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The storm has passed. What's next?
May 04, 2017

A huge storm has passed. The silence is eerie. What's next?

Since I last wrote you, with a brief history of the pope, my eighteen-year-old son died. The pain was horrid. When the medics came for him, they had to treat me too because I went into shock.

For all the pain, there was the comfort as well. Just minutes after discovering his body, the voice of the Lord came. "He's at peace now. He doesn't have to fight those demons anymore."

My son had Tourette Syndrome. The various motor and vocal tics are well-known, but what it does to a person's psyche is less understood. Manuha took his own life while I was picking up my wife from the airport. It was completely unexpected. He was doing better than ever. Our relationship with him was good.

The outpouring of love afterward, both from people and God, were phenomenal. My sister-in-law, who as far as I know knew nothing about the word God had spoken to me, wrote the same words in a poem written as though from Manuha, just three or four days later. On the Saturday after, we held a memorial and over a hundred people showed up. They shared stories of their experiences of Manu's friendship, his kindness to them, and his love for children for almost four hours. The heavens opened up and God's presence fell on us.

There are so many questions, of course, and so much pain. That pain is relieved by God's word--no, his promise--to us that our son is at peace, that Jesus has gathered him up in his arms.

I heard through much of my life that those who commit suicide go straight to hell. I have not believed that for a very long time, but it comes up of course when your son commits suicide. God was quick to contradict that thought.

I have been learning over the past few years just how much love and care are central to the Gospel and the Scriptures. God has little regard for our theology, and he has much regard for turning away from slander, carousing, stealing, hatred, and immorality. I won't argue for that right now because I have been arguing for it for several years. I will point to the solid foundation of God as described in 2 Timothy 2:19, and the purpose of the Scriptures as described in 2 Timothy 3:17.

My understanding of God took a hit not when I came home to find my son dead, but when God rushed to my side to whisper, "He's at peace now." It took a hit when the heavens opened and his presence fell on us at Manu's memorial. God loved my son as much as I did. No, he loved him more!

Manu wasn't baptized. It was impossible to determine where he was at with God, though we had lots of discussions. To direct questions about his relationship with God, he continually said he wasn't sure, but I was always amazed at how much he knew about the Bible. Where did he pick up all that knowledge? How did he know the names of kings and judges and other Bible heroes and figures?

A couple weeks after his death, a friend called. She was praying for us, and snippets of a half-remembered song kept running through her head. She thought it was just distraction, and she tried to focus, but the song wouldn't go away. She decided she should pay attention. All day, the song was slowly returning to her memory until in the evening she remembered it all. It was a song about God's sheep and lambs.

She said she saw in her mind a shepherd with his sheep. Over to the side was one sheep, standing alone, and she could feel its loneliness. The shepherd left the flock and went to the little sheep to embrace it. He stood with it, and she burst into tears. I already can't remember whether she called us or sent us a card to tell us about the song and the vision.

My theology, as I knew it in my first 20 to 30 years as a Protestant, has more cracks in it than it ever did. The more spiritual I get, and the more I get to know God, the more I am astounded with him, the more I am amazed with his love.

At my son's side, right after I found him, hoping that he was still there to hear me, I promised him that I would not falter, but that I would use his death to know God more so that I might be able better to fight the demons that plague so many other minds. I have no idea whether God was speaking of literal demons or just the difficult thoughts of a mind and body that had real physical problems.

Today I was listening to Ray Vander Laan's teachings about the desert. One of the things he said was that when we go through the desert, God may not solve our problems, but he will be with us. That is exactly what I have experienced these last six or seven weeks. I am hurt, but he is good.

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