All around me are troubled hearts. It just seems that around every corner, in every news story, on social media, and in my small little burg hearts are broken, abused, and trampled. Are all of our prayer petitions for naught? Where is God?
Last night at my book club gathering at our local public library, a former student saw me and quickly came in for a big hug. Gosh, how they grow. I said, “You’re a senior now, right?” He told me he was and how he had plans to enters trade school in Nashville, Tennessee this fall. I was over the moon. You see, most of my students were minorities from severely impoverished homes. I preached setting goals, getting an education, and championing poverty. I, myself, was born in the government projects with a struggling mom, an alcoholic father, and four siblings. I so often felt like I was seeing a classroom full of me as I taught. I had figured out the code of breaking the cycle of poverty: God, education, and service. I held a precious key that I hoped they would accept. Sadly, not all of them do.
He then said, “Did you hear about DTay?” A shadow crossed his face. I said, “No, what’s up?” He lowered his head and eyes and replied, “They found him dead and beaten to death on Old Mill Road by the tracks down from the Eastside.” My heart crumpled within my chest. Only 18 years old and a life tragically ended. These things shouldn’t happen in rural, small towns in Tennessee like mine, but they do. It is a statistical fact. In the U.S., black males ages 15-34 number one killer is a homicide. My heart is troubled. We hugged again and I told him to get his education and my prayers were with him and all my students until my last breath.
This morning I opened my devotional to begin my day. The first verse was John 14:1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” I felt like Thomas. I’m lost and I do not know the way out of this mad, mad world that young men die so brutally and often. Let’s not forget cancer, addictions, the shrinking middle class, divorces, and abject poverty. Then I heard, “I am the way. I’m always with you. I’ve gone before you to create a better place. There are many rooms in my Father’s house.” I took a deep breath remembering my student. I know that those rooms are for lost youth, broken people with addictions, and those who struggle to eek by on this earth. My joy has always come from knowing God is for and with me. This isn’t our last stop. If you have a troubled heart today, I urge you to say a simple prayer, “God help me.” God is within those banged up hearts, just open your heart to Him.