I recently became aware that I have some work that is incomplete. You see when I was a teenaged boy there was a single incident that happened to me that (literally) altered my life.
I wasn’t sexually molested. I wasn’t abandoned (in the traditional sense). I wasn’t bullied everyday at school. But I can see it all unfolding before me right now as I sit behind this keyboard.
You see I was basically raised by my mother. My father was out-of-town four or five nights a week. I had four sisters and did not have a brother until I was thirteen. So for all intense and purposes I lived in a girls’ dormitory. Or at least that was my limited perspective on it as a “boy child.”
I could rarely do anything right. Don’t his your sisters. You don’t know your own strength. Still to this day I can show you the scars on my hands from their fingernails. Now don’t get me wrong, I know I was a handful… probably even two handfuls. But what’s a boy to do when he has a father that wants little or nothing to do with him? When he finally gets to see his dad and can only piss him off?
So I finally got my big chance. I made the highschool JV football team. And I was good too. But I didn’t know how to act. I was always doing things to draw attention to myself. Good or bad attention as long as I got attention that’s all that mattered. I wish I knew then what I know now. As I am sure my adult coaches, teachers and even my siblings and parents do. All I knew how to do then was to (basically) do whatever made me feel good and got me attention. I was just… a jerk.
The final straw was the night we lost our only game of the season. I was cutting up on the bus and the coach told me to knock it off. Well of course I did when he was looking but I kept pushing the envelope. Egging it on and trying to make myself feel good! But when we got back to the school the coach had a surprise for me. He summarily kicked me off the team. Right there in front of the entire team. He just grabbed me by the front of my jersey and told me to get my stuff and get out of their that I was no longer on the team. What? I mean I know I was a jerk and didn’t listen to him on the bus but to kick me off the team for being a jerk and flaunting his authority behind his back in front of the entire team. Oh… yeh well if you put it like that it makes a little sense. I guess.
I remember it was foggy that night. I walked up and down the street that night for literally hours kicking a soda can (still wearing my cleats and football pants.) Up and down. Up and down, crying like a little baby. I can’t remember being so hurt and lost ever.
Now if that wasn’t bad enough. I later found out that my mom called the coach and talked to him about reinstating me on the team. Instead of the coach reinstating me on the team he let the entire team vote me back on or not. I got THREE VOTES for and the rest was against. I was crushed. I mean I knew I was not the most popular guy but to be so soundly rejected by practically all they guys you thought was your friend… You just can not imagine the humiliation, rejection, hurt and yes, anger.
When that school year was over I asked my mom and dad to sign the papers so I could join the US Navy. So at the ripe old age of seventeen and with my tenth grade education I set off to make a man out of myself.
Those first years couple of decades were admittedly rough. I came from a small town in Mississippi and led a pretty sheltered life. I had already begun to drink some beer but didn’t know anything about drugs. However, being young and in the navy I soon learned all about drinking and drugs. I didn’t feel much during those decades. I was either drunk, high or both.
The thing about being drunk/high is that I didn’t have to accept any of the blame or responsibility for where I found myself in life. After all, I was just a kid I wasn’t supposed to be smart enough or have all the “tools” to deal with my abusive, alcoholic, womanizing, absent father. Surely it wasn’t my fault! You know those excuses will only get you so far in life.
I ended up going through an in patient drug/alcohol treatment program put on for veterans. That was my first clue that maybe I should actually look at the choices that I’ve made. Okay so none of the things in my life had changed. I still had every adult I counted on give up on me but heck if I had a kid like me now I would find it easier to give up on him too. Probably.
But back to FORGIVENESS. You know for years and years and years I wondered what ever happened to that coach that kicked me off the football team. I would even hope to run into him one day so I could give him a piece of my mind… or worse. But that was all the alcohol and drugs talking then. Eventually I hit the proverbial “bottom.” I had done the Monty Hall get to know God salvation plan many times. You remember Monty Hall from “Let’s Make a Deal” don’t you? That was me for many years. “Oh God, if You will just get me out of this mess then…” Let’s make a deal God.
Finally the day and circumstance came that I actually heard the Lord say to me, “If not now I won’t ever bother you again.” That was pretty scary stuff. Since that day I have changed my life style. I have NOT been perfect nor will I ever be perfect. But I no longer intentionally hurt people. I do hurt people but not intentionally. I’m still learning.
I have forgiven that coach so many times in my mind and even prayed for him on occasion. I thought I was “up to date” on that forgiveness thing… until I ran into him on line. That incident happened over thirty-seven years ago. I haven’t thought about it much in the last several years. And I thought I had done all the forgiving I needed to do to be “up to date” on my forgiveness card. But honestly when I exchanged a couple of emails with the guy I was like (to myself) “He’s not sorry. It was all about him and he could have cared less for me.” Well duh! Who am I to see into his heart and know what is going on in there? Heck I thought I had my heart all clean and pure with regards to that single issue. I can be pretty good at compartmentalizing my Christianity if I let myself.
So let’s scrape the forgiveness scab off once again and see what it will take to really heal that thing. It would be easier to just place blame and forget about it but that is not what I am called to do. I have had too many people give up on me over the years. I’m not going to be one of them.