A Death Among Thorns I haven't written any new articles for this site in ages. I'm ashamed that it took something so tragic to get me started again. A few days ago I was standing in a funeral home looking at a piece of modeling clay, with clothing draped over it and makeup brushed on to make it look like a living face. But it wasn't living. I hate going to those places, it seems so pointless and I feel so utterly helpless. I usually feel the need to say something comforting and profound when in fact there IS nothing that can be said that can be helpful. It was particularly bad the other day, the lump of clay in front of me was once a 29 year old, a young man who never really got a chance to live his life. I don't have permission to use his real name so I'll call him Luke. This was tragic in many ways, even now I have a queezy feeling in my stomach. Less than 72 hours ago Luke was a living, breathing, thinking, young man with hopes, ambitions … and dreams. Now he was in front of me dead, and it was partly my fault. That in itself makes me feel nauseous but even worse, I don't know where he was spiritually and that has kept me awake every night since I stared down into what was once a face. The fact that he is physically and possibly spiritually dead will haunt me for the rest of my life. Oh, it wasn't only my fault, I share the blame with others, lots of us dropped the ball. Knowing that I don't carry all the blame should probably give me some comfort but it doesn't. It doesn't lessen my guilt in the least. The responsibility also falls on every Christian who knew him. Me, on my wife, his unofficial mother, all the pastors who knew him and everyone who called themselves Christian share the responsibility for his death... and nothing, absolutely NOTHING for the rest of time can change it, undo it, or shift the blame. But I need to start at the beginning if I have any hope of getting my message across so that other people might avoid this same guilt and pain. Luke had all the cards stacked against him from the beginning, In an environment that would have crushed most people, he flourished, for a while. Luke had cerebral palsy, he could barely speak well enough to be understood and he had great difficulty getting around. I never met his father but everyone tells me he was a nasty piece of work who did all he could to berate and insult Luke. His mother was less than a good mother (To put it as kindly as I can), most of his family were into drugs and other destructive substances. It seems to me that everyone in Luke's life let him down in one way or the other. Yet, still, in spite of his cerebral palsy and speech impediments, Luke managed to preach in churches and get a black belt in karate. He got his own apartment and his own car, he traveled across the country to spread the Word. Then at some point, very subtly, things started to go wrong, that's when I started to fail him. The Bible talks about him and people like him: Then he taught them many things by using stories. He said: A farmer went out to scatter seed in a field. While the farmer was scattering the seed, some of it fell along the road and was eaten by birds. Other seeds fell on thin, rocky ground and quickly started growing because the soil wasn't very deep. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched and dried up, because they did not have enough roots. Some other seeds fell where thornbushes grew up and choked the plants. (Matthew 13:3-7) Luke lived and died among thorns. We knew Luke, we knew what he was like, what he stood for and what he believed and yet we did nothing when we saw it start to change. We all heard how Luke had fallen away from his faith and we did nothing. We heard how Luke was hopelessly behind on his rent and in dire straits financially, and we did nothing. We heard the stories about how Luke was into drugs and hanging out with vermin, and we did nothing. I lost count of the times Luke overdosed on drugs, I saw the warning signs, we all did, and yet we did nothing. Then the last overdose came, and then we could do nothing. Now in addition to my torment over my inactivity, I have to wonder was the overdose accidental or intentional? There will without a doubt be some armchair Christians out there who will smugly proclaim that it doesn't matter and that he is lost either way. To those people who think they have God completely understood, classified, categorized, and under control I have two things to say: 1 God is too big to fit into your mold and 2 your opinion counts for nothing because you're clueless. Anyway, I hope his overdose was accidental because if it was intentional he MIGHT (note that I didn't say definitely is) be lost forever. I have to carry these doubts with me for the rest of my life and then things will really get rough. There will be a time when I, when all of us who failed Luke, will have to stand before God and explain why we did nothing and I will have precisely that to use as an answer, nothing. Oh, I could think up excuses in rapid succession but excuses don't really sooth my conscience and they have never worked with God. I will only be able to stand there guilty, naked, and powerless with nothing to say for myself. As if the rest of this isn't bad enough, it gets worse because not only did I, not only did we fail Luke, we failed God as well. As horrible as I feel about failing the boy I should have looked after, I'll feel worse about failing my God. Will He scream and rant at me? Possibly but I don't think so (armchair Christians will proclaim otherwise). Will it cost me my salvation? No, that's already bought and paid for (armchair Christians will stammer and sputter otherwise.) Will it cost me something? Without a doubt. Can it be avoided? In Luke's case, no but if I'm more vigilant in the future and act when I see the need to act it can be avoided in the future. I'm writing this so that hopefully someone will read it, learn from it, and hopefully save a life. If you call yourself a Christian, whether a Christian for 50 years of 5 minutes this applies to you too. I never beg, ok I did beg once when I was in high school but that was only once and it was a stupid thing to do, but I beg you, I plead with you now: Please, please don't do nothing when you know you should do something. Sometimes it doesn't require dramatic or heroic acts, just a phone call or a quick email might save a life. A death among thorns is no place for anyone to die.
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