Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Bankrupt

His neighbor's window caught my eye when I pulled up a few weeks back.  It's one thing for Robert to live there, quite another for a child. Of course, I thought of Abraham.

What sustains the human spirit? What is it that pushes up through the dirt and inspires a message to the whole world, written in reverse, all except for that pesky "S"? I wanted to know that child, take her for a walk, have her teach me something about contentment and joy.

He walks out of the building and over to my van, all swagger and falling-off pants. He might fool them, but I wouldn't know how, because when he smiles you see clean through the tattoos and the put-on scowl, or at least I do. I see the boy, the Abraham, the one who might have scrawled his own Ode to Joy on a window a few years ago.

We drive to a house a few blocks down, where cops creep through at intervals, where people smoke on front stoops and babies toddle down the sidewalk in droopy pampers.

They scream at him from the porch, each insult more toxic than the last. He loads the van, loads the van. He doesn't say a word, won't play along, and their hatred grows. So they amp it up. He splits down the middle, his protective shell falling away at both sides. He screams back, hurls the ugly over the heads of smudge-cheeked children and right back at them.

I might have done the same, if the whole world was just a tiny bit different.

So I commend him for his self-control. I'm impressed. I mean it. You're better than that. You have skills they don't have. We believe you can do anything. And there he is again, that beautiful child that maybe only I see. He laughs and jokes. We pass the defunct pie shop and I swoon all over again about the signage, so perfectly blue and chippy. "You're so white", he laughs. I shrug.

His apartment is a sitcom waiting to be filmed. It's full of so much crazy, so much reckless emoting, so much masked pain. I love them. Each one of them. They're beautiful and wild and tender and frail and I want to keep them forever as my friends.

I drive home a few hours later, brim-full of the life he shows me. I find more of God every time I'm with him. Isn't that strange? He doesn't even know God. Doesn't want to. But God is there. He's right there in that crappy apartment with all the people who believe they're nothing. He's there in their arbitrary rage. He's with the ones with the dull eyes, the yellow teeth. He's with the ones who shine in spite of it all. They are His people, and I see Him in their midst.

***

I sit two rows behind him, boring holes through his shoulders, his neck, his growing-out afro. It's two weeks later. I listen, but only half-way. I've heard it all before. I know what those papers say and to be honest, I just don't care that much.

He tries to raise his right hand, but it's chained to his left. He won't turn around. He won't look my way.

But I've got all day, I've got forever, so I just keep looking. I won't miss my chance. And so, he looks. We lock eyes and I wink, because it's all I can do. I wink and I smile my smallest smile and he watches me, takes it in.

His lips twist to the side and he shrugs his shoulders. I'll spend the rest of the week deciphering the gesture. I don't know what it meant, but I have my ideas.

They lead him out in pants six inches too short, his slippered-feet barely able to shuffle. His shame is the cinder block of the walls, the concrete of the floors, the drab of the polyester, the bite of the shackles. It trails behind him, emanates from him. It's something real, something I could reach out and shove. It's the thing that killed his light.

So I'm the mom in the courtroom, the one who doesn't care so much about what was said, the one not dumb enough to believe it's not bad, because it's awful. But that's my "son" heading back to jail. He's only eighteen. They'll keep him for a very long time.

I don't know who he'll be when he comes back out. This boy was never a criminal. He was the one I would nudge, through the sheer force of my will, to prove everyone wrong. He was the one who would write the book someday, the one who would show all the other Abrahams that it didn't have to be that way.

One mistake changed all of that and now I'll talk to him through a video screen. I'll show up for his hearings, because no one else will. No one. I'll write letters and I'll pray that the light comes back. I'll miss him and I'll mourn his tonight, his tomorrow, and all of his future. My heart will break in shock-waves.

And I'll hope.

98 comments:

  1. On behalf of all the broken Abrahams, I want to thank you. Thank you for just loving...for loving BECAUSE of a person instead of in spite of them

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  2. Absolutely heart ,breaking, ripping open type of hurt. Love for a child is unbelievable...be there for him. No matter how much it hurts.

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  3. Beautiful and heart wrenching. Hoping along with you and lifting him up in prayer tonight.

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  4. I'm so sorry. You are a beautiful mother.

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  5. My heart hurts for you, for him. I'm thankful he has you, and that you have him. Xoxo

    Alli

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  6. Bless you my darling cause it will mean more to him than you will ever know! In time maybe he will change his heart~Blessings to the unwanted, we live in such a broken world, Kim

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  7. Im sorry girl. Sorry for the pain you have been feeling and will feel in the future. Sorry for his pain also. Just simply sucks. I've felt it and thank God for God because otherwise it would be hopeless...not just feel hopeless at times. Your doing exactly what your suppose to be doing...hoping.

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  8. Yikes!!!!! My husband put 3 17 year olds in jail today. For murder. Oh how we need a saviour.

    Thanks for loving him.

    xo ellie

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  9. bless you and those who are broken those who we pray for redemption and peace.thankyou for being so beautifully you.

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  10. Oh Shannan, I'm so sorry for you and for your boy :( I'm making a note to pray for him each day, and trusting that God will use this time for good. ((hugs))

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    1. p.s. This post is achingly beautiful. I know it's sometimes hard to share the gut-wrenching; thanks for sharing anyway...

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    2. His story isn't over. God is in the redemption business. My heart aches for him, and I will be praying ,just like he was my "grandson". It is so difficult to understand how some are given so much and others only have the scraps from the table. I wish everyone who has lived his life had someone like you and Cory.

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  11. Bless you for loving. Bless him for allowing you in his life. Praying for both of you and hoping with you... Beth K. from Indiana

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  12. The mail is more important than he will ever be able in a million years be able to communicate. Write as much as you can, to that audience of one (but also for the Audience of another One). And, yes, visit as much as you can. It will be troubling in the beginning, and you will wonder why the people who work there are so much scarier than the inmates, but, after awhile, it will feel as normal as going to the grocery store. I understand so much of what you've written so beautifully, here. The seeing into and through. Don't doubt your vision; it's the Lord's. Loving you from afar.

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    1. Brandee...Your counsel is so very right, and you expressed it beautifully. This time last year, I sat in a courtroom watching my very own loved one dressed in the same clothes Shannan speaks of, shuffling with shackles, feeling trapped in a nightmare. Thankfully, a benevolent Christian attorney advocated for us. Economics and access to finances mean everything in our justice system. I learned that lesson the hard way. Praying for you, Shannan. I know the heartbreak, flipping through the channels and seeing shows like COPS and Lockup and dry heaving. The loved ones on the outside live their own private hell. I will pray for you, your heart, his heart, his protection, and finally Godly men to visit him in prison who will also pour into him. Thank you for discussing this topic. It is so often taboo in good Christian circles which just adds to the isolation.

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  13. Your writing is just beautiful even in pain. I am praying for you both. You are shining the Light no matter how hard it is keep on shining. God has a plan.

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  14. "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news!" Romans 10:15b

    I'm thankful for you and your beautiful feet! Praying for your big kids tonight!

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  15. I'ml sorry girl. Not really sure what to say. I'm so glad he's got you.

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  16. How heartbreaking, for both of you. I'm happy he has you to watch over him and care about him.

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  17. praying that this is the driving force, the refining fire that takes his spirit to levels that would otherwise have been missed. praying for you too sweet mama.

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  18. I am praying for you both. I feel your pain. After your response to my email last week (thank you again) so much has transpired between me and my own "daughter". Keep showing him the Love. I have to believe that God is using us to make a difference.

    Stephanie

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  19. what a blessing that your paths crossed.

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  20. Dear Shannan, You make me want to change the world! But how...So much to pray about.

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  21. Sending prayers all around. I barely comment, but your posts have been deeply resonating with me on a million different levels.

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  22. So very, very sorry. Praying for you and for him tonight. So very, very thankful that our God gives grace. . .especially in times like this when we need it most.

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  23. oh honey...he knows he is in your heart. Thank you for doing what you do. x

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  24. Aw bless both your broken hearts and as the previous commenter said, yes it is ALL about the letter and thank heavens you are wonderful at that! Keep him close with your words and let him know he is loved during your visits. As bad as things seem inside, there are plenty of good ones in there too. As a girl who has spent waayy to many years visiting her father the same way, I can't tell you how many uncles and friends I have met along the way. Pray that he meets those people and that they also see his light and help him protect it ... lots of <3

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  25. Every single day, with every post you are the person I aspire to be.

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    1. Yes, Robyn, this is what I wanted to say too.

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  26. Thank you for being light and life...believing and hoping with you. <3

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  27. So sorry for your heartache, Shannan. Praying for your boy.

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  28. I'm so sorry Shannan. For your pain, for his, for his choices, for what is to come. I can't imagine how you are feeling. He is very lucky to have you. I hope he realizes that.

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  29. This sharing of your heart and truth-telling...it's worship, you know. It's achingly painful and raw to the bone, but you honor Him with your sharing. And your telling is like seeds sprinkled that we can water with prayers. And that's just so amazing. Such grace in this. {hugs}, friend. Truly.

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  30. It sucks that mistakes have such a huge consequence. It's just a mistake. He is blessed to have you and you are blessed to have him. My heart aches for both of you. All of you. xx

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  31. Oh my. I am so sorry to hear this. And yet. Isn't that how God's story goes? There's always more--your hope, your love for this young mixed up man is a seed in Hm that God can use-will use-is already using-- praying comfort for you as you love with abandon and hang and restoration for this boy. Hope is the only choice we have isn't it? Without it, we're all bankrupt.

    This was breathtakingly beautiful and painful. Your writing stirs my faith, thank you.

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  32. So thankful that God measures out grace and mercy to each of us as we have need. Sounds like you are getting extra helpings my friend.

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  33. I'm the mom of an 'Abraham' too. Not yet in jail for a long time, but I've sat in the courtroom, willing him to look my way so that I could 'say' what I'm dying to say, without saying anything....

    My heart breaks for you. and for them.

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  34. My heart hurts for you both. Thank you for letting Jesus shine through you.

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  35. May God give me the heart and eyes you already have.

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  36. I am so sorry, but so glad that he has you. And that He has you to take Him into that jail. Praying for both of you. Your writing is so beautiful, while being simple and not flowery. Made me cry.

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  37. God's blessings on you and may Abraham feel the love and peace and healing of God through you. Hope is all any of us has. Hope in God who is stronger, more loving and forgiving than any of us can even imagine.

    Love and hugs to all of you ~ FlowerLady

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  38. Praying for you both! Praying for a positive influence within those cinderblock walls. a ray of light . just for him...just as YOU have been to him on the outside. Bless you...bless you both. This boy is building his testimony and he does not even know it!

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  39. i can't imagine what his life would be like without you. don't let him push you out. you are his anchor, shannan. you are his lighthouse. xoxo

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  40. Shannan, thanks for sharing your pain. You look at these kids as children of our loving God and you are the hands and feet of Jesus. You help me to see the person and not just the choices that that person has made. So thankful that God sees me as His child and not just as a complilation of the bad choices I have made. Between you and Jen Hatmaker, I am looking closer. Wish I could remember who got me started on your blog, I owe them.

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  41. Oh, sister. This is so beautiful, and so is he and so is you. Thanks for seeing past the brokenness to the beautiful, for loving when it is hard, seemingly impossible. The Church has failed people who do not fit into our mold of "holy", but Christ would've been in that courtroom, too. I just know it.

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  42. Shannan, I am so thankful you are Abraham's lifeline. God obviously thinks you're strong enough to handle it -- and so do I ... with His help. I'm praying for you this morning -- and for your boy -- and claiming God's desire to bring restoration to him. Perhaps the post I recently wrote about restoration will minister to you: http://myplacetoyours.blogspot.com/2012/08/what-i-learned-from-power-surge.html We live in Hope ... always.

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  43. That made my heart ache. I'm so thankful that you listen to God's voice and reach out to those who need you so much. Praying for that young man.

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  44. Wow. Talk about the Ugly-Beautiful.

    Praying...

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  45. So very sad for all of you. Glad that you are strong enough to be there for him and give him unconditional love. You're one amazing woman and I'm so proud to call you my friend.

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  46. I hope you are enough to help him want to do better. I hope your hope is enough.

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    1. Well, I'll never be enough. So the good news is, it's not up to me. All I hope is that through someone - anyone - he starts to see his worth in Christ. Thanks for hoping with me!

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  47. Oh. That makes me feel achy. He's so lucky to have you. Will be praying that this time away will somehow turn out right.

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  48. This is why my husband does jail ministry in case there isn't someone like you showing up.

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    1. Thank your husband for me. His work matters, it so matters

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  49. I'm sitting here speechless. I hurt for both of you. Shannon, you were sent to this young man for a reason. Keep loving him.

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  50. Oh my. Shouldn't read your blog at work. :) Tears filling my eyes. There are so so many children like him who have no one who cares. He wasn't born this way, to do what he did. He was born a Child of God with limitless potential. Thank you for sharing your heart.

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  51. Thanks for writing this - for having a heart and not giving up. God bless you, your family and all the ones you touch.

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  52. Saying a prayer for him and you. Hope never dies.
    ~FringeGirl

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  53. Oh honey. I'm SO sorry. Stay at the feet of Jesus. I'll be praying for you, for all of those who love him and ask questions that have no answers.

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  54. Oh no.

    I can't even think of what to say.

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  55. Unconditional love. He has probably never experienced it before you.

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  56. My heart is breaking for you both. It's so amazing to see God's love for him through you. Don't give up- our God believes in miracles!

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  57. This world is a better place because you are in it.....

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  58. Oh geez. I can taste the heartache. Praying for you and him. P. S. It might not be right, but this was drop dead beautiful. I will be savoring this all day.

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  59. Broke my heart wide open.

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  60. My heart breaks - not too sure what to write except that you are a gift. To him and to us, those you inspire to live the life we were called to live. Live the life God expects, a loving and kind life, one that gives hope to the hopeless. I am praying for you both.

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  61. This breaks my heart. I am praying for him and you. Jesus can deliver him...I am praying he lets him. ((hugs))

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  62. This right here has me balling like a baby. Praying something fierce for your boy and his heart. Yours, too. And that wink? What a gift to him.

    Today I sat at our kitchen table and cried for own Abraham. He's struggling to keep his head above water while the people in his life keep shoving him down. So we help and encourage. We pick him up and drop him off. We make calls on his behalf that will hopefully bring life-changing opportunities. But we can only do so much and we rest in that the sweet Lord has him. He is such a light and doesn't even know it. And that smile melts my mama heart into a puddle.

    Hoping right along with you.

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  63. Oh the tears that are falling- I've been in that courtroom with my own boy- watched him shuffle off in shackles, waited for the "moment"- the one where I too could smile that smallest of smiles. My heart is breaking for you and all the rest of us mothers. Knowing I serve a mighty God and Savior is the ONLY thing that has kept me going!Hang in there Shannen- be his light in the midst of darkness.

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  64. It's hard to have people we care about go to jail. Especially when they are so young and have so much future infront of them. It's just sad.

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  65. You are so lovely, in so many ways dear Shannan.

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  66. Love. It's here. In these words. In you.

    My faith is quiet, unaffiliated, shy. It's a lower-case faith. But when I read your words and feel the honesty in what you believe and how it guides you, my faith blooms. And with this post, it's in full-blown, ripping-a-new-chamber-in-my-heart kind of bloom.





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  67. This just made my heart hurt, but I'm so glad you shared with us!

    I am also SO thankful and happy for him that he has you and that you are someone who is able to see the good in him and the truth of who he really is.

    I had less than stellar teen years and while I didn't end up in jail, I did get into a LOT of trouble, some of it large. I do know this: All a kid/teen/person needs is ONE adult who sees them, really sees them for who they are and continually shows up, values and loves them. His path may not be perfect, but he will be better and a little more okay for knowing you and for knowing of your true love and concern for him.

    xoxo

    TT

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  68. Now I'm a crumpled up mess on the floor crying my eyes out.

    And since I'm down here I think I'll pray for your guy. So glad he's got you. God bless you all.

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  69. That name... it has such biblical depth, praying your Abraham also one day believes God, and it is credited to him as righteousness.

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  70. thank you for choosing to really live out the hard stuff that God gives. and thanks for sharing it on your blog. things like this remind me that there are indeed still Christians out there following the age old true Gospel of 'loving God, loving others.' you have given me a glimpse of hope today. : ) - karen

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  71. That window sign will truly put a smile to everyone who sees it. It will surely make their day. Thanks neighbor.
    adelaide search engine optimisation

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  72. Your words are so beautiful, but yet so painful. I too sat in a courtroom as I watched my oldest sit shackled and I prayed that him sitting shackled and watching the pain on him mommas face would be enough to fight.... it wasn't. He kept the battle for a few years.. in and out. The pain was unbearable. Eventually, I had to let GOD take over and pray he guided him back... thankfully he did... HOPE and GOD, will get you both through it. You are beautiful.....

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  73. We're all prodigals looking for a way home. Keep shining your light on the path and your boy will find his way back. Sending up prayers for you and Cory for strength and wisdom. And can I say, I think this is one of the most beautiful and heartfelt pleas of a mother's heart? You've got one of the biggest.

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    1. You are a beautiful person. I often feel I am not even worthy to read your blog. Prayers being sent.

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  74. God bless you. And Abraham. Your love and commitment is beautiful and brave. This post made me cry.

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  75. Sometimes when I read your posts I feel weird and sort of jealous (well no, that's not it, but I cant put my finger on it) because it's like you crawled inside me and wrote the exact words I've been trying to write, only you do it so perfectly and beautifully that I cant even be mad. I love your heart, and it's honestly a little weird how similar our stories are :-) I promise when I finally muddle through a post that sounds just like this - I'm not copying you :-) I just love our rough, trouble-laden teenage boys a lot. A lot. And did I mention Adam started a flag football team for the gang-bangers in our neighborhood. I am bringing orange slices to the first game :-)

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  76. Shannan, I don't have any good words to give you, other than I will stand next to you loving your boy and pouring out hope for him and praying, praying that God will pursue him relentlessly until he just can't resist any more.

    You are a good momma.

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  77. I'm so scared of sounding trite in the face of your agonized love, but no tears, not a scrap of love is wasted, I know that is true - just being there, in the court or on visits, or crying for him, praying for him on your sofa at home, THAT is love being poured into his life. Like an earlier anon commenter said, this is Love, it is here, in you. I can only imagine the horror you feel for this boy you love like a son, and will be praying for strength for you to continue and persevere, day by day. Your calling is for the brave hearted, I so respect you. x

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  78. your love for him is so beautiful.
    I'm sitting here crying while praying for a boy, just barely 18.

    I'm trusting that Genesis 16 becomes more real to him than the air he breathes. I'm praying that He knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus meets him in his darkest hour. I'm praying that He knows that Jesus loves him and sees him and comes for him.

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  79. his story isn't over.
    that's all i can think while reading this.
    that love is deep and it will make a difference even if you never know.
    but his story isn't over yet.

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  80. Your writing is absolutely beautiful and heart wrenching at the same time. I can't begin to imagine the pain you felt, or the pain he has and is feeling. The fact that you were there, that regardless of the circumstances you believed in him, loved him, will forever be etched in his mind. Thank you for the reminder of what love is meant to be.

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  81. Your words just rip my heart open, but even more so the love behind them! A love like that is bigger than any jail cell. I'll be praying for your Abraham and for the promise of God to reach behind his bars and set his soul free.

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  82. I found your blog via Gus and Lula... and reading your recent Aug post I had to know who Robert is...Sounds like you are writing about my brother. He has been in prison for the past 20 years and I feel as though I am the only one there. Your writings have inspired me to continue to be his rock, as God is my rock. Thank you for posting this. THANK YOU SO MUCH!
    Lynn Mckoy
    elynnmckoy@live.com

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  83. I sit in courtrooms with my dad, who is incarcerated in a mental hospital. No other family member will show up...just the one He denied and abused for 35 years. And I always see God in that place where God is not wanted...I SEE.

    Thank you for encouraging me to hope.

    May God's Spirit continue to move you toward compassion and glorifying Him in Christ Jesus, Amen!

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  84. What's awful is the other businesses that suffer from one businesses declaring bankruptcy.

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