In the parable of the Prodigal Son, the son returns home full of remorse and seeking his fatherâ€™s forgiveness. Just as God does for us all, the father extended forgiveness before the son asks for it.
In Leviâ€™s Will by W. Dale Cramer, the lessons of the parable are not immediately heeded. Levi Mullet, though a God-fearing Amish man, refuses to extend such Grace to his prodigal son, Will.
This refusal, which lasts decades, taints Willâ€™s relationship with the family he creates after he leaves his stiflingly legalistic Amish Community. Thus, in Levi’s Will, we find a legacy born of Levi’s wilful emphasis on the Law, and his blind refusal to realize the true nature of love.
It is his escape from his family and his community for which Will asks forgiveness. He leaves behind a pregnant girl his father, Levi, and the rest of the Community attempt to force him to marry. Will refuses to stay and face this fate, which he believes was brought upon him by a Community desperate to retain its youngâ€”even if it meant committing deceit by omission.
Will leaves, but he canâ€™t completely escape the effects of his dishonorable leave-taking and, eventually faces his fatherâ€™s hardened resolve. Levi refuses to extend forgiveness and also subjects Will to repeated humiliations as Will tries to earn forgiveness.
This response, along with Willâ€™s remorse and inability to forgive himself, causes Will to live in the way that he rejected when leaving his father. He emphasizes work over Grace as he tries to win back the approval of his father. He places the same kind of barriers between himself and his sons as were between him and his father.
Will goes through life throwing himself into work, at the expense of the care and raising of his family, believing that this will redeem him. His long-suffering wife continues to love himâ€”but his troubled younger son, Riley, spirals down into a world of materialism and self-gratification. Eventually, Riley loses his own family as a result.
Finally, Will finds the Grace of God through the simple act of asking God what He wants . God shows Will that he had redemption within his grasp the whole time.
“He hath shewed the, O man, what is good, and what doth the Lord require of the, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with my God?”
He is able to forgive Levi for being too weak to forgive him. He discovers that, the â€œday that I stopped trying to earn my fatherâ€™s forgiveness and gave him mineâ€”that was the day things started to change.â€
Will realizes that God does not require man to earn forgiveness–for as did the father of the prodigal son–He extends it before we can even ask–and He requires that we extend it to others in the same way. This knowledge enables Will to forgive and receive forgiveness from his son, Riley–reviving love between father and son.
Levi’s Will is very profound book. It is written, not in a chronological flow, but as a tapestry, going back and forth from past to present. The forays into the past explain the presentâ€”and deepen the readerâ€™s understanding of the way that â€œevery manâ€™s failure dips its roots into the previous generation and drops its seeds into the next.”
In the end, the book teaches us that “Somehow you must come to understand that God is love, that love is proof of God, and forgiveness is the proof of love.”
This is a book well worth reading.
* I received this book as a gift from Mind & Media in order to write this review.