I know a man who just received his sentence. Twenty years in jail. He is around my age, in his 40’s, and made some horrible mistakes a few years ago. He was at a low point in his life with his business failing and his marriage dissolving. He plotted to kill his former colleagues.
It started innocently enough, with what he says was an offhand, probably sarcastic comment about hiring a hitman. That person went to the FBI and became an informant. As an informant, he was coached, wired, and over a period of time, made “arrangements” for a “hit” per the man’s request. I know the accused. We sit a few pews apart on some Sundays.
His mom, someone I have grown to admire and appreciate, has said to me, “I don’t know what happened – I just don’t get it.” She is a loving, faithful mom who wants what is best for her son. She loves him unconditionally. Even with the serious mistakes he made. As a mother, myself, I cannot express how much empathy I have for her. People say that one of the worst scenarios for a parent raising a daughter is for her to end up pregnant. I remember a friend of mine saying when her boys were pre-school with only a hint of humor, “just keep them out of jail, that is all I hope for.”
We have so many choices as we go through our days. Resolving and living with disappointment and anger is no small matter. How we deal with these things today informs who we will become in the future. Whenever I meet a crabby, unhappy person, I think, “they didn’t get that way over night.” In the same way, I doubt someone just wakes up one day and thinks, “I am going to kill my business partners.” That takes time to justify.
And now this. My heart aches for the people whose lives he has terrified. And for his mom, his daughter and loved ones. Things will never be the same for them. They did not choose this whole mess. But also, I feel so much sympathy and strangely connected to him, even though we have not spoken since he went to trial. I know his close friends are rallying behind him.
I have made some big mistakes in my life. But somehow my own seem more “forgiveable.” That really is how self-centered I am. Maybe in some morbid way, I am comforted by his sin… just to know there is a “bigger sinner” than me. Gratefully, at least in the eyes of God, as I understand it, there is no pecking order for wrongs.And, truthfully, who among us has not wished harm on someone. This is a horrible admission for me, and one I am not proud of. It goes against everything I hold sacred. But, there it is. Am I so very different?
One thing I have experienced and found to be true is that it never works to create our own reality. You know that planet, where everyone pats us on the back and votes the way we do and has the same opinion about the current President and wants personal vengenace on the people who have hurt us. It is pretty easy to create. But, it is a dangerous planet, and ultimately, it does not last. It ends because it is not reality. And reality, no matter how painful, is where we lay our heads every night.
This is a song I wrote reflecting on this. Perhaps I can YouTube it sometime soon.
There are messes we make and some that are made for us
Love that we leave and love that leaves us
And even in the darkest of nights there’s the moon out there
Throwing back the light of the sun
Even when we think the darkness has won
Love is as close now as it will ever be
And hatred is painfully near
These are the choices we make every minute
Choosing to love through our fear
I have built castles with a drawbridge and moat
And felt myself safe there for days
But the bricks and the mortar were judgment and hate
And they crumbled away like the fantasy I’d made
I just could not live that way