Updated: Sep 16, 2022
“…if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” -2 Corinthians 5:17
A Retrieved Reformation is a short story by O. Henry. The narrative opens with protagonist Jimmy Valentine’s release from prison. Valentine, a career criminal, was to serve a four sentence, but only served ten months thanks to his connections in the criminal underworld. His arrest and imprisonment were occasioned by his involvement as a safecracker in a robbery.
“Is there a reason to love Jesus? Yes, there is. “…God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” - Romans 5:8
Upon his release, Valentine returns home, retrieves his safecracking tools and skips town.
Not long after a string of cash robberies takes place matching Valentine’s MO and Ben Price, the detective who arrested him, begins to suspect Valentine is back to his old ways. Valentine doesn’t stay too long in any one place and pretty soon has travelled to Elmore, Arkansas, where he intends to rob the local bank.
As fate would have it, Valentine falls in love with Annabel Adams, who is ironically the banker’s daughter. Valentine straight away resolves that his bank-robbing days are over and commits to a life of authentic venture. He chooses to become a shoemaker, having learnt the craft while in prison, and adopts the pseudonym Ralph D. Spencer.
In less than a year, Spencer has found financial success. His trade is flourishing, and his social life is on the upturn. He is now engaged to marry Annabel in two weeks. Valentine/Spencer then pens a letter to an old friend, asking him to collect his old safecracking tools. As he is satisfied with his new life, he recognizes he won’t need them anymore.
Dear Old Friend:
I want you to meet me at Sullivan’s place next week, on the evening of the 10th. I want to give you my tools. I know you’ll be glad to have them. You couldn’t buy them for a thousand dollars. I finished with the old business—a year ago. I have a nice shop. I’m living a better life, and I’m going to marry the best girl on earth two weeks from now. It’s the only life—I wouldn’t ever again touch another man’s money. After I marry, I’m going to go further west, where I’ll never see anyone who knew me in my old life. I tell you, she’s a wonderful girl. She trusts me.
Your old friend, Jimmy.
While Spencer has been building his business and planning his wedding, Price has followed him to the bank owned by Annabel’s family. On a day in question, he sees Valentine carrying his tools. It was the very same day he had arranged to get rid of it. Price suspects he is about to rob the bank and waits outside and watches.
The Elmore bank had a new safe. That very same day Mr. Adams, Annabel’s father, wanting everyone to see it decides to show off the bank’s new safe. While this is happening, her nieces play in and around the safe until the elder of the two accidentally traps the younger inside. As it is a brand new safe it hasn’t yet been wound. It has no combination. The old banker tries to open the door but can’t. Distraught knowing her niece is trapped inside Annabel hopelessly asks Spencer to help.
He knows he can help, but that in so doing, he risks exposing himself. He risks losing is new life and shattering his impending marriage to Annabel. Ultimately, he decides to use his skill—and tools—to save the girl. He put his bag on the table and opened it flat. In ten minutes—faster than he had ever done it before—he had the door open. Price saw it all.
Ready to turn himself in, Valentine/Spencer approaches Price, who pretends not to know him. Price walks away and leaves Valentine/Spencer to marry Annabel and enjoy his new life.
In reading the Bible we are reminded “…if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). The love that Jesus offers is irresistible. Just one look at the Saviour is sufficient to transform a sinner into a saint. That transformation arises when we fall in love with Jesus. The process begins by turning your eyes upon Jesus and looking full in His wonderful face. Then the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.
I Is there a reason to love Jesus? Yes, there is. “…God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8). It is for this reason the songwriter declares, “O, how I love Jesus, O, how I love Jesus, O, how I love Jesus- Because he first loved me.” Jesus offered His life for us so that we can have a renewed experience in Him.
Accordingly, we are admonished, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”- Romans 12:2