His life certainly didn’t start out this way. Raised by loving, Christian parents, he attended a Christian school for 13 years, kindergarten through 12th grade. His father is a minister; church attendance and involvement have always been a way of life for this family.
I began to see small changes in him last year. He started hanging out with a fast crowd. He seemed angry, sullen. This year, the difference was more dramatic: weight loss, frequent absences, sleeping in class, and occasional extreme silliness. He often smelled like cigarettes. We called his parents to let them know, since it is a violation of our school code of conduct for students to smoke. His mother said that although he used to smoke, he promised her that he had quit. That was enough for her, but we knew he was still smoking; I was gravely concerned that it was not all he was doing. I scheduled for the “drug lady”, a police representative who brings a dog specially trained to sniff out drugs, to visit our school. There are very specific laws against searching students without cause, but a random visit from the “drug dog” can provide that cause. Unfortunately it was too late. One week before she was scheduled to visit, he ran away from home.
It happened on Saturday. His dad, on the advice from a counselor friend, bought him a brand new pool table. It seems he was advised to find something they could do together to help with their relationship. They spent the afternoon playing pool followed by dinner at his favorite restaurant. After a fun-filled day, the father turned in, satisfied that he had taken the first step to mending the relationship. Once the boy was sure that his parents were asleep, he fashioned a rope to his bedpost, shimmied down two stories, and ran away. A little over one semester away from graduation, he took off. No note, no call, no thought to his future, no concern about his family, just gone.
Two weeks later, his dad is sitting in my office, ready to withdraw him from school. He is a broken man: pale, emotional, guilt-ridden, at a loss for words, and perplexed as to the best course of action for his son. His days, which just a few weeks earlier, were filled with ministry opportunities, now are driven by gut-wrenching decision after decision.
I’ve been thinking about this boy a lot the past few weeks. I may not be tempted by drugs, but, like everyone else, I am vulnerable. I am all too familiar with the stench of Satan’s hot breath as he looms closer and closer seeking control over me.
“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast.
To him be the power for ever and ever.
I Peter 5:8-11