The Greatest Gift
By Brian Lawrence (2004)
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23
When the wind tore the page out of the massive family Bible, Peter shrieked, a shrill, pained sound lost in the moans of the winter storm. He ran after the retreating page, which ascended into the darkness until it disappeared, leaving only millions of white dots plummeting toward him. He hung his head. Only one hundred yards from home, still a mile to walk, and already his gift was damaged. Nothing to do, but push on. He resumed his journey and trudged toward his grandpa's house on the other side of Millersville, the tiny northern Missouri town he'd lived in all of his ten years.
He wondered if his parents missed him yet, busy wrapping the last gifts. Probably not. They wouldn't check on him for another hour. He'd left at nine-thirty, the time his family normally would have been returning from his grandparent's house, if his grandmother had still been alive.
His legs flew out from under him. The Bible tumbled from his hands and landed on its spine. Several pages, pictures, and a wedding invitation burst out, blowing away into oblivion. Peter fell in a mound of snow that had been shoveled from the sidewalk. The impact punched his breath from his lungs and he struggled to regain it. Above him a flock of papers fluttered in the gusts of wind, more of his gift lost to the merciless storm. With a grunt of determination and a groan of despair, he pushed himself up from the snow and scrambled to his gift. More pages tore from the Bible. Another photo disappeared in the night.
Peter closed the book and hefted it into his arms. A single tear fell onto the leather cover. All he wanted to do was get the Bible to his grandpa, give it to him for Christmas. Peter had tried to get his parents to look through it, but they had refused. But if his grandpa would look through it, then maybe what happened back in August would be forgotten, would be forgiven. Just maybe seeing the photos and the treasured scraps from their families' lives would make his grandpa realize what had been lost.
With renewed determination, Peter pushed on, clutching the Bible. Soon, the weight of the big book took its toll. A strong wind gust blew him sideways and he lost his grip. The Bible dropped. The wind rifled through the pages, tearing out more treasures. Peter snatched the Bible off the ground and ran.
He collided with a car parked across the sidewalk. The Bible bounced to the ground. The wind pried open the book, ripping away years of memories and chapters of God's Word. Peter slumped against the car, knowing he was a half-mile away yet. He watched the book, just out of reach, as the wind decimated it. Page after page, memory after memory fleeing into the black, cruel night. Just like his grandmother had wasted away, the book and any chance of his family reconciling now wasted away before him. And as with his grandmother, this wasn't his grandfather's fault. Peter wondered if his parents would blame grandpa for the destruction of the family Bible like they had blamed him for the loss of Peter's grandmother.
Peter heard something. A voice? He heard it again. Far away, carried on the wind, a voice saying "Continue on." But that was crazy. Who would be out now except a stupid ten year-old with a stupid dream of wanting to spend Christmas Eve with his grandpa?
"Get up, Peter. Continue on".
Peter saw no one. Scared, he pushed himself to his feet and retrieved the Bible, now nothing more than a shell with a few remaining pages and continued toward his grandpa's.
A half hour later, he made it. He banged on the door. Waited. Banged again. The porch light came on and his grandpa opened the door.
"Peter! What in tarnation are you doing here? Are your parents here?"
Peter said nothing, just pushed through the door and slumped onto the oval rug his grandmother had made many years ago. When his grandpa leaned over him, Peter shoved what remained of the Bible into the scowling man's face and said, "I brought this for you." Peter then collapsed into sobs.
Peter stared through misty eyes at the few remaining pages of the family Bible. Yesterday had been his grandpa's funeral. Today, Peter sat in his grandpa's house reading the pages for the first time in seventeen years, knowing that because of these few pages God had preserved, Peter would one day see his grandpa in heaven. And so would his parents. They'd all have a joyful reunion, much like Christmas day seventeen years ago.
When Peter had stopped sobbing, he had wiped his eyes and looked around him. Not far away, his grandpa was on his knees, also sobbing. He must have sensed Peter's gaze, for he swiped an arm across his face and motioned Peter to come over.
The older man, smelling of Ben Gay, showed Peter the Bible pages. The first page had been written on, a circled number one to the left of a verse. Romans 3:23, his grandpa had said, shows we are all sinners and separated from God. At the end of the verse were the numbers "6:23". His grandpa flipped two pages. On that page was a circled number two in the left margin by Romans 6:23. Grandpa explained that because of our sin, we will die and be separated from God, but that God has a gift for us that can give us eternal life with Him. To the right of the verse were the numbers "5:8".
Peter's grandpa flipped back one page. Another circled number, this one a three. Romans 5:8, grandpa explained shows God's great love for us, that even though we are sinners, Jesus Christ died for us so that we may have God's great gift. After this verse were the numbers "10:13". Grandpa flipped two more pages. As Peter expected, there was a circled number four. And Grandpa explained that all we have to do is to call on the name of the Lord, as Romans 10:13 says, and we will be saved. He explained that saved means we'll have eternal life in heaven with God. At the end of the verse were the numbers "10:9". On that same page, just a few verses above was a circled number five. Peter's Grandpa lowered his head and shook it. Large tears dropped onto the page.
After a moment that seemed an eternity to the small boy, his grandpa said, "Peter, what a fool I've been. How easy it is, and yet I never listened to your grandma. All I have to do is confess Jesus Christ with my mouth and believe in my heart that God raised Him from the dead and I will be saved. That's all I have to do."
And Peter's grandpa did just that.
"One day," his grandpa said, "I'll see your grandma again, because tonight I've received the greatest gift of all, the gift of salvation."
Peter hugged his grandpa. After a time, his grandpa pushed Peter away and asked him if he'd seen the best part. Peter shook his head and looked down at the page where his grandpa was pointing. After Romans 10:9 were three initials – "EJP". The initials stood for Esther Jane Parker. Peter's grandma.
Now, seventeen years later, Peter could not help but cry at the miracle God had allowed him to be a part of so many years ago. And the miracle had not stopped with his grandpa's salvation. That night Peter gave his life to Christ as well. He stayed with his grandpa and the next morning they went to Peter's house. After he and his grandpa had told their incredible story, his mom and dad and his twelve-year-old sister all gave their lives to Christ. Peter looked up and smiled, knowing that both his grandpa and his grandma were smiling back.
You too can have the greatest gift of all. Follow the Roman road and receive life.