Give What You Never Had
He was the dirty kid. Smelly and inclined to eat boogers. He walked hunched and kept his head on a swivel, scanning for danger which probably wasn't there. Except at home, there was definitely danger there.
We played ball together, me and John. He was a nice kid but he didn't talk much. His spirit had been beaten out of him by his father with a PVC pipe. I don't remember how we learned that he was abused, but we learned it too late. John was underdeveloped socially, physically, and spiritually. He was much more like a wild animal than most people - a prey animal.
His father would smile at baseball games and cheer John when he got a hit. But there was something he brought with him, this sense of creepy danger. You could see right through it. And while I must admit the darker part of me would like to give that man a taste of what he gave his son, it wouldn't do any good. God will sort him out, one way or another. I am probably supposed to pray for him, but I never have.
Back to John. He grew up in an ecosystem of violence. He adapted to it. He learned to be ready to flee at any moment. He devoted his resources to survival. I never saw any kids be mean to John, but kids are pretty harsh sometimes and I am sure John had to further adapt to ridicule as well as the abuse at home.
Maybe John's grandfather - his dad's dad - beat him. Maybe John's dad knew what it was to live with a violent man. Maybe his innocence was taken too. I bet there's a cycle of masculine depravity in John's family, and there's a legacy of brokenness.
I lost track of John over 20 years ago. I don't even know if he's alive. But I picture him, and for some reason I picture him with his own children. I picture him using his crouch to engage with them on their level, with that shy smile of his. I picture him on his knees when his son scrapes his knee. This is what I want to see, to see the cycle broken, to see a generational shift in the right direction.
An object in motion tends to stay in motion unless acted upon by an outside force.
A broken family tends to stay a broken family unless acted upon by love.
What if John was introduced to the gospel? What if someone along the way told John that he is loved beyond his understanding and that instead of inflicting pain, his Heavenly Father - his real father - is there to protect him? I wonder what impact that could have on John. I bet at first he wouldn't believe it. It's contrary to his life experience. But maybe it would sink in. Maybe his heart would transform as he was lifted out of despair like a butterfly emerges from a cocoon.
Maybe he'd even feel compelled to forgive his father.
There are Johns all around us. Maybe you are a John. Maybe you've been hurt and scarred by your family or by someone you should have trusted. Maybe it's balled you up inside so tight it hurts. You were not meant to carry that pain and resentment.
Close your eyes and release it into the hands of Christ. Exhale.
It is for freedom that we've been set free by Jesus. When he bore the sins of humanity on the cross, he also unlocked the ability for us to be who we were truly meant to be: children. Safe children playing in our Father's house.