A barking dog in the distance brought Jack out of his sleep and back into consciousness. He lay in his prison cell and cursed the emptiness, the loneliness, the blackness around him. Morning was about to dawn, ushering in the anniversary of Lily’s last visit. Lily had been all that mattered to him in the world. From the day she was born, she was fragile and sweet like the morning breeze blowing through a field of lilies. No other name would have done her justice. But Lily never had a chance. When she was two, her mother walked out, announcing that she did not want to be tied down to a crippled child.
Jack wiped the cold sweat from his brow. Hatred and self-pity overcame him out of the depth of his conscience. He never knew where his wife went, but his life hit a downward path—too much drinking and gambling, too many fights. He recalled with an oath that last fight over a game of cards when tempers and blood ran hot together. He was doing time now on a manslaughter conviction.
After Jack went to prison, Lily was put into foster care. She never walked in her five short years of life. The only kind spot in Jack’s heart was for the nice elderly couple who had cared for Lily.
Jack stared at the ceiling, remembering every detail of Lily’s last visit. Her yellow straw bonnet stuck up just right on top of her yellow curls, making a frame for her doll-like face. Eyes, blue like sapphires, flashed at him from behind the wire screen that separated them in the visiting room. Both dimples showed when she smiled. A dress of yellow ruffles and ribbons hid the thinness of her body and made her look every inch the living Lily that she was.
Jack sat up, cringing at the memory of the potted lily his own Lily had brought him. She had hugged the clay pot before she let go of it. Then she said, “Daddy, this is me. I am going to be with you all the time. Every time you see this lily, think of me, for I am your Lily!”
Lily soon had to wave goodbye, but the blooming lily remained to brighten his world of gloom, filling his cell with the slightest suggestion of perfume, so light, so alive, so pure! Not even the foul prison air stifled it. A thousand times a day Jack had stared at the blossom, looking through misty eyes into the face of Lily. “Daddy, this is me,” the silent blossom cried into his heart. Tender care kept the plant alive. Jack dreamed of the day when he would walk from this prison a free man. He would take her away, down south where sunshine would bring color to her cheeks and a smile to her face.
However, one night Jack’s world caved in. The chaplain had tried to soften the shock with words of hope, but it was no use. Lily was dead. Pneumonia. Jack folded the note and walked out of the chaplain’s office with head held low. From that night on he was like a man walking in his sleep. Nothing had mattered any more. Nothing.
The next day, as he moved the fading plant to a sunny spot, his hands trembled and he dropped it. The stem snapped as the pot smashed into pieces on the cement floor. Jack was stunned—too stunned to move for a long time. Then, dropping to his knees, he gathered the fragments of clay, earth, and plant and molded them into a mound in a corner of his cell. Lily was dead—the mound of dirt was her grave. “Daddy, this is me.” Jack turned away. He could not endure the sight of her lonely grave.
A buzzer brought Jack out of his memories and to his feet. Lights blinked on as he listened to a shuffle of feet. Then he remembered. There was going to be a sunrise service in the chapel. It was still dark. No service for him he thought. Never! Lily was dead and with her had died all his hopes and dreams. There was only one thing left for him to do and that was to hang himself. As he walked toward his window Jack glanced down and froze in his tracks. The lily, which had lain in its grave for a year, had burst into life! A lily blossom stood in triumph on the dirt tomb. “THIS IS ME, DADDY, THIS IS ME!” The words rang like a silver bell in Jack’s heart. He bowed his head as hot tears rolled down his face and dropped to the floor.
Jack found a seat in the chapel just as the chaplain rose from behind a bank of lilies, opened his Bible and began to read, “Jesus said … I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die. Believest thou this?” (John 11:25,26).
Jack leaned forward. He did not know the Bible said this. In fact, he had never read the Bible. The chaplain explained the way to receive forgiveness for sins. Suddenly Jack felt his sins heavy as mountains weighing down upon him. Would God forgive him? “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8), explained the chaplain. Jack fell to his knees in earnest prayer,
confessing his sins to God and trusting the Lord Jesus Christ who died for him (Romans 10:9). When he rose to his feet, he knew his load of sin and guilt was all gone (Acts 10:43). He was forgiven! He was filled with peace and joy!
Later, tears of joy filled his eyes as he knelt to pray beside the blooming lily in his cell. Someday he would meet Lily in heaven. Jack was not alone now. He felt the sweet presence of his Saviour who promises to “never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5).
You will have this same peace, joy, and a sure hope for the future when you turn to the Lord Jesus Christ in repentance and faith. He will not turn you away (John 6:37).