expected.

Here is today’s excerpt out of Released From the Prison My Father Built.

“Dad, which prison were you in?”

“I was in the Central Unit,” he replied, unaware of all that was lingering behind my question. The moment I heard his answer my countenance dropped. It was not the same prison unit I had been in. I had thought for sure it was going to be the same, and had envisioned preaching rousing sermons about being in the same prison that your father was in; you know, the old “like father, like son” thing. But none of this mattered now. His answer changed all that.

“Which prison were you in?” he then asked me, not knowing how my mind was racing.

Somewhat dejected I replied, “I was in the Ferguson Unit, near Midway, Texas; just down a ways from Huntsville.”

Welder 01My dad’s expression changed immediately. He went from being curious, to being stunned. His mouth dropped open, and he looked at me in disbelief. Gathering himself he then said the words that would forever mark my life.

“Dear God, son, I built that prison.”

“What?” I replied, “What do you mean, you built it?”

“They used prison labor to build the Ferguson Unit,” dad answered. “I was the welder on the work crew. I welded the bars when that prison was built.”

As dad’s words hung there in the air, the Lord Jesus spoke to my heart, “James, I have set you free from the prison your father built. Now I will use you to set others free from prisons their fathers have built. Go home to your friends and tell them what great things I have done. Tell them how all things work together for good for those who love Me and are called according to My purpose.”

My mind raced back over the years and grappled with the astounding thought that the Lord had somehow orchestrated this entire matter. No, He didn’t make my dad a robber, nor did He make me a drug dealer; and the tragic wreck wasn’t His doing, it was mine. And He didn’t want me to run away from the orphanage, but I did it anyway.

God does no evil to any man; rather, He is the God who works all things after the counsel of His will; the God who works all things – yes, even bad things – together for good for those who answer the call to His higher purpose for their lives. And He had been at work in my life all those years even though I didn’t know it.

I sat there amazed, and am still so to this very day. My father welded the bars of my prison. How extraordinary is that? From one point of view it is very extraordinary. I mean, what are the chances of that ever happening to anybody? Extraordinary indeed.

But, from another point of view it is rather ordinary; in fact, it is sadly common. Virtually everywhere in today’s world there are sons and daughters in prisons of one kind or another, which their fathers have built. Prisons of fear, addiction, rage, hatred, ignorance, shame, and confusion; just to name a few.

A dad mistreats or neglects a trusting child, and the strike upon that tender soul is as solid and lasting as the iron bars that were welded by the heat of my father’s torch. A cruel word spoken in anger, a nickname given in jest, a rebuke blurted out in public or a cold shoulder in time of need – these mindless acts of senseless dads forge the framework of solitary confinement for boys and girls the world over. And the vicious cycle repeats as these wounded children become broken parents with “welding torches” in their hands, passing on the torment to yet another generation of unsuspecting kids.

A father’s influence in his children’s lives is powerful and inevitable, whether for good or for bad. This fact has been repeated throughout history time and time again.” (Excerpt from pg.21-23, Released From the Prison My Father Built, James Ryle, 2010) Get Your Copy Today

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