Life is not about waiting for the storms to pass- it is about learning to dance in the rain.

Friday, August 29, 2008

When God Speaks, I want to listen

Lately God's been bringing people from the past into my life. I'm not sure what he's saying. But I'm trying hard to listen.

Tonight, we go to our favorite little gourmet cafe for a bit of supper (Yeah, supper! It's just the farm girl in me!) and we see a man we've know for a long time. His story is one of those that brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it.

Let's call him Jake for convenience and confidentiality. He was born second in a family of six siblings. The father was gone by the time the youngest girl was born and this man was about 8 and the oldest sister was 9. Mom struggled to feed and clothe them, but after two years, she married a harsh man with sufficient means to support her family of 6 children. The stepfather, however, didn't want the children around. They were routinely locked in a bedroom upstairs from the time they got home from school until the next morning. Six siblings from age two to age eleven, two beds, no bathroom. Usually they were fed. The oldest sister would occasionally manage to get out and go downstairs for extra food or milk for the littlest ones. If caught she was punished severely. One Chicago winter when she was about 12, she was locked out of the house in only her underwear for several hours to pay for her "crime." Jake was 13 then. He blamed himself for his sister's trauma. He cried while she shivered on the snowy doorstep, humiliated and cold because she tried to care for her little sisters. Jake became more and more reclusive, withdrawn, depressed.

One by one, the children were old enough to leave home --at age 16, 15 or 14 they each made an escape of some kind. Mostly the boys just left; the girls escaped with a boyfriend. When he was 21, Jake had a psychotic break. Life just became too much to bear. He was diagnosed as schizophrenic. I only knew him that way. Most of the time he could participate in one-on-one or small group conversations. He would lose touch with reality only when stressed, confused or embarrassed about something. Then his conversation would become disjointed and disconnected from the present. Even so, he was friendly with an air of childlike innocence that was appealing.

He's still like that. We saw him tonight eating lunch in our little diner. His mom died a few years ago and left him enough money to supplement his meager disability. He can now treat himself to a shake at a restaurant sometimes. He was happy to see us. Remembered our names, asked about our children. I had to say their names for him, but that jogged his memory enough that he asked about their wives. He even remembered our first granddaughter. He hasn't been around us since the younger one was born. We chatted with him for awhile until our food came.

My eyes filled with tears thinking of the wounds sustained in his life. He's past fifty now and mostly walks around town, lost his own thoughts. Too fragile to work or maintain a relationship, he lives alone. Has few friends. The picture of a train wreck kept coming to my mind. As though his life were a train that had somehow jumped or been pushed off the track. There, but not there, not able to move on. Just stuck beside the track as time moved by.

Then I thought of children I've seen these last three days. Some quiet and frightened, some angry and belligerent, some sullen and withdrawn. And through my tears, I prayed.

God, help us to remember that these young ones may be coming from situations that wound the spirit, numb the mind and discourage the soul. Help us as teachers to realize that with a soft word, a kind deed, a genuine smile we may help some child find the courage to continue, to stay on track. Remind us that within every little gangbanger wannabe, every little drama queen, every little tough guy, every little lost child there is a Soul that is lovely to you. Give us the grace to see that too!

God help us to bring healing to young people struggling to keep afloat in a sea of difficulties.

And God...minister to the Jakes of this world.


And now I think I know what God is saying:

"The Spirit of the Sovereign L
ord is upon me,
for the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted
and to proclaim that captives will be released
and prisoners will be freed"
ISA 61:1

Give me strength, Lord!

I got so spiritual, I almost forgot!!! This is BLOG #493. To register for the giveaway on the 500th blog, go here. (At the rate I've posted this week, it will be a while before I get to 500!)


His Girl said...

this post is so tenderly written... I love the compassion you have for 'jake' and those like him. I imagine it blesses God that you pray for His lambs.

Ballerina Girl said...

It is a more beautiful, compassionate world because people like you are in it...
and helping others, as myself, see the beauty in everything that surrounds us.
May God bless you and
have a great weekend...

ann said...

Jake's story is heartbreaking. Your prayer for the kids was beautiful. I'm so thankful the kids in your school have you.

Marina said...

PJ, these was beauitful and so heartaching sad for that man its sad but, things like these happen thank God for people like you who really care "may God hear your paryers Amen" have a nice weeked, marina

Michelle said...

Wow...yeah, amen~I always liked the way I've chosen to take Matthew 25:40 "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.' I think of all the special needs kiddos I work with to be 'the least of these.'

2nd Cup of Coffee said...

Oh, how I loved this post. The scripture at the end almost put me over the edge of tears, and I'm not a cryer. I'm so proud to "know" you.

MommytoJonah&Jude said...

Okay...I'm crying. That was an awesome post..and so true of your lives. You have both been beacons in my life for what true ministry looks like. You have cared for so many people over the years and you have exemplified true religion. Thank you for living a life of service. You are heroes to me.

In our short six years of pastoring, we have seen so many "Jakes". We have a nearly identical Jake story for a family in our church, only thankfully, the children were rescued and adopted by a loving and awesome aunt. She is also a hero to me. She was a single mom trying to make ends meet when she adopted her nephews. They struggle everyday with the awful experiences of their past, but the change in them is astounding. It takes so little to offer love and hope to a child.

If parents only realized how much power they have in the lives of their children. Sadly, some are too selfish to care.

I will pray for Jake.

PJ said...

Thanks Jen, for your kind words. And thanks for your prayers. Praying for you and yours, too!!

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