The great playwright Oscar Wilde once said there was only one thing he couldn’t resist …
“Do you want to come over this weekend? My roommate is away and I don’t have plans...”
I’m 20 years old and this isn’t the first time a woman has acted interested but it’s the first time they’ve put it so bluntly.
“Oh,” I mumble, “That’s okay, I have plans with family this weekend but thank you for asking, that’s very nice of you.”
I don’t want her to feel bad, but I’m not coming over, and since we’re in the middle of our shift at the restaurant I don’t want her to feel uncomfortable at work.
Too late, now it’s out there and we have to face it.
If I’m honest I have to say I see the reason: generational sexual sin has been an issue in my bloodline for, well...generations. Like the circular marks from a hot stove, I see the scars at family reunions, birthday parties, and weddings. Satan sees this too; I should be an easy mark, but my stubbornness makes me resist this idea even more, the idea that I can be easily duped, manipulated, pulled under.
There’s this reminder too:
A couple years before that when I was 18, a girl that I worked with at camp got me alone under false pretext and when she suddenly realized I wasn’t going to take advantage of her she started to cry and admitted that before becoming a Christian she had let men take advantage of her and that she was thankful I didn’t.
We talked and she left feeling better, instead of used.
The opposite sex will often get emotional or angry when you refuse their advances, they take it personally at a very deep level, but later, if you continue to show you care about them they come around to the idea that you’re not hating or judging them. Instead you are loving them in the way God intended, as a brother or sister in Christ. The love you’re giving them is the one they really need. A love that doesn’t selfishly drink stolen waters for the benefit of themselves but keeps those waters safe for the one God intended for them to share it with - their future spouse, or in volatile cases, their current one.
I can honestly say my wife Is the only woman I’ve ever been with and that not until we were married. I am so thankful to God for this piece of grace in my turbulent life. It can be done but not under your own power. Jesus Christ alone carries you through.
It’s New Year’s Eve and my father is hanging dead from a tree. (Don’t turn away, get in front of it.) I can wrap my arms around my wife and mother while they weep but apart from that there’s nothing else I can do.
In the next year I spend nearly every moment of every hour going over the day he killed himself and the time we spent talking, where I desperately tried to convince him that we needed him. I could feel him fading away and knew the end was near but there was nothing I could do. He slipped out of the house and never came home.
“Papa go to heaven?" My 3 year old daughter asks.
“Yes,” I choke out.
Her big brown earnest eyes bore into mine, “But why?”
My voice is a hoarse whisper, and I shake my head, “I don’t know...I simply don’t know.”
She starts to cry.
That year was hell and every night after we put the kids to bed I would turn up the music, the football game, the movie, whatever and wrap my hand around a cold glass of scotch and just fade away into evening, never getting drunk but close enough to the rusty razors edge where I could fall asleep as quickly as possible. Anything, anything at all to dull the pain.
But something woke me up.
I was working at a job where I was the Director of Operations and answered to the president as head of a large number of departments. At 34 it was a promising future; 60k a year, free health care, new car and only 400 dollars a month in housing payments. I couldn’t lose on that career path and I was proud of that position.
But something was wrong with every financial report that came across my desk.
Money was missing but It wasn’t from my end of things.
As I dug deeper I found that 250,000 dollars was missing, on top of that another 15 grand, and so on and so forth. It went right to the top and as it turned out the president, the CEO and the chairman of the board had been approving large increases for themselves and then paying off their houses, buying new cars and wardrobes and whatever else they needed for a more than comfortable life, while disguising the loses in the mountains of financial shifting and slick accounting.
The worst part of it was that they were firing long time employees left and right and telling them with tear filled eyes as they wrung their hands, “We’re experiencing financial trouble and we can no longer keep your position open.”
They displaced one family after another, families that had trusted them. I confronted the president and was told, in a round-about way that I could quit or get fired if I didn’t keep my mouth shut. I chose to quit AND not keep my mouth shut. Calling my former boss at Starbucks in Seattle I was immediately rehired and given the option of moving to Yakima or Eugene.
The choice was clear to Kimberley and I.
Yakima had a much higher crime rate.
I’ve presented before you the three basic ideas from 1 John 2:16,
For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.
Three temptations we all face: lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, pride of life.
Sex, power, wealth.
Do not be deceived.
I am not racing ahead of you. I am not falling behind you, I am not better than you. I am not worse than you, I’m nothing more than a sinner saved by grace that is clinging to this promise from 1 Corinthians 10:13,
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
God provides a way out of all temptation, and I’m acting out in faith on that promise. In the iconic movie Jurassic Park, when the T-Rex attacks the children the lawyer runs away and hides; the little girl is left alone to defend her younger brother. Deep in shock, she repeats over and over again, “He left us, he left us.” The protagonist calmly puts his arm around her, looks her in the eye and says, “But that’s not what I’m going to do!”
Many people in your life will allow themselves to slip into sin and betray or leave you but that’s not what Jesus is going to do. He’s there with you every step of the way, praying for you, holding you up and fighting every battle for you. The way of escape.
A final story
Gane and I make another attempt at getting her to play.
She's only been at Madison House for a couple of weeks.
She disappeared for a week, but she's back now.
"Come play with the rest of the kids, there's nothing to be afraid of."
We smile and encourage but her eyes drop down and she quietly shakes her head. Gane looks at me and I shrug.
Nothing we can do.
She's the second oldest with a few younger siblings.
They have all joined in the game.
One younger brother, about 6 years old didn't show up,
he normally does.
I start to walk away because we've reached the point where I will just annoy her.
Later Gane tells me the girl took her aside and partially pulled up her shirt exposing a swath of bandages around her abdomen.
Bullets started flying through their house a week ago and she flung her younger brother to the ground. She was only grazed but as we find out later her 6 year old brother got the worst of it.
He had to be flown emergency style to Harbor View.
The surgery was successful but they are not sure if he'll ever be able to use his hand properly again.
The bullet entered at the elbow, traveled up his arm, and came out his palm.
Another week goes by and I'm standing on the front steps greeting children when I see him coming toward Madison House.
"Hey" I ask with utmost concern, "How are you?
His young face flushes with happiness. "I GOT SHOT!"
"Oh, okay," I'm not sure what to say next, so I say,
"Well, are you going to be okay?"
He is hopping up and down with excitement.
"It was awesome!"
"Why was it awesome?"
"I got to fly in a helicopter to Seattle!"
His feet dance and his smile never fades, he has a monstrous cast that covers his arm from mid bicep to the tips of his fingers, he waves it like a flag an exclamation point to his every word.
"And do you know what Tony?!"
"At the hospital in Seattle you can order whatever you want to eat and they have to bring it to you! It was amazing!"
He pushes past me into Madison House, running up the steps and out of site.
For the rest of the day I can hear him from different points on the playground yelling excitedly, "HEY GUYS, I GOT SHOT, AND IT WAS AWESOME! "
He is the star of Madison House for the day and he deserves to be.
That family is with us for another week and then they move away to a safer town.
Not because of gang violence, drugs, or poor housing. I quickly learn from the neighborhood rumor mill that there is more than one father involved in creating this particular family.
Before you judge that too harshly, read Genesis.
One of the fathers didn't appreciate being cut out of the picture and came back with a gun.
How does it feel to be betrayed by your own father? How does it feel to hit the floor as a bullet ruins your arm, knowing that a man you call ‘father’ is the cause of your wounds instead of the healing balm, the protector they were created to be? I can tell you from first hand experience it doesn’t feel great.
I was either going to break or fight back.
Nothing could have been easier for me at the loss of my father to give up; to float away, to slowly weaken myself to the point where even the most innocuous seeming temptation would have broken me.
But that's just not me. How WE feel, or what WE want is immaterial to the mission of Christ and the Cross.
I encouraged one of my brothers by telling him that, "With dad gone, we're already a man down. If you drop your weapon and flee that's exactly what the enemy wants, to pick us off one by one, until we give in to subtle attrition and fade away into the night.”
Once you present yourself before God as an act of service, the enemy, Satan, our real adversary, takes immediate umbrage and starts shooting and he doesn’t stop until he kills your ministry or you go home to be with Jesus. When I finally die and lay on my face before God, he’s going to ask me, “How did it go?”
I’m going to answer in praise,
“I got shot and it was awesome!”