The young man was broken, his face a mask of pain. His breathing came in hitched gasps—his heart thudded in his chest like the chug-chug of a steam engine with a faulty boiler. He was lean and wiry. He moved around the room in a drunken stupor, not quite sure whether his next step would be firm or wobbly. More than once I thought he’d tip over and slam into something before he hit the floor.
He cursed. He condemned himself. He damned all those who sought to walk alongside him. His hands kept making gestures as he carried on a sporadic conversation that was equal parts defiance and contrition. Tears streamed from red-rimmed eyes as he laboriously came to terms with reality. All future prospects hung in the balance of the consequences of his personal struggles and limitations.
A self-inflicted wound was stabbing at him. His blink of an eye choice in a moment of kneejerk weakness was threatening to destroy any chance of triumphing over bondage. He wanted to shatter the chain of sorrow that had been forged in adolescence, but now that was an iffy proposition. He was shackled to liquor. It had begun in an all too ordinary way in his early teens. He simply fell into the pattern modeled by adult relatives who habitually anesthetized themselves with narcotics or hooch. Soon the partying and kicking-back became an out of control lifestyle of self-destruction.
It was his downfall—liquor and drugs had defeated him more times than he could number. He had been in and out of jail, and through the revolving doors of detox and rehab. He had to live with it every day—an inner agony that deceived him into thinking that alcohol was not a poisonous snake coiled in wait to sink its fangs into him. Now he was in a program that offered genuine hope for him to overcome the inner demons that fueled his addictions. There was light shining in the darkness of his life, but then, in a momentary lapse of judgment he had screwed up big-time.
Desperately helpless, he cried out to the Creator of the universe, offering up prayer without words. It was painful watching him unravel in an emotional free-fall—even more gut-wrenching to listen to the hopelessness of fear, failure and remorse choke out of him. Finally, blessedly he stretched out on his bed and passed out.
By the mercy of God and the wisdom of the staff he was granted a measure of grace. Whether he succeeds in shedding the past to break free and walk in sobriety remains an open-ended uncertainty, but he has seized the opportunity and is working at it.
The above story is fictionalized from real-life—the thirty-something man besieged by alcoholism could be any mother’s son, any father’s bright-eyed boy. No parent is ever immune from the plights of their children.
There are troubles and would-be dilemmas that await openings to devour our children’s strength and vigor—one can never know what plague of locust might befall them. Given those indisputable facts, seeking supernatural safety and security ought to be the first course of action defined in every parental playbook.
For his age, he’s wise
He’s got his mother’s eyes
There’s gladness in his heart
He’s young and he’s wild
My only prayer is
If I can’t be there
Lord, protect my child.
As his youth now unfolds
He is centuries old
Just to see him at play makes me smile
No matter what happens to me
No matter what my destiny
Lord, protect my child
Cold & Cruel
A baby is born. Everyone is thrilled. Hopes and dreams spring forth with ease and excitement. Yet, unless naiveté rules supreme, there’s also an undercurrent of anxiety because the world can be a cold, cruel place.
Headlines come rushing to mind that remind us of the dangers lurking around the edges of our lives. We’d like to pretend it was not so, but reality is mercilessly clear: Heartaches and disappointments can be found on every street corner and are cheaper than a dime a dozen.
As parents and grandparents, our constant longing is to shield family from risks and perils that could sidetrack or even derail them. Despite all our efforts the injustice of life rears its head with a casual disregard that can stun and numb us. We watch powerlessly as train wrecks occur close to home. We make our way the best we can, always seeking to uphold those we love. Even as we do so, deep within we are entirely aware of our failures, inadequacies and constraints. We have come to understand that life can be a meat-grinder that keeps churning.
Is the world getter colder and crueler as the years pile up on top of each other? Are the prospects for poor choices significantly greater nowadays? Is the deck of life stacked against younger generations? Not sure what the answer is to those questions, though reports involving children sliding past lines that ought never to be crossed are so routine as to be regarded as normal. Unfortunately once some lines are crossed the seeds of damage can sink so deep that the roots develop into a tangled mass that is not easily dislodged or eradicated—life becomes a continual battle against crops of lethal weeds.
As age has crept up on me it seems that the potential pitfalls for teen-agers to fall into have increased, along with a rampant hostility in our culture which is incessantly on display. Is that observation a true reflection or merely a byproduct of the worldwide web and twenty-four hour channels spewing out bad news in real time?
The whole world is asleep
You can look at it and weep
Few things you find are worthwhile
And though I don’t ask for much
No material things to touch
Lord, protect my child
He’s young and on fire
Full of hope and desire
In a world that’s been raped and defiled
If I fall along the way
And can’t see another day
Lord, protect my child
So Say We All
Lord, Protect My Child is a gem written by Bob Dylan. It was an outtake for Infidels, which was released in October 1983. The song finally broke out of the vault on 1991’s The Bootleg Series Volumes 1-3. An evocative prayer, the images and straightforward request resonates with every parent and grandparent. With the twenty-twenty vision of hindsight we realize that the harsh vagaries awaiting each newborn can be daunting—overwhelming, even. It should even stir the hearts of all would-be parents and grandparents.
Entertainment idols promote and glorify harmful preferences as being completely acceptable alternatives to common sense. Then peer pressure applies its weight to insist that what was once known as immoral is now morality dressed up in the trappings of society’s fixation on the political correctness of tolerance. Nowadays it is proclaimed that everyone is free to do whatsoever pleases them, which is a half-truth that the Enemy promotes and encourages. The whole truth was written by Paul of Tarsus under the inspiration of the One who from everlasting to everlasting is God: “Everything is permissible—but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible—but not everything is constructive.”
As parents and grandparents we affirm the essential relevance of Paul’s perception because of the wreckage that lies scattered in the rearview mirror of our lives. We’ve seen up close that experimenting with options or seemingly innocent activities can result in tragedies or a lifetime of after-effects. We know the vast difference between careful and careless for we have eye-witnessed the devastating outcomes that ensue when careless triumphs over careful, which it does more often than not.
There’s also a super highway full of hazards that is easily accessed. The information revolution has produced multitudes of convenience and advantages, but there are treacherous snares hidden within the brambles of cyberspace.
The wonders of creation are to be treasured, but the dark side of life on planet earth can be brutally random and unfair. Along with wrinkles and gray hair comes knowledge of the curse of sin. If we could do so, we’d safeguard our children and grandchildren from its debilitating influences, but try as we might, we cannot.
In my extremely short sixty years of experiential learning I’ve concluded that when it comes to watching over loved ones, the only logical approach is to assault the throne-room of heaven: Lord, hear my prayer—until righteousness reigns protect my children and grandchildren from the cold cruelties of this hard world.
So say we all—AMEN.
There’ll be a time I hear tell
When all will be well
When God and man will be reconciled
But until men lose their chains
And righteousness reigns
Lord, protect my child