Monday, March 10, 2014

Just Leave It There

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"Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done wonderful things, things planned long ago." Isaiah 25:1 NIV

He would stand off in the corner of the room, two fingers shoved in his mouth while he played with glue. The class bully would go over and dare him to eat the glue.  Eyes wide and shaking his head, nevertheless, he would eventually comply and stick a huge amount of the glue into his mouth.

I can still remember the class bully laughing, pointing, and taunting while the rest of the class looked on in disgust.

He was desperate for friendship, desperate to feel like he belonged, and desperate to just be one of the gang. So he would tag along, always lingering a couple of steps behind, and always, it seemed, the butt of jokes to everyone else.

It was obvious he had special needs. Obvious that he was both physically and mentally challenged. And for a private school made up of mostly educator’s children from a nearby university, obvious that he wasn’t like the other kids.

The class bully would pretend to buddy up to him but his real aim was to make this boy with special needs the victim of a cold or cruel joke. Oh the humiliation he underwent every day.

A couple of years later a similar situation developed with another boy. Everyone could see what was going to happen next. That same bully, one of the most popular boys in the school, begin to pick on this boy with special needs as well.  And because of the bully’s popularity, the rest of the class took their cue from him and begin to behave the same way.

That poor boy with special needs just wanted to be like everyone else. But every one else didn’t leave school crying bitterly every day like he did.

Even though those memories are now 38 years old, I can still remember them so vividly today.

Part of why those memories affect me so much is because I’m now the father of a boy with special needs myself. I can’t imagine what I would feel and how I would react if that happened to my son with special needs.

Part of why those memories affect me so much is because I’m a missionary to the special needs community, and I see the effects of bullying every day though our ministry.

But mostly those memories affect me so much and seem so vivid because I was the bully.

I have always believed as God says in Psalm 139, that God wrote all of the days of my life in his book before one of them came to pass. That means that in the mid 1970s when I was a bully to those with special needs, God had already chosen me to be his ambassador or missionary to the special needs community.

And even though God had ordained it before I was ever born, it still seems inconceivable that the bully would grow up and feel like God was calling him to give his life to serve those with special needs.

But then I think about the apostle Paul, who God had already chosen to be his apostle, even while Paul (still known as Saul) was murdering those who followed Christ.

Two years ago I decided to track down the first boy in this story. I couldn’t remember the other kid’s name but I remembered the first boy and I wanted to see him face to face. I wanted to apologize to him; I wanted his forgiveness. I needed him to know what I had done with my life and that I was atoning for those childhood years. I needed him to know that was not who I was anymore.

Through internet searches and sources I found him, still here in my hometown where we went to school together.

I found him buried in a local cemetery, having died in 1995 when he was 28 years old.

I stood at his grave and I sobbed. I cried for who I had been and what I had done all those years ago. I had come to his grave seeking healing, forgiveness and atonement.

In that moment the Sprit of God whisked me away in my thoughts and mind to another grave. All of a sudden in my mind I was in front of a cave outside Jerusalem, near a skull-shaped hill called Golgotha.

At in that instant God spoke to me and reminded me that this was the real grave where my forgiveness, atonement, and healing were to be found. And as a result, I am not who I used to be. That’s not who I am now.

"Just leave it there," He whispered.

Though my past indiscretions were close to 40 years old, my forgiveness and deliverance from them was  actually purchased for me in advance over 2,000 years ago.

I know so many people struggling today to let go of past struggles, despair, disappointment, guilt, bitterness, and anger.

I see so many people haunted by who they used to be. People who can't move forward because they are still struggling carrying around something from their past.

It’s time to go the gravesite. It’s time to gaze upon the empty tomb, and guzzle from the cup of grace until it runs down your chin.

And it’s time to listen to Him whisper,  "That's not who you are anymore."

It’s time to leave it at the empty grave.

Just leave it there.

 PRAY: "Father you said that in you we are a new creation. Thank you for the cross. Thank you that you have made me new. Thank you for the grace poured out for me and that I am not who I used to be as a result"


  1. Jeff can't help but think of Colossians 1:21-23 as well as Matt Redman's song in regards to your post today... "You were once at odds with God, wicked in your ways and evil in your minds; but now He has reconciled you in His body—in His flesh through His death—so that He can present you to God holy, blameless, and totally free of imperfection as long as you stay planted in the faith. So don’t venture away from what you have heard and taken to heart: the living hope of the good news that has been announced to all creation under heaven and has captured me, Paul, as its servant." (VOICE) As always, thanks for your transparency. Praise God for His GREAT GRACE for all of us!

  2. WOW! Thank you for sharing this and let me - the mom of a beautiful boy with special needs - reassure you of our God's forgiveness. What a beautiful thing for each of us - former bullies, mean girls (that was me), and many other awful things. We now wear the robes of righteousness that Jesus won for each of us and when God looks at us He doesn't see what we used to be. He sees Jesus!

    Thank you so much for sharing this today. Such a beautiful reminder of who we belong to!!!!

    1. Thank you for your kind words Liam's Mama. Praying God's blessings on you and your gift of a son with special needs.

  3. I continue to struggle forgiving the individual that caused our lives to change by there actions. Im going to try to leave it at the empty grave.

    1. We all seem better at receiving grace for ourselves than we are for extending grace to others, I know how hard it is to leave it at that empty grave and find freedom. I get the struggle completely, and will be praying with you.

  4. This is amazing and moving. Thank you for sharing it. I'm haunted by the memory of a young girl in a wheelchair who was put in a corner at a church...left in a room alone while the rest of the congregation had a potluck. I was visiting out west at the time, so don't know what ever became of her. But that's okay...God loves her more than I ever could and I can let it go...

    1. Thank you for your reply Tammie. God's grace is the only thing that makes the unforgivable forgivable. Thank you for reading my post! Jeff

  5. This took my breath away. I felt the emotion of it all as you wrote.
    You never know God's plan and power.
    I believe God has used this in such a powerful way in your life.
    God has taken the heart of stone from your body and replaced it with a heart of flesh.
    And you are reaching so many hurting people as God has transformed you.
    I am in awe.

  6. I just saw this Donna. Thank you so much for the kind words. I will never forget standing over the grave marker that day.

  7. The lord bless you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    For he is whit you for ever, till the end.
    Thanks for sharing, I am leaving it there. Thank you so much.
    Be cover for ever by his preciouss love.

  8. I have read your testimony several times, always being so moved by your heart. My boy, J - 14, has multiple special needs along with emotional issues from trauma. Since the trauma he has made some bad choices, and occasionally speaks of the guilt and shame he feels. He has not yet made Jesus Lord of his life. I clicked the link from someone's Facebook page tonight, not realizing it was, again, your testimony, but recognized it as I began to read. I was prompted to include J tonight. Read the entire post to him. He got it. It teared up. He said, Mom, I think there IS hope for me.

    Oh yes, my sweet boy...there is so much hope! You ARE fearfully and wonderfully made in God's Image to show His glory.

    You have planted seeds in his mind and heart.

    Thank you for sharing. Thank you for being vulnerable. Thank you for taking a risk.

    Something beautiful, something good.
    All my confusion, He understood
    All I had to offer Him was brokenness and strife
    But He made something, beautiful out of my life.