Friday, July 25, 2008

Trespassers Will Be Baptized

Last night I received a phone call I've been waiting for for almost two years. I answered the phone to hear, "Christy, are you busy?" It was Brian, Doogie's best friend and one of my "adopted" sons. We moved to Oconto Falls eight years ago. Brian's house was right behind our apartment, and the two boys were three months apart in age. It seemed like a God thing. The two nine-year-olds quickly became attached at the hip. If Doogie wasn't at home, he was at Brian's, and vice versa. It was never a big deal for one of them to spend the night at the other's, because they both left piles of clothing at each house. They ran around and got into lots of innocent trouble and picked on Molly like big brothers should.

When Doogie was in seventh grade, he entered confirmation classes at the church. I was the assistant teacher on Wednesday nights, and the teacher on Sunday mornings. A few months into class, Doogie invited Brian to come along. His family didn't belong to a church, but Brian started coming and participating. He and Doogie would goof off and occasionally ignore me entirely, but just as often Brian had good questions and wanted to know more. Brian got himself to every class. If he couldn't get a ride, he'd walk the two miles across town. Part of my heart thrilled at his dedication, especially when I had to practically drag Doogie out of the house. In the Methodist church, you need to be baptized before you can become confirmed. So before confirmation, Brian arranged with the minister to be baptized. When my class of six boys was confirmed, I was so proud.

After confirmation, I moved up to teach the high school class to stick with my boys. But then my rheumatoid arthritis kicked in, and I started missing Sundays. Brian and the other guys would sit in the classroom without a teacher. On the rare occasions I felt well enough to teach, I had no more students. They had given up on me, and who could blame them. This is where the story gets really tough for me to tell. At the beginning of Brian's freshman year, he started getting in real trouble. Drugs, alcohol, stealing, bad stuff. He was expelled from school and hasn't been able to go back since January of 2007. Every time I heard about another offense, I felt guilty. If only I had been able to be there for him, to keep teaching, maybe, just maybe things would be different.

Brian came to stay with us one last time in the winter of 2007. He and Doogie spent time in the basement watching movies before coming upstairs to hang out with me. Because Brian liked to spend time with me. We stayed up until 1 in the morning talking and laughing together, just the three of us. But then he got into so much trouble, he had to wear an ankle bracelet and couldn't leave town to stay with us anymore. His family has gone through some trouble, so his phone service has been sporadic. I call and text when he has service, and we stay in contact on MySpace. Every so often, I bake him a pie and drop it by, just to let him know I care. I can't begin to count the hours spent in prayer over him: for his safety, his well-being, his future.

Over 4th of July weekend, he was arrested and released, and then again last week he ended up in jail. This was the last time for his family and the courts. He's been assigned to Challenge Academy, a boot-camp style facility several hours away. I dropped Doogie at Brian's yesterday to say good-bye. After Doogie left, Brian called to talk to me. He realized that he's been pushing God away for a long time, and that his head is so full of his "own stupid thoughts" that he can't hear God anymore. But yesterday, he asked God to give him a sign, something that only he would recognize. And God answered (Hallelujah!), and now he could feel something different inside. Something clean and good. We talked and I stumbled over the right words to say, all the while tears ran down my face. I read him Zephaniah 3:17 ; when I read the verse a few days ago, I thought it was for me. Now I realize it was for him.

He called me this morning on the way to the academy. He's a little scared, but he's brought his Bible. We can write to each other, and for the first time in a long time, I feel hope, and I think he does too. Please pray for Brian to break free from his addictions and to keep listening to God. He's a young man with an enormous amount of potential, and I'm proud to call him my "son."

Trespassers Will Be Baptized by Elizabeth Emerson Hancock: Hancock's memoir about growing up as a pastor's daughter in the South during the 1980s is poignant and hilarious. Emy, as she is called by family, is the eldest daughter and full of ideas about what it means to be a PK (preacher's kid). She tries to follow all the rules and live a spotless life so that her sins don't reflect on her father, but at the same time, she wants the spotlight on her, so she occasionally slips up, like taking a pair of stone-washed Guess jeans from the donation box. Meg, Emy's younger sister, is fiercely independent and an enigma not just to her older sister, but to her parents as well. She is described as: and a little child shall spoil it for everyone else. Hancock ennobles the embattled position of minister in her description of her father and his faith. He is unable to cry when a best friend dies, because a pastor tucks those feelings away. He doesn't get to cry, because he has to support everyone else who is. Emy's deepest wish is to understand the her father's dichotomy. How does he wash away sin when baptizing and still give his daughters baths at night? Her mother has to put on her game face at church and hides Redbook magazine inside a Christian mother's magazine when sunbathing. Hancock truly captures not only her family's humanity, but their enormous faith as well. The book is filled with anecdotes you'll find yourself sharing with friends long after you've finished it. Hancock manages to straddle the fine line between humor and heresy with ease.

Charlie got his first haircut with us today. I didn't recognize him when the groomer brought him out. He has a little doggie mullet, but his fur is so soft. I'll put a picture later this weekend.