Malachi 4: 5,6   “See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes.  He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.”

          Ten years ago  there was a terrible chasm between my son and myself.  He was living on the streets in Vancouver and I was living my life in Ontario as a respectable teacher.  The chasm was as wide as the physical distance that separated us and as deep as any spiritual estrangement from God can be.  We were both at the bottom of a pit, suffering, angry and in pain.  My son was in the grip of his addiction and I was in the grip of bitter angry disappointment.  Both conditions are symptomatic of the spiritual disease of  self-centeredness;  “Now they [parent and child] were unlike, and severed by that unlikeness from each other. Yet not on earth, for on earth parents and children were alike alienated from God, and united between themselves in wickedness or worldliness. The common  love of the world or of worldly pursuits, or gain or self-exaltation, . . . ” (Barnes’ Notes)

          There were times that my wife and I didn’t know if our son was alive or dead in an alley somewhere.  As a religious man I prayed every morning that God would make my son see reason and that God would ‘straighten’ him out so he would be like his dad – respectable.  I prayed in a spirit of anger.  I prayed in a spirit of shame.  I prayed in a spirit of resentment. I prayed in a spirit of self righteousness.   In bitterness the questions that I turned over in my mind were; “Why couldn’t he live right like me?  Why is he doing this to me and my wife?”  My son’s lifestyle was an affront to the many idols that I religiously worshipped – success, respectability, power, and worldly prosperity.

          One morning, as I was praying fervently asking God to make my son live right and be more like me.  I  could feel myself getting angrier and more bitter about the way my son was treating me.  I was mired deep in self pity and resentment, all the while praying piously.  All of a sudden a terrible vision came upon me.  I was transported to my son’s funeral.  As I was standing by his graveside, watching his coffin being lowered into the cold earth a voice asked; “Is this what you want?  When he’s dead will you love him then?” 

          A terrible feeling of loss overwhelmed me.  A great absence opened in my soul.  God showed me what I would experience – the loss of my son and the loss of His presence in my life.  This was my personal preview of hell.   I was struck to the marrow of my bones.  The truth was,  I loved myself way more than my son.  My son was God’s gift to me and all I could think of was that he was making me look bad.  Since I couldn’t help him, nobody could  – not even God.  In one terrible instant God granted me a vision of the enormity of my depravity and where it would lead.    He brought me to my knees.  It all happened in a moment yet it seemed like an eternity – my prayer changed completely.  From then on, my prayer was a plea for His mercy for my son and for me!  I asked God to bring my son back – to heal the rift between us.  I asked God to help me love my son His way.

        John the Baptist had the spirit of Elijah and his was the baptism of repentance.   That day, I was touched and changed.  My spirit was baptised with the baptism of repentance.  There were still many days before God would bring to completion His rescue and bring my son home.  As I waited and prayed my faith in God was solid and my prayers were pure.  If there are any fathers reading this who carry resentment towards their children please ask God to change your heart.  A hard heart is a terrible thing – it kills you from the inside out.  Love of self can deceive you into cutting your children down and eventually out of your life.  The reality of that loss is all the more terrible for being brought about by a resentful and bitter attitude.  Please, don’t go to that great and terrible destruction.

     “It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, TO TURN THE HEARTS OF THE FATHERS BACK TO THE CHILDREN, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (Luke 1:17)  My heart was turned and prepared for the work that the Lord would do in my life and my son’s life.  He delivered my son from addiction.  He healed my family and repaired the broken relationships.  He healed me.   Today my son has a beautiful wife,  his own home and an honours degree from university.  This month he will start his ministry at  the drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre where Jesus brought him eight years ago to get clean and sober.

    Today, my son is my friend.   God keeps His Promises.  Praise the Lord!