When I hung up the phone I just sat there kind of numb for a few minutes. A couple of tears rolled down my cheeks and my heart took on a heaviness that still had not left me a couple of days later. I had just spoken for the second time with a man who, perhaps, had the worst childhood of anyone I have ever personally spoken with. I’ll call him Wesley (not his real name) and I doubt you will forget his story either. Wesley grew up as the son of a deranged father who raped him repeatedly for much of his childhood. That statement alone is enough to fill me with both agony and rage… but Wesley endured much more than that. His father loaned Wesley to some of his own adult, male friends for the same heinous purpose of sodomizing the child. Wesley endured unspeakable acts which were also accompanied by unending fits of drunken physical violence by his own father which at one point left Wesley in a coma which he survived. Wesley was permanently brain damaged. The man that I was speaking to on the phone was physically an adult but emotionally and mentally living as a prepubescent boy who was still crying for rescue and someone to love him. Wesley cannot read but had caught the Transforming Truth broadcast and felt like he might meet the God that the preacher spoke about. The first time we spoke he asked how he could learn the bible if he could not read. He had no idea that he could listen to it on CD so we sent Wesley a copy of the bible in audio format. He could not believe we would show him that simple kindness so a few months later he called me to say thanks. It was then that he told me his story with very little inflection in his voice as he recounted to me the terrors of his childhood. You can imagine that I struggled to know what to say to him.
In the strange way that Christians can listen to another while simultaneously praying to God, while he was detailing the events of so many decades ago, I sought the Lord to love Wesley through me and to give me words to help and to heal. Overwhelmed with a deep sense of God’s love for this man who was trapped in trauma, I spoke to Wesley in affirming words, compassionate love and hopeful kindness. God gave me this because I can promise you that I do not naturally have this kind of care. My heart was crushed and I wanted to reach back in time and save the boy that was now a man. I would have hugged him tightly if I could have and wept with him but we were a couple of cities apart so I did what I could. After I prayed with him I made arrangements to follow up and committed to provide help in any way I could for him. He never broke. He never wept. He never changed his tone when he spoke. But what he said after I was done praying for him and had said my Amen is something I cannot shake and likely will never forget:
“I wish you were my dad.”
Wesley does not know me except for what he has seen in public ministry…and that is never a complete picture of a person. He’s at least a dozen years older than me. As I listened to his story I recognized the evil in this world afresh but as I prayed with him I was more greatly impacted by the willingness of Jesus to redeem this man and make him whole. I knew that the Gospel could free him and that grace could completely restore him. My theology was not in question but I was not feeling theological; I was feeling the sharing of human pain. So scarred is Wesley that, at the slightest hint of compassion from another man, he becomes the little boy who was raped and beaten and whispers out the cry of his heart which says, “I want a father who might love me.”
Wesley is representative of untold numbers of people around us who are hurting. We do not see it most of the time. Sometimes we do not see it because they do not share it. Sometimes we do not see it because are not looking. Sometimes we simply shield our eyes because it requires more of us than we care to give. In these recent months my heart has been shifted by my Father to a different degree of compassion for people. I will keep preaching but I know that this is not enough. My prayers may end up being more robust than ever but that is not the key for people like Wesley. “God is love” according to 1 John 4:8. Because He is love, when you and I are abiding in Him, we will become conduits of His great love to others. Let’s look for them today. Mark it down, you will not be able to help each of them – only the Savior can accomplish that. But you can certainly love on a few. You and I can make a difference in a few but we will need to listen to the Wesleys who are desperate for hope and healing and have no idea where to turn. Shatter your stained glass hearts, brothers. Don’t let your personal steeple point to the Heavens if your heart is not aimed there. I invite you to do what I began to do about 14 months ago: Ask God to give you a brand new heart.
And then prepare for it to be broken, poured out and filled by the potent love of a God who rescues.
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