By Randy Holl
There were 7 of them, three or four more than usual, that sat around me at our weekly Bible discussion at the “boot-camp” for male juvenile offenders that I volunteer at. Caucasian, Asian, African-American, and who knows for sure..strong, young, virile, animated…
I had intended to simply provide a view Biblical examples of God’s constant presence with us. The ever-changing group membership from week to week makes any ongoing series of lessons rather difficult, but I had found that their fledgling faith needs regular encouragement, and I prayed that the Biblical selections I had been led to provide, would touch them.
To introduce the discussion I had asked about the people of their lives who had been there for them..who had been present for them..
To a person, Mom had been the one who they had relied upon. One young man even vouched that his mom had been overly attentive to him and enabled him to get into more trouble by lying for him…ironic. And there had been one who mentioned a neighbor male who had taken an interest in him and been a positive influence. ”What about dad?” I asked. I knew the response would probably be negative. But I had no idea how much.
Only a single one of the seven could count dad much in his life at all. And he recounted that the man who he thought was his father turned out not to be, not his biological father anyway..and besides, he was in prison. For the only other one who did mention a father it was mostly negative…his most recent words to his son being that he was worthless and not worthy of messing with any longer. Others had been abandoned. Some abused. One had never known anything about his father.
I was somewhat taken aback..yet felt led to describe that God knows that about us..that we need him as a father….that even Jesus taught us to pray by calling him that personal name…Abba, Father…I told them the next thing that popped into my thoughts…God’s words about His son as he rose from the waters of baptism….Matthew 3:17 (NIV) And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” This is God’s word to us…isn’t that what you want to hear, I asked them…the words…”I love you and am proud of you?”
Seven, no…eight…pairs of eyes welled with tears…and nodded.
My own earthly father has been gone for almost five years, but my Father was present that day with a group of seven young men. Their Father was too.
Randy Holl is a Bible discussion group leader for the Delta Company unit at Woodward Academy. He also recently graduated from Bethel Seminary in St. Paul, MN with a certificate in Spiritual Formation.
This was cross-posted from Practical Mystic with Randy’s permission.