Have you ever sat down to write and you’re filled with dread at the thought of digging through memories?
One year ago today, I was asked to meet with a young adult, a member of a church I was pastoring, who was in a great deal of distress and unwilling to talk with or get help from their family. In fact, they wanted complete confidentiality.
We met a couple days later and as I sat with this harmed, hurting, and hope lacking person I made a commitment to them that, come what may, I would do whatever I could to help them not just stay alive but rediscover life. I instantly knew that it would not be an easy journey and that it was going to cost me personally and professionally but I determined not to waiver or shrink back.
Initially, I simply arranged for access to professional counselling. Until it started, I asked for permission to check in with the person on a regular basis until the counselling began. Little did I know during that first meeting that this person would take a piece of my heart and shortly thereafter, my wife’s heart, too. Over time, the person became a friend and even as one of our own children. We nicknamed the person Velveteen Rabbit; one who was day by day determining to become a real person who could be unconditionally loved and boldly love others.
What a journey it was. I was able to draw on my experience and knowledge and at other times I was totally ill equipped and over my head. I was strategic and thoughtful but sometimes flying by the seat of my pants and blurting things out. I dug deep into my well of patience and compassion and faith-based strength even so, along the way I developed sleep and anxiety disorders from which I’m still trying to recover. I was able to provide a great deal of recovery support while sometimes adding to our friend’s distress when my own woundedness spilled out. And then there was prayer. Lots and lots of prayer.
There were some really scary times, times when we weren’t sure the person would be alive the next day. There was some really good times, too many to recount here but when I remember them I smile and feel deep joy. Along the way, I rediscovered the game UNO and was introduced to two others. Our friend was pretty cocky at being excellent at these games so it was always very difficult to be gracious when I soundly beat them. I would just smile ever so slightly…
It was beautiful to see our Velveteen Rabbit take steps towards life. Sometimes slowly and haltingly, other times confidently and boldly. Like all recovery there were relapses but we would be there and help them get back on their feet. Many times we were just a safe place away from a toxic home (their words) and an unkind world; we have a big blue comfy recliner and that was VR’s favourite spot when sanctuary was needed.
Sadly, our part in our friends journey has come to an end for now, perhaps forever. My wife has fleeting, few and far between, contacts. Not a day goes by when I don’t have a little tremor of worry for our friend. I still pray for our Velveteen Rabbit all the time.
As for me, I was fairly accurate in my assessment of how the journey would impact me. Eventually, most of the story was revealed to our friend’s family. They didn’t appreciate our involvement. I was compared to Satan. It was really confusing to me. As a parent, my focus would be on helping my child not attacking people that were helping them and shrieking about how I was offended. I am careful not to use labels but I’m pretty sure I encountered an actual narcissist. My career was jeopardized, I was accused of terrible things, and there was a definite and deliberate attempt to destroy my reputation and assassinate my character. The upside is, I think I’m better equipped if I run into that kind of abuse again. On the downside, at least once of day I get little anxiety attacks from that experience.
Here’s the thing: As I look back on the last year, I regret nothing. Sure, I have confusion, doubts, and sometimes I feel like I really failed. But if God came to me and asked, “Brad, now that you know what’s going to happen, do you want to go back and stop it from happening?”
I would say with all my heart, “No way.”