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On a Scale From 1 to 10by David Snapper, Associate Pastor on July 15, 2020
Jayna stared dully through a small security window, down a long corridor, and focused on the steel entry doors. Her parents eventually entered those doors, cleared security, and walked the long aisle towards the meeting room.
Jayna dominated the meeting space with body language, a barely concealed rage, and complete silence. No words were spoken, and none were needed as Jayna’s few personal possessions were stuffed into a bag with her parole paperwork. The three silent figures turned for the exit.
Outdoors, in the Washington drizzle, Jayna seized her opportunity. “I hate you! I hate you both!” was Jayna’s explosive explanation of her arrest, conviction and sentencing.
Mother wept all the way home. Father swore to himself but said nothing. Jayna had not seen her parents together in three years.
Until recently, Jayna had been a model student, a perfect daughter, and a joy to her friends. Something changed, and deep in the scorched chambers of her heart burned a secret so private and dark that there were no words.
Seven months after the silent ride home, some normalcy had returned. Dad was back with his girlfriend in Texas. Mom was employed in a brokerage house and maintained the household on her handsome income. Jayna, in contrast, was beyond her parents’ control; taking pride in humiliating her parents, she felt so empowered that when it came to controlling her, she doubted anyone could.
Juvenile Courts Parole Officer T. J. Martinez could. And did. Jayna entered my private study unannounced and uninvited, plopped into my office huge antique rocking chair, and informed me that Martinez had given me three weeks to help her finish twenty hours of community service.
Martinez directs kids to me for the purpose of supervising community service probation. I closed my computer and turned my attention to the demanding, angry young woman. In the space of three weeks we would have twenty hours together. It was time to begin.
“Jayna, on a scale of 1 to 10, how angry are you when you wake up in the morning? And when you go to bed at night?”
Jayna thought quietly, as if it were a complex question.
In the past thirty-five years many juvenile and adult parolees have gone through a similar process with me. Jayna’s story was modified slightly to protect her identity, but her story is completely accurate. About half of the convicted juveniles are re-arrested within one year of release, and half of that group are subsequently re-convicted. Their stories run from simple mistakes to heart-wrenching abuse, from carelessness to malice, and from pathos to triumph. Most are angry. They are the ones in the greatest risk.
I teach the paroled kids—along with their families and friends--how to stop being angry. Not hide the anger and not boast about it. Not to contain or manage the anger, but to remove it completely and then to restore grace and dignity where once hurt reigned.
“Seven,” was Jayna’s reply.
“Seven?” I pried tenderly.
“Nine,” she conceded.
“When’s the last time you were at a ‘two’ for an entire day?”
“Do you want to learn how to be at a ‘two’? Not always, but a lot of the time?”
“OK, I’ll tell you what I can do for you. You tell me if you like this idea.
“When I was a kid, I was very angry and was in trouble. For seventeen years no one helped me with my anger. Instead, they told me to ignore it. But I couldn’t ignore the anger; it was everywhere I went because it was part of me.
“Kid, you’re sixteen years old. If you stay angry as long as I was, you’ll be thirty-three. That’s too long. Do you want to go for a ‘two’ on the Anger-O-Meter or are you happy at ‘nine’? What kind of mother will you be at “nine”? Would you rather be angry or happy?”
When she rolled her eyes at the prospect of marriage and shook her head in mock disgust, it was safe to continue.
The experience of hurt – such as the abandonment Jayna was feeling – creates confusion that lasts a lifetime for many people. We would have twenty hours to un-confuse her life and take four awfully specific steps to become free from her confusing and debilitating hurts. I use this simple outline.
1. Who hurt you? It’s not who you think.
2. How much are you owed? How to add it up.
3. Who will pay for the damage done? How to make it stop hurting.
4. When will you feel better? Setting the prisoners free.
This process is called, “forgiving,” or, “forgiveness.” When people forgive, their lives change. Anger is replaced with calm. Shame is replaced with grace. Forgiveness creates power and strength. Forgiveness increases the sense of happiness that comes with confidence. Kids look different when they are happy. This is what you want for yourself and your child.
As a parent or friend of a juvenile you have been invited to a free Forgiveness Workshop. This six-hour workshop is suited for people over ten years of age. In this workshop, most participants can forgive their hurts and the people who caused them. When they do, the other parts of their life improves as well.
Jayna was angry at her parents for what she interpreted as abandonment– so angry that she had chosen to purposefully punish her parents by destroying her own life. She had started with shoplifting and for three months she felt the towering thrill of adrenaline. She was addicted. Then arrested. Today, her name is most likely on the National Retailer Mutual Association theft database.
As a juvenile, Jayna’s court record may be purged at age 18. She can recover and she can return to the capable and delightful young woman she was just three years earlier. Or she may remain addicted to the adrenaline rush of punishing her parents with shoplifting. Or worse.
Outside my study window Jayna’s mom was waiting in her darkened car with the wipers flicking the gentle drizzle off the opaque glass. Only her face was lit by the glow of her iPhone.
“I want to be a good mom someday…. And….”
She rocked gently and deliberated her further answer as she stared out my study windows, and across the parking lot and into the April drizzle.
“. . . I want to be happy again.”
End of meditation.