A BARKING DOG all in the distance brought Jack out of his sleep and back into consciousness. He lay on his prison cot and cursed the empti-ness, the loneliness, and the blackness around him. Morning was about to dawn, ushering in the an-niversary of Lily's last visit to see him. 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. 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. She wanted a good time.
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 the cards when hot tempers and blood ran together. He was doing time now on a manslaughter conviction.
Lily had lived out her days in a crippled children's home. 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 in the home.
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 thin-ness 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 good-bye, 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 mist 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 a 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.
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. He folded the telegram and stalked out of the chap-lain's office with head downward. From that night on he was like a man walking in his sleep. Nothing 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 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 unto her, 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 weigh down upon him. Would God forgive him? "Jesus died in your place, for your sins," (2 Corinthians 5:21 ), 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 them. (Romans 10:9). When he rose to his feet, he knew his load of sin and guilt were all gone. (Acts 10:43 ). He was forgiven! He was filled with peace and joy!
New tears of joy filled his eyes as he later 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 promised to "never leave thee, nor forsake thee." (Hebrews 13:5).