Lost people come into our lives and we reach out to rescue them, but some don’t want to be saved.
This is a story about my family. Specifically, it’s a story about someone my family met and loved as best as we could.
Mom was always bringing in stray human beings to our home. She would often meet people with a wounded past at church or through mutual friends and before long, they’d be staying at our house. She didn’t go looking for these people, but she saw a need and she decided to fill it. I can remember numerous young men and women who my parents became sort of “ad hoc” parents for and after awhile they’d move on. Some of these people remained wounded and some sought help, and got back on their feet, but they all had an impact on our family.
I remember in my teen years, Mike, the rascally, good ol’ boy with a thick southern drawl and a battered psyche. Mike had gone through a Christian rehabilitation program and my mom and dad knew him through a ministry which had good Christian people like my parents volunteer to drive the guys in the program to our church on Sunday mornings.
My mom tells the story of how we met Mike and how she was affected by him:
“Don’t remember the year, I believe it was somewhere between 2005-2007. We use to go pick up these guys once in a while and take them to church with us. One day we picked up three guys and Mike was one of them. We would always ask them their story on the way to church, so began to learn a bit about Mike at that time. We invited them over for dinner the next week, and that’s where the relationship really began.
“Mike was from Tennessee. He had this big, bold voice with a Tennessee accent that would shake a room when he talked; and when he laughed, oh my! I usually connect pretty quickly with young men, God has given me a heart for them. We sat and talked as we ate, and he told us a bit more about his story.
“He was a Pastors son, and an only child. When he was 3 years old his mother up and left him and started another family with another man. Mike never got over this abandonment, and to this day I feel that was one of the reasons he couldn’t get past a certain point in his life. When he got a little older, his dad did the same thing, started a new family with someone else. Leaving Mike feeling abandoned altogether, and never getting approval or feeling loved from any of them. The only person he was really close to were his grandparents, he lived with them a lot, and they stayed with him through everything he went through in his life. I believe his grandmas name was Rose, he loved her so much and talked about her all the time.
“Mike had been in this Christian rehabilitation program for drug and alcohol addiction. The program was really good at preaching grace, but not very good at showing it. They had very strict rules for these adult men (Mike was 30 or 32 when we met), and treated them a lot like children. Early curfews and a short stick. Mike went against the leader of the houses rules, and left to buy a new pair of pants for a job. They told him he was bucking authority, and that it just wasn’t going to work.
“Mike called me and we talked about it, and he needed a place to stay. We didn’t know him very well at this time, but I have a heart for stray, wounded people from broken families for some reason, I asked Jeff (dad) and he said “okay”.
“Mike lived with us 2-3 times. There was at least once we had to tell him to not come around because he kept getting into trouble. I would always help him if I could, but there comes a place where helping him is hurting him, and I have always been aware of those boundaries.
“He lived out on his own, but had a hard time keeping a job and money because he also liked to gamble. We loved on him, he knew we loved him, but his strongholds were just too big. He would cry out to the Lord and the Lord would rescue him, but he could never stay in that place. I know he knew Jesus, he just didn’t know how to get over the past hurts in his life. He also had a very guilty conscience, so when he would mess up, he was his worst condemner.
“The last time he lived with us he was actually on house arrest. It was for a couple of weeks. After he got off of house arrest, he was planning to go back to Tennessee. We loved this guy so much. He would drive me crazy, but he had a very sweet, soft heart. We knew, and he knew, and his grandma knew that if he went back to Tennessee he wouldn’t make it because there was too much temptation there. I remember standing around him, while he was sitting in the chair, and our family wept and prayed over him, trying to get him to stay. We just knew it wasn’t going to be good.
“I wanna say it was about 6 months after he moved back to Tennessee that I got the dreaded call. He had committed suicide. He had a girlfriend in Tennessee, and after his grandma called me I called her. I got the number from his grandma. She told me that Mike had gone out to buy some nice clothes two days before he died, which lets me know he was probably planning this. She said he would get drunk, and be talking to God and repenting while he was drunk. He was so messed up. We cried together, and I hung up the phone. I was so sad. I loved him like an adopted son.
“I believe with all of my heart that he is with Jesus. God loves the broken hearted and understands their pain. So I have no question in my mind that he knew Mikes heart, and that he had Mikes heart as much as he knew how to give it.”
What I have learned under my mom and dad is that love is vulnerable. Love takes chances to reach out and bring comfort to the unloved. However, sometimes the unloved are consumed by their own inner demons to the point of no return.
All we can do as Christians is be present, be vulnerable and be willing to make a place in are home for stray human souls, just as God made a home for us in a lost world through Christ. Christ in us may be the only crack of light in a pitch black world for some people. Our call is to be present and love the unloved because He first loved us.
A special thank you to my mom for contributing her story.