I once met an Alaskan Inuit Indian named Ernie, he had been a rabid alcoholic who lived in the doorways and service alleys of a six square block area in a major American city. One of his legs was a full inch shorter than the other, he had been run over by a delivery truck as he slept under a large piece of cardboard in a service alley. It broke his leg so badly that sharp shards of bone protruding from his shin had to be removed and the ends trimmed.
While he was in the county hospital he was told of a program at the University Health Sciences Building offering hard core alcoholics a certain amount of cash that would be paid following participation in a study. Participants would be given a number of glasses of whiskey each day laced with a radioactive iodine, and would be scanned daily to track where it goes and how it affects the organs of the human body. Ernie signed on immediately and went through the entire course. When the study was over he went to collect his money and they were astounded, the study was done on terminal alcoholics and he was the sole survivor.
Not long after that one of his siblings from Alaska who had been looking for him finally located him and told him that he needed to return to Alaska as their father was dying and wanted to see him. He was adamantly opposed and never wanted to see him again, because when Ernie’s mother passed away his father had put the children up for adoption, Ernie felt that they had been abandoned, his life went downhill and he was unable to forgive his father remaining estranged for many years. He knew in his heart that it was time to make amends and he returned to Alaska only to find that his father had passed away.
Ernie had been sober for several months, he had given his heart to Jesus Christ as he had been fearful of reverting back to his previous lifestyle and wanted his life to change. He sought out a Catholic priest who had been working with alcoholics and told him the story of his life, of his hatred for his father and yet how badly he felt at not being able to be reconciled to his father before his passing. The wise old priest told him to write a letter to his deceased father telling him that he forgives him for abandoning him and how he had lived his life in filth and squalor as a miserable alcoholic and then to bring the letter to him. Ernie wrote a heartfelt letter and brought it to the priest who was sitting in a chair, he had Ernie kneel beside him and read the letter to him. As tears ran down Ernie’s cheeks the priest placed his hand on his head and said, "Ernie, I forgive you in the name of your father."
The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. (Psalm 51:17)
As Ernie related this story to me he stood there clean and sober, shaved with a beautiful head of grey hair. He was wearing an expensive three piece suit. He had gotten his life together and was now the CEO of a very successful drug and alcohol treatment center for Native Americans. His own story was similar to the story of the Prodigal Son. (Luke 15:11-32)
He is not alone, there are many prodigal sons and daughters in the world and all need a change of heart and cleansing of the soul that only a confession and a relationship with Jesus Christ will bring.