When a Good Kid Gets Caught, Part 2
A Letter to Chad
by Greg Wright
"Hey Dad, what's up?" said Buzzy, dropping himself into his father's recliner with a thud.
"I'm writing a letter, Buzzy." Commander Dave said, without looking up.
"Who are you writing?"
"I'm writing Chad. I would prefer to see him in person, but his parents keep making excuses for why Chad is unavailable. They have kept him pretty hidden away since he got caught shop lifting."
"What are you telling him?"
Commander Dave looked up with annoyance. "I don't know yet. Buzzy, don't you need to feed the dog or take out the trash or something?"
"I talked to Chad today," said Buzzy, ignoring his father's suggestion.
Commander Dave dropped his pen and turned around to listen.
"I don't know what's going on, Dad," Buzzy continued. "Chad says that he was never really a Christian. He says that he joined Rangers just for the fun of it and that he never took the religious/spiritual aspect of it very seriously."
"How strange!" Commander Dave exclaimed. "I certainly remember when Chad walked down to the altar and said he wanted to be a Christian. Reverend Sykes prayed with him. And, even more vividly, I remember his testimony when he was baptized in Salem Creek."
"Dad, brace yourself, you're not going to like this. Do you remember the Admit/Believe/Confess thing you went through with Chad, when he prayed the sinner's prayer? He says that he did it just to get you off his back; he never meant any of it. In fact, he doesn't even believe in hell."
Commander Dave took a deep breath as he felt a case of heartburn coming on. Too much coffee during a very stressful day was catching up to him. Finally, he said, "Buzzy, would you go hang out in the den for awhile. I've got some serious thinking and writing to do, and my brain is a little rusty, right now."
Buzzy touched his Dad on the shoulder and said, "I love you Dad." Then he walked into the den and closed the door.
Commander Dave stared at the six paneled door, half hoping that all the mixed emotions and ideas in his head might sort themselves out while he watched. Then he prayed and picked up his pen to write.
I decided to write you in order to encourage you, having heard that you've had a rather bumpy time lately, getting into all kinds of trouble. I hope you know, up front, that I love you and miss you very much. And, it's out of love that I hope you agree that what you did was a terrible thing. When someone is sick, nothing is gained by denying the symptoms. Nevertheless, please remember what Jesus said in Mark 2:17, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners."
In many places in the scriptures, a sinful heart is compared to sickness. Also, people usually don't go to see a doctor unless they think they are sick. So, what you did, in the end, can be a good thing if it makes you realize that you need that great physician, Jesus Christ.
But for now, it's not much fun. I know that you've been grounded, although it is worth mentioning that when parents say grounded for life, they usually don't mean that in the most literal sense. I was grounded a few times myself, and although it has been several years sense my own period of bumpiness, I still remember how it feels. Yet, I must submit that there is some advantage to being caught, especially if you are still young and your character is still tender and moldable. In fact, one of the most loving things that God sometimes does for us, when we are young, is make sure that we get caught, allowing our parents and other responsible adults to take action to prevent us from going down a path that would eventually destroy us.
When I look back on my own wild years, I'm not only horrified at what I did but amazed that it didn't destroy me. But, now I'm glad it happened. You see, I had to understand how bad I was before I could really appreciate God's kindness towards me. Now, as I look at my wife, my son, and my career, there is no way that I deserve any of this, and I owe everything to God's grace and compassion.
I'll never forget the day, one of the lowest points in my life, when my mother quoted the Bible verse, "If you think you stand, take heed lest you fall." I had thought that I could stand close to sin without getting burned by it. I was wrong, and when I fell, I fell badly. I vividly remember pleading with God not to put me on the shelf and begging him to give me another chance. From that day on, my life began to change.
When people get caught in sin, typically they do one of five things. One is where the person is sad, but only because he got caught, and he commits himself to being more careful next time. Our prisons are filled with people like this who realized, too late, that they could never be careful enough.
The second case is where the person is sad about what he did and determines to reform. But, sometimes he fails and finds that while he can do okay with the little things, when the going gets rough, sin is sometimes a tiger that he cannot tame. Then, he says, "what's the use," and gives in.
Worse, yet, is the third case where the person attempts to reform and appears to succeed. I say that this is worse, because a person might spend his whole life committed to doing good deeds, only to find that our best falls far below God's standard of holiness and that hell awaits. Chad, I know that you don't believe in hell, but please note that Jesus said more about hell than he did about heaven.
The fourth case, is where the person gets depressed and turns inside himself, nurturing anger and bitterness, letting them grow until they develop into uncontrolled passions that take over and direct all his actions. Perhaps the hideous, reckless, mindless shooting rampages that we read about can be traced back to this. Take note, the root of bitterness must never be allowed to grow. It must be uprooted.
The fifth case is where I went, by God's grace. Yes, when I messed up I was devastated with sadness. But, out of my sadness, I cried out to God. I asked him to forgive me, and I determined that I would no longer live for myself but for him. I had absolutely nothing to offer in return, not even good works.
God heard my prayer, and when God took over my life, he gave me a new heart that wanted to seek after him. Today I can truthfully say that the most important thing in my life is pleasing God. Indeed, when I'm careless and forget God, my heart feels so empty that I run back to Jesus. Karl Marx, who was very critical of religion, compared religion to the drug, opium. He said, "religion is the opiate of the masses." Well, he was right in a sense. I am addicted to Jesus. Everything that is worthwhile in life I've found in Jesus, and nothing has any value without him, Ranger awards, advancements, merits, etc, none of these matter without Jesus Christ.
So, all is not lost, if the outcome of this experience is that you turn to Jesus in repentance and faith. God sees us as we are, but he is also able to see down the road to the last chapter of our lives. God's call on our lives has never changed; he demands that we turn away from living for ourselves and turn to Jesus, trusting him not only for the ability to live life now, but to forgive us our sins and to bring us safely into heaven. He also says that he will not turn away anyone who comes to him; that includes you.
Getting caught is not nearly as important as how we respond to it. Even as I've prayed for you and Buzzy's other friends many times, I pray that you will respond to the one who, when his disciples tried to turn the kids away, said, "allow the children to come to me, for of such is the kingdom of God."
Your friend and Buzzy's Dad, Commander Dave
Chad, in order to make this long letter a little less preachy, I avoided mingling most of the Bible verses that came to mind. However, if you want to look up some of these, they are listed below:
For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.
1 Corinthians 10:12
Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.
But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.
For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.
2 Corinthians 5:15
And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.
And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.
Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.
It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.