And I wish I could tell you that my deepest moments of spiritual growth had happened because of the sweet face of a newborn and a lovely sunrise and deep striving to learn more. While those have indeed been times of blessing, my greatest blessings have come when I was knee deep in alligators, past terrified to exhausted and oh, so painfully aware of not having even the questions, much less the answers.
One of the most challenging times was when my beloved step-son became one of THOSE statistics: a Christmas season suicide. He had struggled for many years, had prior attempts and his mom had found the best help possible, but something drove him to deeper and deeper sadness and, finally, abject despair. His death touched so many people in so many ways. His brother, half-brother and step-siblings were not only personally devastated, but forced to live with his Dad and I when we were struggling ourselves. His mom and step-dad, friends, cousins, grandparents, step-grandparents, co-workers, roommates, neighbors, all of us were overwhelmed with the inevitable questions: what could I have done differently? How could we have prevented this?
I never found an answer to that and finally decided two things: (1) I would spend no more time seeking an answer that I began to suspect did not exist and (2) I would also spend no more time trying to determine the status of someone else's salvation. This second is pretty radical and has been known to make ministers cringe. But here is what I believe: God is in charge of all things; God is love; God is truth; God is light. And, here is the big thing, I can trust God to get it right.
I hope to see him again in heaven, healed from his abiding sorrow and pain and hopelessness. I don't even demand to understand answers to natural human questions But I am willing to leave all this in God's hands, even this that is so very difficult to surrender.
And I am grateful to have had this young man in my life. Every day our relationship informs my ministry to families of the incarcerated in ways nothing else could.