Friday, January 15, 2016


I don't know that I use the word 'creepy' very often to describe events. Yet recently, two events stood out in which I used that word heavily. 

The Man In The Grass

It was a warm afternoon when my brother Haven and I decided to go for a run. We ran single-file along the narrow country road, myself in front to be the pace-setter. We had gone about half a mile when I heard a rustling in the grass to my right. I looked sideways, expecting to see a deer or rabbit on the other side of the barbed-wire fence. Instead, a man sat straight up, suddenly, in the tall grass. He was older and shirtless. His eyes connected with my face and I looked away. I looked forward and kept running. Now, I partly wish I would have ground to a halt, stared him down and demanded some sort of an explanation by my presence alone. But at the time, I felt an urgent need to get out of there. In a weird way I almost felt as though my presence was the one which needed apology, as though I were intruding on him. A sense of wrongness tinged with fear propelled me forward, and when we were about a quarter mile away I finally turned to Haven and said,
"Did you see ..."
"The guy without a shirt? Yes." Haven nodded emphatically.
"At least no shirt, possibly less clothing than that."
"Agreed. He looked at me and I just looked away."
"Same here. Creepy."
We kept running: two miles and we turned around, three and a half and we both scanned the grass for the strange man. We slowed down, looking and looking, curiosity and a need for answers overtaking any cautiousness. But we saw nothing. Even so, I was grateful that on that run I had Haven with me, his footfalls always echoing close behind.

The Missing Headlights

My friend Meredith and I have a tradition: one-day road trips to the beach and back. It doesn't matter if it's summer or winter, we pick a place and go, because our souls are both soothed by the sea. Heading home, it was nearing midnight and we still had about an hour of driving left. We were driving between the long stretches of highway which link Texas cities, roads which are surrounded by fields and occasionally pass through some tiny town. I was driving in the left-hand lane and there was a car ahead of me on the right and what appeared to be another behind me on the right, though the headlights were dim and the person was sticking right inside my blind spot.
"Just checking: there's a car in my blind spot, right?" I asked Meredith, in case I was seeing a reflection instead.
"Yes, he's been staying right there, though I bet you could get around him," Meredith answered.
I drove a little faster until the car was behind me.
"He's missing a headlight, that's why I was having a hard time seeing him," I remarked. 
Eventually I passed the second car, and when that car moved into the left lane I moved into the right. Suddenly, both cars were behind me in both lanes, and I realized that they were each missing their left headlight. I pointed it out to Meredith.
"Oh that's weird," we both said. "Creepy."
"The cars look the same too," Meredith observed. "That's really weird."
We drove in silence, those two twin headlights following along behind us as I wondered at the strange coincidence. Honestly, my mind went to movies I've seen where two cars work together to trap an unsuspecting driver and run him off the road so they can rob him blind. It was late, we were in the middle of nowhere, and those two matching sets of headlights were bizarre, spooky. I managed to put some distance between us and we finally came upon another car driving that highway.
"If this car is also missing their left headlight I will officially be creeped out," Meredith said. I agreed. Thankfully, that car was normal, and I think we both gave a sigh of relief. Just having that other car on the road made things felt a little better, a little safer, a little more normal. When we stopped to switch drivers, I saw one of the missing-headlight cars drive past, away into the dark where we never saw it again.

I like answers and explanations. But of course, those are not always provided. Sometimes, we're simply left to wonder ... 

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Dear Trey

"We are free, He died and lives again
We will be a people freed from sin
We'll be free, a kingdom with no end"

- Manifesto, by The City Harmonic 

Dear Trey,

I didn't really know you, but when I heard the news, I wept. No parent should have to bury their own child, let alone a seventeen-year-old who takes their own life.

If you had been given a vision of the aftermath, would it have made you change your mind? If you could have seen the ripple effect of grief through a missions community, a school - scores of people in two countries - would you have made a different choice? The memorial service: I've never seen anything like it. Your closest friends, the ones who had moved away to the States, flew back to Ecuador and spoke about you. Your best friend wore jeans and tennis shoes because he said you made him promise that whether it was your wedding or your funeral, he wouldn't dress up. But he wore a suit jacket nonetheless, because he said, "He deserves better."

Your friends spoke of your love and kindness. Your humor. Your loyalty. They also spoke of your stubbornness. "When Trey made up his mind, that was it," was an echoing refrain.

The service was packed to overflowing. Everyone from your school, from the Youth World missions community, and from your Dad's skate park ministry were there. We worshiped and cried and worshiped. Then, your Dad spoke.

"It was no one's fault. I know that there was nothing which I or my wife or school counselors or friends or anyone could have done to prevent or stop what happened. The only one who could have stopped Trey ... was God. God could have intervened yet didn't, and I don't know why, but I know that when I see Trey one day in heaven, I'm going to run to him and give him the biggest bear hug ever. I will miss Trey every day, but I believe God is sovereign through everything."

So many people love your parents, Trey. When you attempted to take your life the first time, when depression started taking over all of you, they made the decision to move you and your sisters back to the States to get help and be near extended family and your friends who had moved away. Your parents had built a life in Ecuador over the past decade but you, their child, was more important. Oh I hope you didn't feel guilty about that. I hope you didn't feel like a burden. It was all done out of love. Your Dad might say it was no one's fault, but you have to know that they are wracked with unanswered questions nonetheless. What more could they have done? What signs did they miss? How could they have gotten through to you? Painful questions which grow from grief. Your absence isn't the easing of some burden. It's the overwhelming weight of loss. If you had been able to see past the darkness, could you have realized the impact of your leaving, how thoroughly you'd be grieved?

Trey, I hope you have peace and light. I hope depression and darkness burden you no more. I hope your parents and sisters find healing. I hope you will be waiting for that day when your Dad, and the rest of your family, gets to run to you and wrap you in his arms once more. You are loved, you are missed, and you are remembered.