You surprised Daddy and me by coming into the world a month early, and your hurry in life continued into toddlerhood, where you were always in a hurry to get somewhere, but seldom sure exactly where it was you were trying to "get" to. True to form, you began walking at about a year; you walked for a week and then ran pell-mell everywhere you went. And you never stopped smiling. Except for a couple months of colic, you were always a happy baby.
You grew into an equally happy-go-lucky child, then teen. You always had plenty of friends, a mischievous glint in your eye, and a plan of some kind to have fun. . . like when you put a frog in the microwave just to see what would happen. . . or when you convinced your little friend it would be fun to dress up as Steve Urkel. . . or when you burned rubbing alcohol off your hand without getting singed, to the amazement of your less adventurous buddies, just because you could. Life with you was definitely neither boring nor predictable. There were plenty of surprises.
Not all surprises are good, however, like when Dad and I realized you were using drugs. Really, deep down, we already knew. It was obvious in your eyes - once alive, now dead. God in His mercy engineered circumstances that would not allow us to ignore the issue or gloss it over as something you would outgrow; when you totaled your sister's car, He got our attention. In turn, we got yours. The accident involved only a pile of hurricane (Katrina) debris; there were no injuries, no police, but we drug-tested you at home. When you turned up positive on a couple counts, we gave you the ultimatum: Get help or get out. We had already explained that we'd take you either to Teen Challenge or to wherever you chose to go; but if you were not getting help, that would be the end of our involvement. We refused to watch you self-destruct.
When you agreed to get help for the sole reason that you didn't want to be estranged from us as your big brother had been, we knew God was up to something.
Leaving you five hours from home (at the Teen Challenge induction center) was the single hardest thing I've every done in my life. Would you stay? Would you leave? Would God reach your heart in time?
However, looking back on those eighteen months that we traveled back and forth once or twice a month to see you, they were some of the sweetest times we've shared as parents and son. God restored the lost years (Joel 2:25). Then when you gave your heart to Him, your eyes were alive again. God gave you back to us (Luke 7:15). Sometimes I think of what might have become of you had we not taken a stand and drawn a line in the sand; I wonder where you might be today. . . strung out somewhere. . . in jail. . . dead? I'm so thankful God intervened in all our lives.
Son, I chose to write to you, not to dredge up the past, but to tell you that you were not the only person who changed over the course of those Teen Challenge years. God worked in Dad and me too, to free us from the bondage of others' judgments and expectations. He taught us to trust Him as we never had before. He taught us about true grace and helped us surrender our performance mentality and our fears of man. He taught us to forgive ourselves for not being perfect. He birthed Glass House Ministries in our hearts.
That said, Dad and I both want you to know we would never change one second of our pasts, for God has used the past to bring us through the present and give us hope for the future. He has a plan, and we can trust in Him.
Your strength in honoring your commitment to the Teen Challenge program - first as a student, then as an intern, and now as a staff member. . . your humility and refusal to place blame on anyone but yourself for your choices. . . and your steadfast commitment to Christ over the past three years has ministered to our family more than you will ever know. Gone is the little boy seeking only fun and adventure, replaced by a man seeking to honor God, committed to follow His will wherever it may lead. We love you!
Always and forever,