We need to stand in the gap for the vulnerable
and give them the best news of life—the gospel.
This piece is the continuation of Wednesday’s post about the boy who threatened to kill our son, his friend, his biological father, and himself. He had a plan. He was serious. He was a desperate, hurting soul. These things happen—even in small towns.
I hadn’t seen or spoken with Jason since his discharge several weeks prior. He spent a week in the locked psych unit. Just like our oldest, our daughter Anna. Same month of May, one year ago. Same diagnosis, same medications prescribed. Except Anna wasn’t homicidal—just suicidal. Like that’s so much less? Both were desperately ill, brains broken in ways we can’t see except through outward manifestations that too many still want to judge—to avoid and pretend they don’t exist. Both needed temporary, serious measures to bring them back to sanity—to stability—to health. To give them a chance for wholeness, for joy.
On our knees in the back garden, digging under those invasive, choking roots of quack grass that had infested, threatening the life of blooms, I asked him . . .
“So do you know that I was the one who told your mom to take you to the ER and get you admitted to the psych unit?”
“What do you think about me doing that?”
“I guess it was the right thing. I’m calmer.”
“Did you really want to kill your biological dad—and yourself?”
“Yes. I did.”
“How are you feeling now that you’re on medication and in therapy?”
“Much better. I can think clearly.”
“That’s great! I’m happy for you.”
“Yeah. But I’m still really mad at my biological dad.”
I let him talk a bit. I listened. I empathized. Truth is, Jason got a raw deal there. But after a bit of listening, I stopped him.
“Is your therapist talking with you about your anger toward your biological dad?”
“Great. Has he taught you that under anger is usually a whole lot of pain—of sadness for not getting or having something you want so much?”
“Well it’s true. Anger is often a cover-up. It covers the deeper, scarier emotions of sad and scared.”
He looked at me. I think he was absorbing.
“So, I want to help you with the here and now, how you go forward. I like you, Jason, and I hate to see you stuck in anger. It’ll only hurt you in the end—and possibly others—even others you really care about. You game?”
“Yeah.” He had a hint of nervous laughter.
“So where are you with God these days?”
“Not very good.”
“What do you mean?”
“I believe God exists. That’s about it.”
“So what about Jesus? What do you know of Jesus?”
“That he’s the Son of God.”
By now, we had both put down our trowels. Still on our knees, he’s tracking me, making solid eye contact.
“Would you like to be free of your anger? Would you like to let go?”
“YEAH!” He laughed slightly, his facial expression saying, “Now THAT’S an obvious answer! But I have NO idea how to DO that!”
But I thought about Jesus and how he asked the sick, the crippled, the broken if they WANTED to be healed, even if they couldn’t fathom HOW they might be healed. I know what Jesus knows, from experience—my own, all the many broken people I’ve encountered, both personally and professionally as a psychologist.
Some people want to complain but never grow. Some people want to stay stuck in anger and blame because that’s more comfortable than looking inside at their sorrow and fear—their pain. They avoid their own responsibility for growth by trying to make others responsible for their pain, for scapegoating the ones they see as the “problem” so they don’t have to look at themselves and humble themselves and do the HARD, often PAINFUL work involved in letting ourselves receive healing, so we can be set free, and let others go free also.
“Well, I asked you that question because the answer ISN’T obvious to me. Some people don’t want to grow. Some people would rather stay where they are, complain, and blame others. If you want to grow, if you really want to show how tough you are, I can show you the way—the first step—but YOU have to take it. It’s easy. Then again, it’s not. You STILL game?”
“Okaaaaay.” His tone was cautious, not knowing exactly where I was leading. But I sensed permission to proceed.
So I explained the gospel message to Jason, right there on our dirt-crusted knees, right there in our backyard, right there in that garden full of weeds with flowers trying to find their way up and have a chance to bloom, to offer something good to any who might pass by.
“Would you like to accept the salvation of Jesus—to be forgiven of all your wrongs—to be set free from guilt and shame—to let go of needing to stay angry at those who have hurt you so much?”
“Yes. I want that.”
“OK. Well, I’ll pray with you right now, if you want. I’ll help you pray to Jesus and ask His help and accept his salvation.” I half-expected him to say, “No thanks. Maybe later.” Or some other brush-off.
But he bowed his head. So I placed my hand on his shoulder. And he prayed out loud after me—each line—every single word, admitting truth to Jesus and to himself and to me. He received God’s free gift of salvation on his knees in our garden. And when he opened his eyes and looked into mine, I saw a smile I had never seen before. Not some cocky, hard-ass smile that I had grown used to. A soft smile. A genuine smile.
“How do you feel?” I wondered.
“Like a big burden just got lifted off me.”
“Good. That’s what Jesus wants to do for you every day of your life. Come to Him. Confess your sins. Receive His forgiveness. And move on, walking in His ways, the best you can, by His help. Believe me. It’s the life you REALLY want, not the life you THINK you want.”
I told him how he’s welcome on our farm and once he has worked off his debt (which he doesn’t have to do with Jesus), he can start working for pay. He was thrilled. And he said that he didn’t mind working off his debt, because he likes being on our farm.
“I was hoping for a job where I could work outside. I like landscaping stuff. This is actually fun for me.”
“Great! It’s a win-win situation! It’s always a win-win situation, when we work WITH God, instead of AGAINST God.”
I stood up and lightened the moment with a bit of my sassy . . .
“Now get back to work! I’ve got to go make YOUR dinner!”
He smiled and picked up his trowel. I turned and walked into the house, ready to make a feast. And then we sat ‘round the table, lit by candles, and we all gave thanks.
I come to the garden alone
While the dew is still on the roses
And the voice I hear
Falling on my ear
The Son of God discloses
And He walks with me
And He talks with me
And He tells me I am His own
And the joy we share
As we tarry there
None other has ever known.
(C. Austin Miles, 1912)
The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. John 20:20
‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’