*****Heads up, this blog contains some graphic language.******
"Do not forget to show hospitality, for in doing this some have entertained angels without even realizing it."
He says this to me as the lights of the city illuminate his face. He has experienced five lifetimes of pain in sixteen years, and the carnage gives the appearance of a much older, wiser man. The view of the city from the butte inspires him; in it he sees the beauty of a full picture, and he hopes that the full picture of his life will reveal such splendor.
He is a young man as he tells me his life story, but he speaks with an ancient wisdom. He is poor in spirit, but it becomes so obvious to me that the Kingdom of heaven is his. On his arms are dozens of scars, each telling a story of agony and fear. On his wrists are thick scars, they almost look prosthetic, symbols of a time not long ago when the entropy was too much to bear.
He has known the awful touch of older naked men. Innocence, not lost, but savagely and heinously stolen. Sexuality was his nightmare, and then his obsession, and then his tool. In those moments he prayed for God to rescue him, but those prayers never prevented the years of rape and torture.
It has been six months since his last dose of heroin, and five minutes since the last time he felt the urge. He has every reason not to trust me, an older male, yet there he is, bleeding his past onto me, sharing every fear, heartbreak and doubt. He tells me he wants to go to college, get a degree in business and open up a sports shop.
"Or maybe I'll teach yoga, I don't know. I got time."
How is it possible, how can it be, that there is still a spark in his eye? How is it that I see him shining clear as day underneath the darkest shame? Every construct I held of an all powerful God was being ripped apart and reconstructed at the same time.
"I used to think if there was a God, fuck him. I mean, what kind of God just ignores a little kid asking to not be raped? Why would God answer a pastors prayer to get a ten million dollar house but not my prayers to be rescued?"
He had read about Joel Olsteens house in a magazine earlier that day.
"I used to watch church on TV at my grandma's and the preacher said if we sent him money God would make our bank accounts bigger. And all I could think was 'fuck that, I just don't want my dads friends to make me touch them anymore.' My grandma gave money, that guy got richer and my grandma died without a penny to her name. Why does God let shit like that happen?"
That's a good question. I hate that this is a valid and important question. I'm tempted to tell him that God probably didn't answer that guys prayers either, that maybe there is such a thing as dumb luck, but I know quick and easy answers are insufficient here.
Then he said it. Words that will stay with me forever.
"But- I have to think, why do I love beauty so much? Why do I feel like I'm falling and being held at the same time? Why do I feel like this love-type-thing is calling out to me? Maybe God, or the Divine, does care, and maybe, at the end of it all- I'll look at my life the way I look at this city from the butte. Maybe after all the pain and scars and chaos, I'll see that God is making something beautiful. I don't know- but I hope so."
I'm floored. I'm in awe. Very aware the presence of God was made manifest in this kids philosophical musings. As he voices his doubts and hopes, he speaks healing to mine.
Henri Nouwen would call him a Wounded Healer.
"Maybe God isn't the thing that takes away our pain, maybe God is the thing that enables us to bear it all," I tell him.
An all powerful God narrative isn't helpful when you're talking to a kid who begged for reprieve in the midst of his torture. But the incarnation, the Divine revealed as a baby in a barn, shows us a different way of looking at God. The incarnation shows us a God that, more than almighty, is all vulnerable.
I don't know where or how my friend is today. But know that without even knowing whether or not there was a God, let alone a Trinity, he continued incarnation and spoke words of calm and healing to my storming and my doubting, and he didn't even know he was doing it.
In the end, we will all look at our lives the way that kid and I looked at the city from the view of the butte. We will see perspective and beauty. We will see that all our sufferings lie in momentary pain while the wait of endless glory remains to be. The movement of God is flowing like a river towards the final healing, restoration and resurrection. We are all in the river, some of us are trying to stay still or fight against the current, and some of us just drift with the flow. You can't force it, push it or stop. The movement of God will always flow towards restoration.
That conversation with that kid was a prime example of the Divine Flow.