I worry sometimes about the current generation of young people in America who have lived in a world much different than I grew up in. While I am aware and accept we need to protect children from disaster I am conflicted with the thought our society has attempted to remove all hardship or discomfort from daily life. In my own life I can, while looking back, see the periods where I have matured most are in the midst of struggle and even failure. Today it seems there is an unwarranted and negative stigmatism applied to failure.
I remember, a few years ago, seeing my son and his play friends in the yard one summer, six boys all in t-shirts and shorts and not a single band-aid to be found. When I was a kid band-aids were merit badges for doing something stupid and good topics for show and tell. Bike helmets and knee pads were only for the most wicked of jumps with your bike, not for tooling around in the cul-de-sac, and no one wanted to get caught wearing these if there were girls around. I wonít even tell you how my dad was taught to ride a bike by his father because the statute of limitations in North Dakota for child endangerment might still be in play for all I know. But that man could sure ride.
It took a trip to the hospital from a fall off my bicycle to impress upon me the reality of my own mortality and vulnerability, and who knows where I would be today had I not learned the harsh lesson of a dayís pay for a dayís work when I got fired from a job in high school. Getting caught up with some wild kids on Halloween and ending up in front of a judge for aggressive use of a slingshot, I knew then the limits of my fatherís power to isolate me from my poor decisions. I also learned the costs for poor choices could be higher than I could easily repay. My recognition of a complete lack of ability to repay Christ for my sins and was in desperate need of salvation came only in one of the darkest periods of my life and forever altered its course.
There is a cost for sin that must be paid and while Christ removes the final penalty of death for sin, we are not absolved of the consequences while alive in our bodies. Christ can easily forgive the sin of sexual activity but children who result of it must be cared for. We can fall to the cross pleading to our Lord when we commit a crime but we are not immune to the need for restitution or justice from society. Divorce of a spouse can be forgiven, but the tremendous cost to the family and devastation to innocent children may last generations. Living with the consequences of our behavior is, in my reasoning, the anvil upon which character is forged and removing these seems dangerous. To fall back on an old saying "It is not what happens to you which matters, but how you respond to what happens to you."
My wife and I were discussing this the other day over a young man in our church whose life has spiraled downward and into chaos in the past year. Our church family has been consistent in reaching out to him, helping him and his mother in tough times and doing what could be done to counsel him into making positive changes. As time went on he continued to demonstrate a worldly life of sex, drugs and lacking in personal responsibility. In recent weeks a court date has been looming over his head to address a narcotics possession charge while driving without a license and this is where my wife and I diverged in our hearts. She was praying for a merciful judge and I was not. She hoped for his freedom and I was of the opinion that a few months without it might just be the best thing for him. She wanted him to fly free and I wanted him to hit rock bottom.
I suppose there is some justification for her claim of me being cold hearted, but I canít divorce myself from the belief that pain is vital for change. C.S. Lewis, in The Problem of Pain, establishes his work around the declaration "If God were good, He would make His creatures perfectly happy, and if He were almighty He would be able to do what he wished. But the creatures are not happy. Therefore God lacks either goodness, or power, or both" and then clearly establishes that without pain there can be no need for salvation. The existence of pain or suffering does not make God cold hearted or unworthy of our devotion, in fact it is exactly the opposite.
When our young man was released on a procedural technicality and absolved of all charges my wife saw this as a sign from God that He had taken a direct hand on things in His mercy. Perhaps this is so, I am not yet convinced. It is understandable to assume that all things which have moved in our favor, in the moment, are good but I will resist judgment of this until I can see the fruit. Perhaps the young man had matured with the threat of an imprisonment, God saw this change in him and the actual need for it no longer applied. It is said there are few atheist in a fox hole and fewer at the gallows and I think there is truth in those ideas.
I am eager to see a transformation of a life away from destruction and into a powerful testimony of what God can do so I am hopeful. I am concerned, however, that the actual prize for the trial, the life altering event, was never reached and our young man will remain unchanged. Time will tell.
The article began (the first 2 1/2 paragraphs) by making some general statements and then "bam" we (the readers) are thrown right into a very specific situation; why am I saying this, because the transitition from one to the other was abrupt and, at least for me, I had to back up and change my own focus. If this was done for the sake of "shock and awe," it worked, but the overall demeanor of the article tells me it was meant to be informative more than demonstrative. I'd find a way to smooth that rough transition and "lead" the reader to your point, rather than "throwing" them into it. As far as content? Well, I was in jail, facing the possibility of 60 years in prison when Jesus Christ met with me in a powerful, personal and private way, so, I can see both sides of the issue. As for me? I say that He took away my freedom so He could set me free, before then I was free to die, but He captured me so I would be free to live.