The short story below has probably impacted me more deeply than any other I’ve read. I first came across it twenty years ago in a borrowed book. Ten years later I hunted for the book on Amazon just to find this tale. And this week I was moved to tears again as I re-read it.
It's an account related by Robert A. Seiple in his 1990 book One Life at a Time, written when he was President of World Vision, a humanitarian organisation:
“Sitting across a small wooden table in Da Nang, Vietnam, I listened to a father tenderly tell the story of the 15-year-old child beside him.
It was beautiful to watch the father talk. His eyes said it all. So much compassion, so much love. And the child needed all of both. He was blind and mentally retarded.
The relationship between the man and the boy was a miracle in itself. In the last turbulent days of the war, the man’s wife had been involved in a brief affair with another man. She had become pregnant. By the time the child was born, her remorse was so great that she attempted to kill her child.
She nearly succeeded. Leaving the house, she went into a remote area, dug a shallow grave and buried her child alive. But her husband was already looking for her, and he found her bending over the fresh mound of dirt. Working feverishly, he dug the infant out, but not before the lack of oxygen had rendered the child permanently blind and severely retarded.
The father took the distraught wife and broken child home. He gave the boy a name – his name – Tran Dinh Loi. He loved him as his own, and his love for his wife transcended the enormity of her sin.
In the intervening years, a voice of rare and wonderful beauty developed in the young lad. He used it now to sing Vietnamese love songs for us. He sang softly with a smile that spread across his face, his head moving from side to side – a Vietnamese Stevie Wonder. When he sang, we felt the love and compassion of the adoptive father flowing from this young life.
A scandalous birth had emerged out of the brokenness of a fallen world. Sin was buried in a grave that ultimately could not contain the body. That body was rescued by a father whose love was greater than his personal pain. The unfaithful wife was completely forgiven. Her sins were remembered no more.
We sat around a small wooden table in a poor household and listened to a child’s love songs. Oh, the richness of love, the incomprehensibility of forgiveness! I have learned that there are no limits to love.”
I’ve been asking myself, why does this affect me so profoundly? There are many facets to this story: The image of the husband embracing the fruit of his wife’s transgression – his compassion wiping out her shame. A tale of love taking a hopeless mess and transforming it into something incredibly beautiful. The vivid account of a father's love - such an amazing reflection of our heavenly Father’s love for us.
All these strike me. But there's something else that impacts me even more: Deep down I know I am called to love like this too. Through Love Himself living inside me, I carry this same power to transform broken situations. It’s a scary, awesome thing, this Love That Transforms. And when people hurt us the most, when it’s hardest to forgive – at these very moments we have the chance to create something of rare and indescribable beauty.