a channel of God’s love

Posted: February 24, 2016 in Uncategorized

He had a real name, but he preferred to be known as The O.G., as in “original gangster.” He was tall and funny and his clothes were always perfect.  He was trouble all around – he took my son to his first (and I think/hope ONLY) fight with a knife, and another time he threatened someone who bullied my son with bodily harm.  He acted like such a punk one night that he made my daughter cry and he had to leave.  He taught me how to open my door with my driver’s license – the one and only “thug trick” he felt like showing me.  He was strong – once he held me upside-down by my feet, good naturedly but definitely intentionally driving home the point of his power.  The O.G. was one of “my kids” – a saving-the-world project of mine for which I could not claim success.

But we were family – my house was where he showed up so sick he was afraid he might die, and all of us took turns taking time off work or school over a period of weeks to nurse him through since he refused to seek medical care, citing his departed grandpa’s instructions not to get into medical debt.  He was a towering skeleton and more than once as I rushed to him in the night while he was racked with coughing to the point of being unable to breathe, I wondered too if that combination of illness and fear of debt might mean the end of his life right there in my spare bedroom.

He recovered, though, and showed up at my front door shortly thereafter with a bag of groceries in one arm to charge me with the project of feeding him enough to put weight back on his bones.  Once we’d accomplished that, he joined the military.  He came back from boot camp a different kid – much more disciplined and determined to do well, but also so tightly wound that I was afraid for him.  He got a girlfriend and they went toxic pretty quickly; when she wound up pregnant they took their stuff and left for a military base in Kansas if I recall right, and I only had 2 conversations with him ever after that.  The first was a call to announce the baby’s birth and to invite me for a visit.  I couldn’t get away.

The second was my call to him – I’d heard through the grapevine that he was going to be in town to visit family.  I wanted to see him.  He was awkward and tentative.  Finally he said maybe that could be arranged, as long as I didn’t bring anyone else with me.  That was when I understood how hard he was running from his past – how much he didn’t want to touch the part of his life that had been his O.G. years, now that he’d fought his way out to something more respectable.  When he came and went without arranging for that visit, I let it go.

I don’t know how well his flight from his past worked out.  I’ve heard that he served multiple tours in Afghanistan and/or Iraq.  I know that the toxic relationship didn’t work out, though I’ve heard there was another child before that break happened.  I don’t know where he is and I don’t expect to hear from him again.  Still, I think of him often and pray for him like the son that he became to me.

I’m still deeply grateful for the section of our lives that criss-crossed.  God was doing something there, and I only understand small parts of what that was.  My heart doesn’t change for the O.G. as time goes by.  He brought as much joy as he brought trouble, and that measure is larger than I can quantify here.

I share all of this for those of you who have walked away from someone who helped you somewhere along the way, to tell you this:  don’t assume that that someone regrets what they did and who they were in your life.  Don’t let your own regret color things so harshly that you can’t hold onto the good memories of that time.  Don’t suppose that love no longer lives there.  Don’t imagine that you’re alone in the world and no one cares for you anymore.  Some things live on, even when all perceptible connection seems to have been severed.

No channel of God’s love is really ever broken.  We just suppose so, in the smallness of our imaginations.

He’s not small.



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