What's up with that?
I think my heart is starting to be reshaped. If last Wednesday is any indication, it's a fact.
Here's the low down:
I was working from home and my 18-year son Quinn had the day off from school. I left my study to go to the kitchen to get something to drink. On the way back to my office, he said "Dad, did you hear that Aaron Hernandez committed suicide in jail?" I said I didn't and Quinn gave me the rest of the details.
It took my breath away. I walked back into my office and found myself blinking back tears.
Some background on Aaron and me. Aaron played tight end for the University of Florida and for the New England Patriots. He was convicted of murder a few years back and sent to jail. I don't think I ever saw Aaron play a single play of football. I've never been a U of F fan. I stopped following the Patriots 22 years ago when I moved to Colorado. (Don't judge me Pats fans. If the Broncos aren't God's team, then why are sunsets Orange and Blue?)
The only thing I knew of Aaron were the press reports of his trying youth, loss of his dad at a young age, and the shady crowd he hung out with in his 20's. I didn't follow the trial closely and when he was convicted, I don't recall feeling any particular emotion: No sadness. No "He-deserved-what-he-got." No 'let-that-be-a-lesson-to-the-rest-of-you-hoodlums". No 'there-goes-another-spoiled-rotten-pro-athlete." Nothing.
So what's with the moist eyes now?
It dawned on me that I was experiencing pure, unadulterated compassion. I suddenly saw Aaron Hernandez as an individual human being. A tragic life ending tragically.
Henry Wordsworth Longfellow once said: "If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man's life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.” I think that nails it.
I don't know the details of Aaron's life, but I have a hunch there must have been some serious suffering and sorrow that led him to be who he was, think like he thought, and choose the friends he chose.
The bottom line is that, sadly, despite the reports that there was a bible in his cell and John 3:16 was written on his forehead, the absence and ignorance of God's love clearly marked his life.. I bet that godlessness and sin were a part of Aaron's family and friend's history. On Wednesday, it clicked in my brain (and heart) that Aaron was a victim who didn't know what he didn't know about life and love. If only someone had intercepted his life's trajectory with love and God's Truth, all of this may have been avoided. It is said that a few coaches tried to help him--- to no avail.
God has a playbook for freedom and joy and peace. He also has a position for us to play in stopping the brokenness and pain of people who don't know the playbook. Let's get off the bench and into the game by passing on God's love and sharing God's Truth to the sorrowful sufferers all around us.
"Jesus said, 'Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." Luke 23:34
For more on Jeff's musings about life, love, and joy read The Joy Model book.