These writings are for the imperfect person searching for more of the Perfect God.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The unthinkable through a handshake

It was the early spring of 2016.  

A spring season following that of a rough season. A persecution season. An injust season. An unfair season. A hurtful season for my fifteen year old first born girl.

On this particular night, the lights were intensified, the cheering fans were chanting and the piercing sound of basketball shoes screeching the thickly glazed basketball court echoed off the high school gymnasium walls and into the foundation of the bleachers where my husband and I sat watching the high school basketball game.

Yet, through the chattering and penetrating noise of the watching crowd, I notice from the top row of our bleacher seat, him walk in. 

Him, as in, the boy who persecuted our daughter just months before through aggressive, purposeful, damaging and malicious words.

He had a strong dis-like for a God he never knew. A strong dis-like for those that followed Him. A strong dis-like for our girl he desired to date, yet was told by her that her one love was only Jesus in that season of her life. 

Yep, it was him.

Memories immediately flooding my thoughts to just months before, wrestling with how to seek justice for this young mans cruel words, hateful phone calls and daily verbal attacks towards my daughter. 

These days were filled with  Jamie and I taking hands, pleading before the Lord-- seeking counsel and His wisdom as to what to do. Who to tell. How to protect. When to move. 

We wanted justice. 

Our baby girl being persecuted because of her faith in God was more than my heart could take most days. And as a direct result, this mama heart cried for justice!

And yet, each and every time we brought our hurting hearts before the Lord for direction, we would collectively walk away with a confident-knowing He was unquestionably saying "Be still."  

And so we did. We waited. We prayed. We cried-- all the while being still in the deep, unshakeable knowing that His love and protective instincts to care for our daughter superseded, beyond comprehension, that of our own.

However, this moment of watching the young man walk through the doors of the high school gymnasium ushered in the annoying reminder that justice had not yet been served, executed or completed to the level of justice my earthly flesh desired --- and truthfully, desired from God.  I felt the blood rush into my face as I wavered between an internal battle of wanting to weep at the sight of this young man and yet longing to clock him one straight into his face.

In an effort to calm the intense emotions, I tried locking a gaze with my husband, who was also on the top row of the gymnasium bleachers, but a few people down talking with a friend.  As I sought for Jamie's familiar, warm and empathetic eyes, I noticed he was no longer participating in his discussion.  He, too, was now fixated on the sight of this young man standing down on the shiny gym floor.

That's when it happened.

Jamie slowly, yet intentionally stood up and began the long journey down the 15 flights of bleachers-- straight towards this young man near the entrance door.

As much as I desired Jamie to take justice into his own hands, enable this young man to experience our pain, to know the level of hurt his words have caused, and to plead for our forgiveness-- I knew any kind of scene would terribly embarrass our daughter and more importantly, it would simply be an act of straight-up disobedience from what God asked us to do. 

My heart rate increased with each increasing step Jamie made towards this boy.  With one eye closed to pray and one eye open to witness that which was about to take place, I noticed something unpredictable, unnatural, something contrary to what I expected and ashamedly, desired.

Jamie stood before this young man and with all intentionality, he reached out his right arm and shook the boys hand, firmly yet respectfully.  I noticed he shared a few words with the young man and deliberately walked straight back up to the top row of the bleachers. 

As he approached the top row and proceeded to sit next to me, I looked over to him and inquired "What was that?"  He said "I have no idea Joy. I stood up to go down and tell that boy a few things, but when I reached the second to last step I heard a whisper in my Spirit say "Shake his hand and tell him something respectful." So, I did.  I told him it was nice to see him and that my daughter has said nice things about him.

It's a quiet, small, tender whisper, isn't it?

A whisper that's incongruent to a wandering thought, an unreliable feeling, a feeble desire and a clenched-gripped heart to seek justice for that which deserves punishment.

This whisper, it opposes all reason, all rational, all sensible and cognitive thinking.  And yet, there it was. Undeniably camped out in the core of the heart. Yet, Strangely quiet and persistently relentless.

Three days later, as we were in the car together as a family, our daughter received a phone call from this young man.  After answering, she began to repeat, "It's okay.  I've already forgiven you, a long time ago.  No, it's really okay. I promise!  Of course I forgive you."  After hanging up she shared he was crying, weeping over the fact he had hurt her with hateful words, wounded her with evil intentions and slandered her reputation because of her faith in God. 

The handshake he received the night at the basketball game, just three days prior, gave him a glimpse and a taste of the make-no-sense kind of undeserved grace and kindness of Jesus.  Where he deserved punishment, he was offered forgiveness.  Where he deserved penalty, he was given freedom.  Where he deserved justice, he was given grace.  And as a result, it changed him, wrecked him forever.

As the preceding days, weeks, months went by, this young man began to inquire more about the God he witnessed in Jamie's handshake.  He began to have daily bible studies with our daughter, weekly youth group attendance at OakPointe Church and a new relationship with God in his every day life-- which all eventually led to his baptism this August in a lake behind Jamie's parents home.

This young man, he now is a part of our extended family-- one we love and care for a great deal.  One we're honored to be witness to the restoration and redemption of a new life rooted in Christ. He now has a relationship with His True Father-- one that his orphan heart had longed and hungered for.

Had the gentle, unreasonable, make-no-sense kind of whisper been ignored on that spring evening at the high school basketball game--hate and anger would of conquered.  And yet, when obedience and a heart desiring to accurately represent the character of Jesus was fully executed--grace and love prevailed.  

Hearts healed. Lives touched. Generations changed from the simplicity and the counter-cultural obedience to a voice of an internal whisper.  A whisper offering life.

I don't yet know what the future holds for this special young man, but I do know the One who now holds him and his future.

Romans 2:4  speaks to the very heart-beat of this story:

"Don't you see how wonderfully kind, patient and tolerant God is with you?  Can't you see that His kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?"

Grace, it makes no sense. But sometimes it reveals itself in a simple act that has enough power to heal the broken, restore the lost, redeem the fallen and bring a lost young man back into His Fathers embrace.

Yes, grace was met in a handshake.