Well my dad left home when I was three, didn’t leave much for ma and me, just an old guitar and an empty bottle of booze…

Detroit, my home town. What chance does a kid have when he’s from that part of town, from that side of brokenness? Kids from broken homes are statistically doomed to fail in relationships, education and employment.

Doom manifests quietly as blight upon roses, but hitting as hard as lightening. Relationships are shallow with self-service, education is abandoned for fear of failure and employment is without spiritual value.

I refuse to die like this. I am going to be a better man even if I have to be honest, generous, forgiving and hopeful.  My life isn’t the way I want it and it never will be. I have accepted my curse and I hope with a terminal hope that the audience of my family will stand in ovation if I am to die fighting bravely in this coliseum.

When I’m out here and alone in this valley of dry bones,

My prayers are mirages and my faith is just a scam.

Will you still find me? Is there a road home for a bankrupt believer, a defiant lamb?

 

Currently, my sin is in remission. I am happily married, educated and gainfully employed. I earned it; just ask my calluses, the sleepless nights, the gold ring on my finger. Ask my child’s smile; the scars I gave Father-God.

When I met God, He was at a table of gamblers in a den of thieves, and I knew that snake was my own sweet dad… That’s not where I expected to find Him. I thought He lived at church, or in white clouds wearing luminous robes, not old work clothes and muddy boots.  I certainly never thought I would see Him on that side of town; even cops don’t go there. I didn’t think He would have scars, either. Yet I knew Him by His scars and the love in His tired eyes. When our eyes met He knew the fight was on.

…I said, hello, my name is Sue; now you gonna die!

Well I hit him hard right between the eyes and he went down but to my surprise he came up with a knife and took off a piece of my ear, but I busted a chair right across his teeth and we crashed through the wall, and into the street kick’n and a goug’n in the blood and the mud and the beer…I heard him laugh then I heard him cuss, he went for his gun and I pulled mine first and he stood there look’n at me and I saw him smile…

…I got all choked up and threw down my gun, I called him my pa and he called me his son, and I came away with a different point of view…

I began to forgive God the first time I held my newborn son. I was holding a little boy who was completely without prejudice, fear and malice. For this gift, I decided to give God another chance. (But I would still pray with a gun tucked in my belt.)

As I held him I lowered my face to his ear, Hello, my name is Sue. I said with a surprising rush of pride. I am from Detroit and I am your dad. Then I whispered some promises about baseball and fishing while gently caressing his face.

I realized I was proud to be a Sue because I had somehow survived all of the blessings God used to develop my character. I still can’t admit to fully appreciating God’s method of building a man, as I bear the marks, but I am now the man my son needs to be his father. The lessons have left me with little more than Spartan wisdom to share with my son. I will teach him:

  • Sharing field rations is a kind of Eucharist
  • Incarceration can bring you closer to God
  • How to pray before battle
  • To always be brave enough to carry a wounded comrade to safety
  • You can’t create anything beautiful with excuses

If I had the energy to live my life over again, I would re-enlist for the same tour of duty because it was worth it to my son.

Funny which words stick around twenty years down when you’re driving alone…what’s a boy to do when there’s no man at home…

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