Anne is one of my favorite people in the world. She’s one of those people who seems to effortlessly love everyone well. We have a special friendship – one that many people said would be too hard to maintain. You see, her daughter lived with me for the first 9 months of her life. People said we couldn’t be friends if we both loved the same baby, but as you’ll see from her story here, Anne is fiercely loyal and she’ll fight for people even when it’s hard. She has fought for our friendship, for my continued relationship with Ali Rose, for my heart through the grieving process. She’s one of the people who has faithfully reminded me that I am not alone and I am grateful to be sharing her with you today. Enjoy!
He lives in a cage: out for two hours in the morning and two more hours at night. The rest of the time he’s in his cell. They slip the food under his door; human contact is minimal. Sometimes when I think of him and the bars that surround him, I realize it’s not much different than his early years of life. Truth is, he’s always had bars around him: some you could see, that kept him in or kept him out. But the tricky ones, those were the bars you couldn’t see which were equally effective at keeping him caged.
Sam bounced into our lives when he was 10, and Nathaniel and I were 24. His story was tragic but sadly familiar, like those many other invisible children who share our city but not our privileges. I re-read the client entries I logged over the years and even I struggle to absorb it. Most of them you wouldn’t believe if I told you now. But to know Sam was to love him. It was impossible not to be drawn into his fun loving spirit, and his wide grin. His loyalty towards and protection of his mother and siblings was admirable and true. Yet when you looked really deep into his brown eyes, there was a boy who knew pain in a way I had never experienced in my 24 (now 34) years.
Upon reflection, it’s crazy for me to comprehend that Nathaniel and I were two of the most consistent people in his young life. It’s even harder to come to grips with the fact that we too, fell away from him. Our twins came and Sam went, court-ordered to Memphis, and days turned into months, months to years. The doghouse that Sam, Nathaniel and our oldest son started to build for our backyard collected dust in the corner of the garage, our reminder of him, full of promise, never completed.
On March 6th, 2012 the morning of our youngest daughter’s first birthday, I turned on the news, and those eyes that I knew so well, the ones with the sadness behind them, looked back at me from his mug-shot on the screen. I think I let out a scream, although I can’t say for sure. This was what we had feared for him and ultimately for us.
Initially, I wanted someone to blame. It was easy to find fault with his Mom and try to pin this outcome on her. That was, until I was willing to look beyond the text of her story and feel her pain and experience her brokenness. The more she shares and the more I listen all I can do is hurt for her as well. No one protected her. No one fought for her. Who loved her? She falls asleep at night holding a picture of her little boy; she cries herself to sleep and hopes to dream of him. I realize my blame won’t bring healing.
In some ways, this is the safest and most consistent environment Sam has ever experienced. Even that seems unfair. That he finally found stability being locked up. Last Friday he turned 20. Ironic that he’s looking at a prison sentence longer than he has even been alive. I let my mind slip and wonder how he’s ever going to make it through. Lord, where are you in the middle of this pain, this suffering, this MESS?
Before the answers come, we put one foot in front of the other, and we try to love. For now we talk to him on the phone and visit him on Monday nights from 9 to 9:45 pm. We come to sit with him when no one else does. Our conversations take place through the clouded plexiglass and over a phone line that reminds you, “This is a call from the D_______ County Detention Facility.” But we pick up the line, and we show up because that’s our role now. We will walk alongside him through this next chapter and offer what we can.
We asked what we could do for his 20th birthday and he wanted a Bible. He said he didn’t have one of his own. His request gives me hope that the unseen bars which have always entrapped him might be broken. That his heart might find healing, freedom and life… caged no more.
Where are you God? Where are you when children are born into a cycle in which the outcome has been predetermined? Where are you when I sit and wonder, “Could we have done more?” Where are you when there is a war raging in our city that we can’t feel from our living room?
“One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”
Where are you God? Save him, save me!
“But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
What do his deeds deserve…what do my deeds deserve.
Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Father remember him…remember me.
Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Where is God? On the cross – to set us all free, so we may have life. That is truth, that is hope, and it is what I cling to when I hang up the phone with Sam again tonight. He is not alone…I am not alone…you are not alone.
I head out to close down the garage before I end the day and I see that doghouse sitting there, haunting me, and I remember, “It is finished.” Thank you God for Sam, and for me.
(to find out how this series was started and catch up on past posts, click here)