Monday, January 22, 2007


Should I have loved less? Should I have walked away after the first or third or fifth failure, the tenth defiance, the hundredth betrayal, washed my hands like hygienic Pilate of an ugly and hopeless situation where no one could win, most certainly not me? Should I have been the agent of severity and justice? -- trusting that mercy has its place only to a point?

I loved him with all my heart. I saw him first as a lost and forsaken, a fatherless and homeless boy, institutionalized, medicated, hopeless and despairing. And every Saturday I'd bundle my small family into the car and drive to the faceless gray sea to the place where he was kept. For months and months. And because I was the only adult on the surface of this planet who seemed competent and trustworthy to care for him, the court gave him weekend home visits with me. Home visits. Who the hell was I?

I was the fool who loved him.

How many times did I go into some court and stand before some judge? Each time the boy messed up, escalated his misdemeanors, moved from one warehouse to another, group home, psych ward, lockdown, Juvenile Hall, bootcamp. I'd bundle myself into the car and drive across the long valleys or over the mountains or into the desert every weekend, so that he would always have someone to visit him, so that he could always know that someone was always coming ... I'd forgotten that. It was deliberate on my part. Faithfulness matters. And finally, when nothing else was left, he came to live with me.

He got Cs on his report card. You cannot believe how proud I was of him for that. He knew it. And he was proud. He'd never done so well. I taught him to drive. I let him ride his bike to school. You cannot know what that meant to him. Of course he was not trustworthy. When he lied, and stole, and rebelled, I was patient, and I forgave him. This was a boy who would never learn from justice. Justice had nothing to teach him. It had ruined him. He always thought he'd won, when he got justice. Because he hadn't given in. But mercy was something new.

My mercy is no soft thing.

He almost made it. He had a chance, and it almost worked. But there is evil in the world, and she has a name. It could be that I would forget mercy. It might be that I would extract justice. You have no idea, the violence I have harbored in my heart. Evil is what violence is for. God damn that vile evil cunt.

Shocked? Who did you think I was? Did you take me for some whole other man? If I couldn't say such things, I'd have to go find her. Crack whore is a quite literal description. What would make you think I don't know all about hatred?

But it's all theory, now. Everything was lost, and I was broken. The months have turned into years, and this is the most I've ever spoken of it. Of course I did so many things wrong. Regret would devour me whole, if I didn't occupy myself with manic exhaustion. I have fled from the presence of God as Adam fled the gates of Eden. What was my crime, for such condemnation? Where did I sin, to feel such shame?

I loved him with all my heart. I took him as my son. God needs such fools, that hope might be brought to the hopeless. I'm sure sometimes it works. How could we continue, otherwise?

Should I have loved less? Yes. No. He's still my son.



Kal said...

That's a sad story, Jack.

It seems you did much right, it makes little sense to fixate on what you think you did wrong.

Do you believe one has the power to alter his destiny? That of others?

I suspect faith plays a role in how you'd respond to that.

Jack H said...

I've given it a lot of thought. The answer, like life, is complex. Character is destiny, but love is that alchemical Philosopher's Stone, that takes what is base and makes it noble. Like all magic, it's unpredictable and untestable. Sometimes we get miracles. Sometimes we get tragedy. Faith, by definition, can offer no guarantee.

So there it is. I am stuck being the man that I am. Sometimes I torment myself with thinking it might have been some other way. But if God doesn't bother to repent himself, why should I? God's repentance takes the form of bringing down a world-destoying Flood. I have no such power. I don't even have the power, in reality, to get justice. Grief is bound up into the fabric of creation, the long warp of compassion's weft.

I believe it is possible to change someone's destiny. I still believe that. I have witnessed it, and I have been the instrument of such change. But it's complex. My influence was matched, and overmatched, by some other. I talk the big talk, but wisdom is known by her children. Daylight comes, but you can't stop the darkness. Night is not endless, but it's full of monsters.


Anonymous said...

Sometimes I don't know when to keep my mouth shut. I feel as if I'm intruding into some deeply personal strivings that is not my place to interfere and presume to have the answers. The truth is that I don't have any answers so why speak at all? I suppose because that you have referenced in the past that no one stood with you during this time of great suffering. Well, that gets under my crawl a little bit. Kind of like watching a throw-away-boy get eat up by the system.

I guess you're check-mated. You can't forgive yourself because how could anyone forgive such a horrible monster as yourself trying to pull someone out of the fire as you did. And now others look at your scaring and gasp. You can't walk away because that would mean failure. And your pride refuses to allow yourself to give up like others have given up on you. You can't just let it go because that would mean weakness. And if one thing you make very clear is that you are not weak. Maybe you feel that you have checked-mated God by the decisions you've made? Now He can't work and you've made satan more powerful than Him. So what do you do? You have no faith and no hope and you run from God as this boy has run from you. Will you meet the same end as he? I imagine that there is an element here that we're not talking about Jason. But you've thought of that before. So how do you move on to peace and joy? Is there an honorable solution? You’re still living. You survived. That must mean something. Whatever the answer, one thing is clear, you can't stay where you are.

By the way, faith is substance. Just because you didn’t get the desired results doesn’t diminish faith.

Jack H said...

I wouldn't say it, if I didn't want it known. Comments are open and almost entirely unmoderated.

Your analysis is partly right. I could hardly care less about the opinion of others. I'm no monster. I'm practically perfect. Frankly I haven't even bothered to try to figure out what I mean when I imply I can't forgive myself. But rage and grief are the same coin, face up and face down, so there is a kind of logic to it all.

I don't see how anyone could not be alone, in grief. I'm sure that's a blind spot with me. I was thinking, when I wrote this, that grief comes before rage. I deleted that line. It's true in the specific instance, but I suppose rage was a preexisting condition.

You are right about walking away. I don't know that anyone gave up on me. That requires a level of commitement to start with (that reads as bitterness, but it's not).

I'm plenty weak. Let's not be naive.

Satan hardly enters into my thinking. God is in charge.

Every time I say, in the course of a conversation, that I am a runner, the irony and bitterness and double-meanings in that description echo through my head like bells and cannons. Well, not so loud, anymore. Who did I run from? Not anyone who depended on me.

Faith? Did I mention faith? Ah yes, I see I did. In its noun form. Like ice.

Now I can go back to writing about islamists, and my abs, and suchlike. You know, funny things.


Anonymous said...

i hadn't been here in a while, busy with who knows what, but i am skipping my night class so i have time to do things like read blogs.

it amazes me how things are so connected. kind of like your comment "God/ knits." well i guess we are all dealing with basically the same DNA, the same world, the same God. but anyways.

i will not try to compare my excperiences to yours, but i just wanted to share them. i have been described as a "helpful" person. i sometimes cant even control my desire to help.

i have become friends with a young man who has so much potential. in interacting with him at my job where he volunteered, i was excited to see the changes in his attitude and the way he treated people. i saw a kindness and concern for others grow in him.

when the summer job and volunteer opportunity ended, we stayed in contact. i would do anything for him if i knew it would help him continue to make good decesions. and there were lots of new bad decesions made. the backsliding became discouraging to me.

i brought it up to a friend who volunteerd with me and she is married w kids. she told me about a family that is a friend of hers who took in a foster child. after much fighting and problems, she ran away. years passed. this woman dissapers, but in this time the lady has a child, a divorce, and then 2 more kids. then she decideds to reconect with the family after years of no contact. she tells the family that she has started to try/ is trying to model her family after their family. the family she had fought against, the family she left after a few short months.

so i hear this story. i am like, ok that is encouraging. sometimes it just takes years for people to turn their lives around.

so i move on with my life, staying in contact with this young man, being there when i can, watching him make bad choices.

then seperate issue i have a 16 year old friend die. i don't really think words are needed to describe that more. or i don't have suffiecent writing skills / life understanding to talk about that issue.

at the visitation, i talk with the mother, i express my sorrow and support for her. she tells me, it is ok, he child is with Jesus. and i mean, that sounds silly, and it did to me to but i can't convey what it meant to her or what it meant to me when she said that. (often when i try to talk about real things / spiritual things the words usually sound silly and i often laugh.)

after the visitation my mom tells me, did Volunteer lady find you? no. i said. my mom tells me that volunteer lady wanted to tell me that the mother of the person who died was the foster daughter who returned to her once foster parents.

this now forever-16-year-old had also been a prodigal child. just having a turningpoint right before the crash happend.

in class yesterday i had a professor who said that what appears as evil to us is actually a manifestation of God's mercy. it is so weird because that prof talkes about the flood story like you do.

i don't think i did the best job of explaining this situation, or my emotions, i have not really talked about it before. but i think what i am trying to say is that some days i feel so weighed down by everything and feeling helpless and feeling like idk, i want to change the world, but i don't know how. but i think that Ecclesiastes 3:14 sums it up. feeling helpless/arrogant~myablitiesORimportance/idk is pointless/incorrect/wrong. i need to realize that: "I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him."

Jack H said...

Sometimes I forget how wise I am. God knits, to someone who knits.

But wisdom is not enough. Poor Solomon, with his understanding heart.

Some seeds land on hard ground, some on stones, some the birds get, some sprout and fail, some bear fruit. How are we to know which will do what? We tend the fields as best we can, and pray for rain. Sometimes the sky is like iron and the land like brass. Sometimes the windows of heaven open and pour out blessings. How are we to know when?

If God puts it into your heart to love, then you must love. That's what reminds us that we are only potter's clay. But lovely things can be made from clay.

We laugh when we are in pain. Often. The essense of humor is the unexpected. Laughter is a way of processing surprise. Pain is a surprise.

Paul, you did a beautiful job.


Anonymous said...


You move me.