No Narrow Mercies

Special Guest Post by Leslie Leyland Fields


It was my first visit to my father in his new nursing home. It had taken two days and four flights to get there. I hadn’t seen him for 8 years. When the divorce was finalized decades ago, he had moved thousands of miles from his children. I was glad.

I opened the door and winced at the olfactory cocktail of urine, chlorine, and Febreze. Survivors sat dazed and blank in their wheelchairs in the living room, but no one who lived here was at home here, I suspected.

I came because God had tied a noose around my heart and pulled it tight. I could no longer escape the words from Micah : “And what does the lord require of you but to love mercy, to do justice and to walk humbly with your God”?

I came wanting to love my father near the end of his life—for the first time. I came wanting him to love me—for the first time. And even more—I came wanting him to know the love of Christ.

The visit, five days long, did not go as I hoped. He proclaimed his atheism. I was defensive. I remembered why I had never liked him. I felt like a failure. But I began to care about him, deeply. He was so very alone. Did anyone love him? I knew, as I left, that I would be calling, writing, praying. I knew I would come again. Was that enough? How would he know about God’s love?

It was time now to leave. I inched toward the exit doors, my heart tight and heavy. A woman sat at a table near the door smiling at me. It was Sally. My father had introduced me to her that first day as she hobbled down the hall, her body twisted with arthritis.

I hesitated, then came over to her table. “Sally, I’ve got to go catch my plane. But I’m so thankful that my father has a friend here. “

“Oh yes,” she smiled back, her eyes on mine.

“Does my father talk to you?”

“He doesn’t say a lot, but yes, we talk.”

“What do you talk about?”

“Your father and I and Bill, we meet out back in the smoking shed every day. We talk about God. Your father says he doesn’t believe in God, but I’m not so sure.” She lifts her eyebrows and looks wise.

My eyes widen. “You talk about the Lord with my father?” I did not even know she was a believer.

“I sure do,” she says, smiling her beatific smile.

I see Sally and my father out in the smoking shed sharing cigarettes and the gospel.

I grabbed her hands, curled mine over her swollen, curled fingers. ‘You’re the answer to my prayers.”  We talked for five more minutes, then hugged, promised to pray for one another. I walked out, my mind ablaze.

Are God’s mercies really this vast? Narrow is the gate that leads to heaven, and so shall it always be, but wide are God’s mercies, so much wider and vaster than ever I knew. And this is how it went: Jesus, the hound of heaven, lovingly dogged my father’s heels all his days, even at the last. A loving witness was constantly present with my reclusive, renegade father.

I don’t know if my father ever yielded to the God he was unsure of before he breathed his last lung of air.  But I got to come two more times. I got to love him. I got to love mercy. And my father did not die alone. His children forgave him.

I could so easily have missed it all, these staggering displays of God’s character and heart.

Narrow is the gate, but wide are His mercies.

Go and be mercy to another.


DEEPER STILL: Do you struggle with forgiveness in some way? Do you have a broken relationship that needs a healing touch? Give us a shout-out in the comments section {you don’t have to leave details unless you are comfortable} and we will join you in prayer for this situation.


forgiving our fathers and mothersLeslie’s newest book, Forgiving Our Fathers and Mothers:Finding Freedom from Hurt and Hate was released this week. If you struggle with the deep pain of a broken relationship with a parent, you will want to consider this book.

13 thoughts on “No Narrow Mercies

  1. God is truly amazing, isn’t He?! I am grateful for you and you father that he had Sally to speak truth to him. And thankful for a God who cares so deeply for all of us. Beautiful Leslie!

    • Thank you Sarah! Yes—there was an entire trail of bread left by our So Gracious Lord …. who does desire that all will come to Him. Thank you for reading!

  2. I am having a very difficult forgiving my ex husband. He still does things just to irritate me and to make my life difficult deliberately. I know forgiveness is for me, not for him, but it’s still so very hard!

    • Bethany, indeed. This is a tough situation, especially when someone desires to hurt you. Imagine living with a heart like that! If you can step away for a bit, maybe you can find pity and compassion for someone who has to hurt others to somehow feel better about himself. How very sad . … I do spend some time in the book helping us to see through eyes of compassion, even those who are still hurting us. Blessings, sister, as you work to wage peace . ..

    • Hi Cheryl, it is indeed. For some it takes almost a lifetime. But there is so much good news in it all. One of the points I make in the book is that our forgiveness will never be perfect, will never be done perfectly. Our efforts now are an echo of GOd’s perfect forgiveness—and ours will be perfected one day as well. I think that gives so much hope!

      • Beautiful point, Leslie. I appreciate you saying our forgiveness will never be perfect, but how are efforts echo God’s….and how ours will be perfected one day.
        Sounds like I need to order your book!!

    • Hi God’s Girl! (love that handle!) thanks for reading–twice! We all struggle with this—it isn’t easy or instant, but there is help all along the way! Blessings on each step!

  3. I came across this post and I just had to stop and read it. FORGIVENESS… wow. Maybe today wouldn’t be a good day for me to write anything because I feel so much anger and hurt inside. Last night my dad was admitted to the hospital. He sexually abused me from early years to 12 yrs old. I had been working on forgiveness for what he has done to me. Before Christmas he was admitted to the hospital too and I went to visit him and we had a long talk about my growing up. From that night I was able to forgive him for what he had done to me… I’m not sure if I would say completely forgive him but I felt more at ease about how I felt about myself towards him. When he was admitted last night…my mom and I went up because we didn’t know if he would stay over night or not. My mom and I had about an hour alone and she started talking to me and said..’I’m sorry” I looked at her all confused and said “why?” then the truth came out. All these years I was wondering how a mom wouldn’t notice anything about her child if something was wrong… I thought I was a good actress for her not to notice that I was being sexually abused by my dad. Last night it all came out. My mom told me that she knew…she heard me cry…but never said or did anything to stop it. It’s not like my dad was beating her up or being aggressive to her… my dad was just abusing me and she never said a word. I have been in tears since last night. Not knowing how I should really feel. I would tell myself that my mom never knew anything or she would of stopped it. I guess I’m still in shock and overwhelmed by the news. How will I ever forgive her for this? I am so confused and hurt.

    • Dear Carole, I am so very sorry this has happened—and that you were hurt by both parents this way. I can only imagine the devastation that you must feel right now. I hope that you and your mother can continue talking about this, to help you understand what she was going through at the time and to help her understand what you were going through. Perhaps a counselor can help you both here? There must be some reason she didn’t intervene. It suggests that she felt a lot of fear and insecurity. I hope you will give her a chance. Whatever she says, though, she made a terrible mistake—and she knows it. Where to go from here? I think counseling would be most helpful. Don’t try to work through this alone. thanks so much for writing. I am praying for you now, that you would find a trusted friend to help you through this, and that you would also find peace and rest and wholeness before your Heavenly Father, who loves you to the point of death—and who desires you to be free and whole and full again.

  4. What a beautiful article. We are all called to extend grace to each other. It is one of the hardest things we will ever have to do.

  5. I am trying to forgive a man for not loving me. After more than 12 years of off and on engagement, he announced that he wants to end it. I know it wasn’t the best relationship, but it was important to me. I am in shock and feel numb. I feel lost and alone.

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