In 8th grade, this new kid named Michael came to our school. Whatever it is that makes people cool, he had it and quickly became quite popular. This meant that we moved in VERY different circles. He was in a few of my classes that year but freshman year, I think he was in most of my classes if not all of them. It sounds so young now, looking back, but he was already into some decidedly unsavory practices. I remember being disgusted by him, trying to avoid him, even asking God to miraculously alter class schedules so I wouldn’t have to be around him. Somehow I managed to survive the year, saintliness unsullied.

The junior high we went to split between the 2 high schools in our district. I went to one and he went to the other. I didn’t hear much about him until junior year, when the people I sat next to in algebra (assigned seating) happened to party with Michael on a regular basis. He may have had some unsavory practices before but if the weekly Monday morning reports are to be believed, he had become quite degenerate by this point.

The summer in between junior and senior years, Michael hung himself. His stepfather had previously found out about a drug habit and threatened him about what would happen if there was any kind of repeat. I do remember he had been terrified of his stepfather. Anyway the stepfather had found out that the drug habit had resumed, or never stopped, and apparently Michael found out he knew and was terrified enough of him that suicide seemed a better option.

I happened to be studying Ezekiel at the time and this haunted me that summer, that year, and haunts me still to some degree:

If I say to the wicked, O wicked one, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand.

Ezekiel 33:8

If I could change only one thing in my life, this would be it: I would go back and be friends with Michael. Probably not good friends, but I would at least be nice. I wish I hadn’t been so intimidated by his coolness or his problems, and I wish I had treated him with compassion instead of disdain. He may have made the same choices anyway, but maybe not. Maybe if someone had treated him the way Jesus would, his life would have looked very different and hopefully not so short.

So, that’s it: I wish I had been Jesus to someone who desperately needed Him.

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