(I am writing a special blog over the next three days. I normally write a story on Monday's, regular blog entry on Wednesday's, and a retro post from the past on Friday's. However, this week I am writing about a former friend of mine that has gotten himself in a lot of trouble and the lessons I have learned from hearing the news of his tragedy.)
When I was heading into sixth grade I had to switch schools. This would be the second time I had switched schools and as a shy, backwards, and highly emotional child it was frightening. I knew a few of the other students from the church I attended, but all in all, it was another transition that I was anxious about. I ended up going to Marietta Christian School for three years.
I learned a lot.
I learned about the proverbial "sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll", and various other things. I changed a lot in those years, because I went from being a very innocent child that had been sheltered under the umbrella of a legalistic regime to more of a rebel against that machine. I had several friends, but there was a small group of us that would regularly hang out while at the school. I was certainly not the most popular of the group, but I looked to two of the guys who were in my grade as the guys I most enjoyed hanging out with.
One was named Shaphan. He was the guy who kind of took me under his wing and helped me become a little less awkward. Shaphan, and his kindness, helped me out in many ways. However, that isn’t the story I want to dive into. The other friend of mine was Steve. Steve was a bit mischievous, and we all were, but Steve was a fun guy to hang around with. Every day, I looked to hang around with these two in our little group of friends. In our seventh grade year the movie “Young Guns II” came out and we all were a part of the “gang”, we each picked a character and thought we were just like them.
I kind of miss those days.
I remember one day very clearly (and I share this because I want to provide a window into our interactions). There was a group of us that played basketball or soccer and we had some time between a game or practice so we decided to sneak out and go to the convenience mart up the road. We went in with a game plan, I would distract the clerk by asking some questions and my friends would take what they wanted and hide some and buy some and we all would walk out paying for a little, but receiving a lot.
Most of them took candy, snacks, and pop. Steve managed to get a whole carton of cigarettes. I was happy to help. We basked in the glory of our haul and honestly, I was amazed that we got away with it. However, we did, and were so proud. I also remember the time that our terrible music instructor was yelling at us and I began to cry, Steve patted me on the back and said some kind words to calm me down before I had a complete meltdown.
Having said all of this, I have to confess to you that this past week has really been eye-opening, gut wrenching, and I have been all over the place in my thoughts as I have tried to wrap my mind around the news I received last Thursday.
Steve broke into someone’s house, shot and killed a man, kidnapped and beat a woman at gun point, fought with another man and injured him, and led the police on a two hour manhunt. When I read the news, I just sat in my office and was completely bewildered. I had obligations to go to, I went, but I wasn’t there. I kept asking myself, “Steve, what happened?”
That led to the question, “How am I where I am, and Steve is where he is?”
I often say to people, “You don’t know where I came from.” The reason I say that is because most people that know me now (and really those that knew me years ago had no clue what was going on) cannot imagine that I was the person I was.
The rebuttal I hear from people was that Steve was allegedly on drugs. I have been there.
“Well, Steve has made some poor decisions in his life.” Check, been there too.
In fact, while there are sure to be differences in our paths, I am sure that I could be found guilty of all these precursors to Steve's final fall.
Then it hit me.
There is an unreal amount of grace that has been poured out upon me as I have walked this pathway of the journey God has put before me. I walk along this path and fall off the edge and am put back on my feet wholly by the grace of God.
What does that mean for Steve? Is God less gracious towards him? I am not sure how to best answer that except to say that maybe Steve had become completely unaware of the presence of God in his life and was therefore running away from the grace that God so eagerly wants to pour out on all of us. I imagine, if we looked at Steve’s life, we would see numerous times when God had poured out grace.
So what does this grace mean for us?