We live out in the country, right on the edge of all the farms just west of here. It’s quiet except for the occasional monster block party a tenth of a mile down the street. We enjoy our fenced in acre and, yeah, it’s really quiet and I like it and there aren’t very many kids in this vastly wooded, rural neighborhood. In fact, there is only one kid next door and you can hear him coming from a mile away, smashing that lovely quiet into bits. We’ve spent many months, days, weeks and years laughing with this kid, playing games and eating dinners together, swimming, cleaning together and me relentlessly asking him, "Hey, could you be a little quieter?". He was as much a part of our family as he could possibly be without actually living here.
When he was six his father died abruptly and his mother lived the wild life and lost custody of him to his grandparents. The mother was in and out, playing games with her own son’s heart. All the while, he hoped and dreamed to live with his mom again even though she lived a half-baked life. His two sisters both live with someone else and I am sure he wishes that they could all be together as some sort of family, but that just won’t be possible. He’ll live with his grandparents and they’ll live with their caregivers. He is being cared for and is loved, but is definitely allowed way to much privilege and he rules the roost in some ways. I see it as a dangerously loving overcorrection for all that he has suffered and that is easily done it seems, and done with such good intentions, but still yields the same spoiled fruit of lawlessness. I hope against hope that this will not be the case for him.
He’s outwardly brimming with tough exterior, and secretly as mischievous as a fox.
He was at our house playing with my boys one day, one of the many. I told them they had to stay outside because I needed some quiet to pack for our upcoming Thanksgiving trip to visit family. It was fall and it was getting darker out sooner. They wanted inside because it was getting dark and they were bored. I refused and told them to stay outside. I locked them out in joking fun and it began to drizzle rain and they were banging on the door to get in. I said no and that it was just a sprinkle. I probably should have let them in. Well, of course, they got into trouble and I think I am somewhat to blame.
About fifteen minutes later I found them in my shed breaking CFL bulbs(by accident) and lighting matches(on purpose). I was became furious as I thought of all that could have caught on fire while they were in there. I asked who was lighting the matches and the neighbor said it was him. I was so blind with anger that I just told him to go home and not to come back until I let him know that it was okay. I never told his grandparents. I don’t think they would have done much about it even if I did tell them.
This was not the first time something like this had happened nor did I think it would be the last. Months went by and in that time frame I had some of my friends telling me that I should not allow him to come to my home again. Well-intentioned pat answers from friends that were concerned and because I asked. I pondered all their thoughts and I just didn’t feel right about banning him from our home and friendship forever. While my thoughts droned on, I would find him wandering around our home aimlessly for weeks, staring with a depressed, longing look into our yard where the kids were playing.
I felt terrible, but I realized that we needed some space. I needed to step back and regroup and he needed to learn a lesson. The time frame of him not coming over went on longer and longer and I never felt right about that, but I wasn‘t ready to "deal" with him again. I walked out into the yard and he would see me and instead of his usual “Hi, Miss Paul!”, I was ignored as he stared the ground down with hurt eyes.
At that point, I felt I had been shunning this kid in my mind for one good reason or another. And I felt I had many good reasons for thinking the way I did and I had forgotten all the good times we had with him or the general good he did do. I didn’t want my kids turning out like him, the bad him was all I could see. I didn’t want to deal with all that he brings when he comes over. I didn’t want my quiet, little life disturbed by this kid who seemed to have lost so much and was hurting deeply inside, all covered up by this tough facade. I was tired of reaching out to him. I was done with him.
Wow, I was done with him. Done with him? He had done enough to irritate me or cause me to give up on him, this kid who had been a part of our lives for five years. This kid we laughed and played with who really seemed to need us. Then as the layers of my own lies I tell myself peel back, I realize that if I really hold true to this “I am done with you.” view then I will need to be done with my own mischievous, sinful kids, done with my husband and done with myself.
This thought struck me like lightening one day as I stared out the window to find him lingering once again. I waved to him and again, the ignoring and then the pained stare to the ground. I couldn’t take this anymore, I needed to talk to him. Later that day I sent one of the boys to call him over to our house. He came reluctantly and I was waiting for him.
I gave him a big hug and with tears rolling down my cheek I told him that we were sad to have had to separate from him for so long and that he was allowed to come back over and play with the kids once again. He looked at me in disbelief and he seemed to learn his lesson well enough and I learned mine, too.
I had a change of heart and I saw something different now in this young, floundering, hurting boy. Potential. I hope against hope for myself and for him. God gave me a new view. The same view He has for me.
He waits. He loves. He never leaves. He picks me up and dusts me off. And no matter when or if I fail or fall, He never, ever gives up on me. Ever.