A Harsh, Harsh Reality

Four bullets was all it took.

One gun and four bullets.

Point blank range.

Execution style.

The metal tubes of Cole’s wheelchair filled with his blood.

The skirting around the love seat acted like a sponge with Karen’s blood.

The area rug had to be thrown away. So did Casey’s good tennis shoes.

Karen’s computer had to be professionally cleaned.

Good people and crime scene tape protected me from seeing most of that horror.

But two weeks later when I had to throw Cole’s wheel chair away, his precious blood still poured out in the driveway as I loaded it in a truck.

No father should ever have to do something like that.

Sometimes it seems like the horror will never go away.

And every time I turn around, the ramifications get a little bit bigger.

I feel like the psalmist and U2… How long must we sing this song? How long?

If this is hard to read, try writing it…

I do have identity problems. I know I am husband to Becki. I am know I am father to Kyle, Conner, and Casey. I know I am “stepfather” to Michael and Max (I don’t like the term stepfather; they are mine now too). I know I am father-in-law to Karissa. I know I am son to Les and Margie. I know I am brother to Billy, Julie, and Amy. I know I am an uncle. I know I am a son and brother-in-law to Sandra and company. I know Karen’s parents, Bob and Joan still claim me as their own.

Everyone one I just named is an amazing blessing. I am more than thankful they compromise a significant part of my identity.

But the truth is in at least one major aspect, I am lost.

My lifelong identity has been compromised.

Anybody that has read anything I have written over the last several weeks can’t help but know I am struggling in my identity with God. I am His child. He is my Father. Except it doesn’t feel that way at all. In fact, it feels like I have a deadbeat Dad who cares little about anything I am doing. It feels like any happiness in my life has been acquired by sheer force of will. It’s like I look around at the strides I have made and say “I did all this on my own with no help from a Father who could have made it all work so much easier.”

Sometimes I fear God and I will never be on good terms again. And I am not so sure who is to blame for that. Because sometimes I think I must have done something so bad that caused God to turn his back on me. And it often feels as if those I love the most are paying a horrible price for my failures.

It’s not like after a BA in Bible and a MA in New Testament preaching that I somehow lack the ability to refute that which I sometimes feel. If it were you we were talking about, I could give you all the theological arguments as to why what you were feeling was wrong.

But it is not you, it’s me. And the arguments and knowledge base I own do nothing to negate the abandonment I feel from God.

Did I mention I have identity problems?

I preached my first sermon during the summer after my third grade year at Camp WAMAVA in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. By the time I was 15, I was preaching every Sunday at the little Gibson Road Church of Christ in Vicksburg, MS. I was the only Caucasian in attendance.

Preaching and caring for people is all I have ever really aspired to.

But four bullets was all it took.

One gun and four bullets.

Point blank range.

Execution style.

I “could have” preached again. I could have stood in front of a crowd of people who would have loved to see me standing there. They would have hung on every word. If it was the worst sermon I had ever preached they would have gladly lied and told me it was my best sermon ever.

But to do so would have been a lie on my part.

Integrity is all I have left.

I would love to preach again. Not as a full time minister whose entire existence is wrapped up in a local church. I am not willing to ever sacrifice my family in that way again.

So I have an identity problem. I want to help others. I want to serve the hurting. And maybe somehow through the printed word and maybe traveling from time to time to share my growing faith I can once again make a difference in the lives of others.

I have an identity problem.

And I am hoping and praying that somehow someday soon, I will feel God’s embrace again and find my true identity in Him.

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13 thoughts on “A Harsh, Harsh Reality

  1. Holy shit. Don’t mean to use a “bad” word, but how else can I effectively convey the power and effect your words have on me at this moment. I use to cry and whine about having a wife that left me. I let that turn my world upside down. I felt that God had turned his back on me, after all, previously I had given up 3 years to Him serving the poor in Honduras. After reading what you are going through, I can’t complain. Your story encourages me…my heart breaks for what you are going through and I cannot imagine what you must be going through. Your son Kyle spent a summer with me in Honduras, he is an exceptional man. I wish there was something I could say to encourage you, bet lets me real, all I can say is your family is in my thoughts.

    • Hey Joe! It is good to hear from you. I too enjoyed spending time with you in Honduras. I do not know if you remember, but the summer you decided to stay full time, our church helped you out. Seems like a lifetime. A lot of water and some of it really bad has gone under the bridge. Thanks for writing and reading. Would love to talk with you more.

  2. Lester, we’ve had the same training from some of the same teachers and it was good teaching — good theology (most of it). The deaths of Karen and Cole changed my theology. It’s not important how, here, because this is your story and many need to hear it. When this kind of evil is visited on friends, thoughts about God don’t stay the same. And neither do thoughts about yourself as you are letting us know. Thanks for writing. Loved Karen because I knew her. Loved Cole because I knew you!
    Grace on your journey! Peace in your heart!
    Richard

    • Hey Rich! Always good to see you here and in our other conversation place! Would love when you are ready to hear how your theology has changed. Mine has for sure. And one way is I don’t think a lot of the stuff we argue and differ over really matters. Some things are more real now than others. Clear as mud I am sure.

  3. I completely understand the identity problem. I suffered from that same problem. I began attending Celebrate Recovery two years ago. I got invovled in a step study and it changed my life and gave me back my identity. I can attend church without having panic attacks and actually grow. I tried for eleven years to recover on my own but I just could never get there. I am so grateful to a loving, patient God and CR. A wise person told me to just be patient with God and myself. That was very sound advice. I love you and keep pouring it out. I am proud you have the courage to share. You are on your way, baby steps.

  4. When God – or whatever it was that I put together in my mind that I used to call “god” – left me, I had to reevaluate my entire life, my entire existance, my purpose. Why God – or “it” – left, I don’t know. I was close to him, I loved and served him, I told people how important it was to know him and claim his love and the redemptive power of Jesus’ substtutional attonement. I knew the words, the stories, the philosophies, the theology. I BELIEVED it all.

    Now …… Now I wonder if there is – if there ever was – anything – ANYTHING – to it. Is it all just fables men made up to have something to support themselves with in times of trial and trouble? Is everything I believed based on stories a group of people who were looking from something new needed, stories they made up and then evolved over the years – dare I say a cult?

    Now … Now I go to church, but it’s all different. The singing doesn’t move me, the words don’t bless me, the people bore me. Wonder if they are all fools. They are hypocites, that I know. They know my situation, my desperate condition, but all they do is smile and say that they’ll pray for me. The don’t lift a finger, don’t even ask specifically what I need in prayer.

    Now …. Now I lay awake and wonder how – or IF – God (whatever that is) will take care of my daughter with Down Syndrome after I’m dead. I know that the church will do nothing. I lay awake and wonder on that morning when I wake and am no longer able to get out of bed because of my brain degeneration and my daughter finds me staring at her helplessly what she will do. Will she get some food and go to her coloring books? Will she wander off down the streets of our city, a potential innocent and helpless victim to be taken advantage of by people while I lay helplessly behind?

    God? God? Really? What God, or god?

    • Janet, where do you live? I would encourage you to pull no punches and share your comment with the preacher at your church. And if you get no help then, don’t give up. If you can get some other people involved some how, a champion will arise.

      • It comes down to everybody is in it for themselves. No one from chruch has offered any help or encouragement. I asked the elders to think about what happens to handicapped children when their parents aren’t around anymore and got the usual – and worthtless – “I’ll pray for you.” Big deal! The church is a useless and selfish. I doubt any of them have ever read Acts. I have some friends in the Unitarian Universalist church and it seems like maybe I should start going there – they may be “Pro-choice” but it seems like they have concern for the handicapped AFTER they’re born. The so-called “Christ”ians couldn’t care less once they the child is out of the womb. Maybe the UUs are where I belong.

  5. WOW!!! I love you Les, always have and always will and my heart goes out to you my brother. Your story always brings tears and makes my heart heavy for you and all those who love you. Integrity is hard to find today and I know you do have that. Thank you for sharing, for opening up and once again, I do love you so much Les. Your honesty really pricks my heart and I am glad you are my brother in Christ. Nancy said, “Tell Les I love him also.” Mike

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