This article ran today at Heart of the Matter!
I saw him across the park as I scanned the area, mama bear protecting cubs.
Many years I’ve watched for danger as my children blissfully play. Playgrounds at restaurants, swing sets at parks, lakes on nature trails; all suspect until mama feels like it’s safe. This park we’ve visited many times, and I’m not a worrier in general—evidenced by the fact that I was eventually convinced to let my two year old attempt riding down the slide on a plastic choo-choo train he’d been hauling around the park. (It went fine, by the way. Look on his face after he zoomed to the bottom? Pure bliss.)
But I didn’t like the looks of this child.
About 10 years old, in a camouflage shirt and pants, he stood at the top of the fort-like structure with arms crossed and eyes full of anger, brooding. He was alone, though it appeared his mom was at the picnic area on the side, preparing a party.
Eventually, he found his way over to where our four year olds were playing Indians. I sidled over so I could listen in …
“I wish I weren’t even here … Everything needs to end … “
he was singing in a monotone, words to some currently popular death-culture-filled song.
To our four year olds.
“Excuse me,” I said, “why don’t you go ahead and go play somewhere else? I don’t really want you singing that to these kids, okay?”
He scowled and obeyed. I gave the other moms the heads-up so we could work as a team; lionesses protecting the pride.
Later, the girls complained of him following them around. He had done it from a distance, so I hadn’t intervened, but it was bothering them. When he managed to corner the little ones, inserting himself into the capture-the-bad-guys game they were playing, and wouldn’t let them out of an area, I again stepped in and asked him to go somewhere else.
His mom continued barbecuing. But she’d been there for a couple of hours, and still the party tables still sat empty.
It was only ten minutes before I had to head toward him again, and this time he must have felt me coming because he bolted for the park exit before I reached him, this time muttering under his breath but loud enough for me to hear,
“I should just kill myself. I shouldn’t be alive.”
I shook my head, thinking how sad it was that this boy was so troubled. I wondered if his mom knew.
The baby was tired and we’d been there awhile, so I determined it was time to pack up, anyway. As I walked over to get my bag, I prayed, “Lord, that child is troubled. Please send someone into his life to tell him You love him!”
And God said, “What about YOU?”
“Oh, yeah …” I thought to myself.
I’m quick like that.
So on our way out, as he once again came over to us, I got bold. I said, “Hey, you know what? God really loves you. He created you for a special reason, and He has an awesome plan for your life!”
“Yeah, yeah,” he said. “I go to church.”
Hmmm. “Well,” I continued, “lots of people go to church and still don’t really know that. God made you really special. You should love your life, and ask God what He wants you to do with it. He really, really loves you.”
And then I packed up my own happy, smiley kids and drove home. I prayed for him some more. I have a feeling I won’t forget that brooding stare for a long time.
As this post goes up, it’s Halloween. Yuch. I’ve never been a fan, finding horror movies to be … well, horrible and not having any desire to glorify evil in any form. It boggles my mind that people decorate with symbols of death, and encourage their kids to enjoy that.
But I think there’s an equally mystifying though opposite response, and that is the one I heard of for the first time many years ago, when I’d moved away from home and started attending a great church. Asking one of my friends what her family was doing for Halloween, I was stunned at the answer: they’d be hiding out.
That’s right. On Halloween every year, this family turned out all their house lights, outside and in, and huddled together in an interior room with no windows.
They were *pastors.*
What’s your response to darkness?
Is it like mine was yesterday—a tendency to shoo it off, to keep it away from your children?
Or maybe like my friend’s parents—a reaction of fear, a desire to pretend it isn’t happening, to hide from it?
May I suggest that we all could use a re-tuning? We have no need to fear the dark. Jesus called Himself the Light of the World, and then later called His disciples by that same moniker …
“You are the light of the world …” Matthew 5:14.
I’m not advocating blithely letting your children play with strangers, or joining in the glorification of evil. But I am advocating asking God what He wants you to do when you encounter darkness. Might He want you to do something a little more proactive than hiding in a corner? Might He use you to bring about a change? To speak a word of encouragement, or bring some hope to a situation? To do something positive, rather than just avoiding the negative?
I think He has bigger ideas of what He wants to do with our lives than we think. Our salvation is not just for us, not just for our family. If we’re still on earth, it’s because there’s still a good work He’s prepared for us (Ephesians 2:10) which we haven’t done yet.
It’s going to take me awhile, but eventually I’m going to learn.
Read the other posts in 31 Days of Encouragement!