Where Eagles Soar
By DeAnna Brooks
Small in stature and achingly thin, Justin would never be deemed an athlete. He was always the last one chosen when sides were picked, if he was chosen at all. But his eyes sparkled with life, and his smile, so real, never waned. Life ever found him on the sidelines, cheering others on, with a laughter that was infectious.
At fifteen, my son, Justin, had just discovered his penchant for writing songs. Those last weeks they poured out of him like waters too long dammed up, needing to burst forth. And burst forth they did, in abundance. Birthed in a great pain I would not know until later, his melodies brimmed with hope, proclaiming faithfulness in seasons of darkness that should have been foreign to so young a life, instead of a familiar taste.
How can love, tented in humanity, be friendless? I marveled at the unconditional acceptance he poured out on others, being denied it himself. So he walked alone, brimming with life, bubbling over with an unwavering belief that life is good. That God is good! That Godís goodness is poured out exceedingly abundantly on all our days.
Maybe mothers shouldnít feel such admiration for a child. But thinking I knew his journey well, a journey that wasnít easy, I could only marvel at the lessons of grace he taught me daily.
When we moved to a new state, secretly I was hoping it would prove a season of starting fresh. Iíd hoped that friendships would burgeon for him here. But Godís plans often remain a mystery in this world of shadows. So Justin continued his solo sojourn. And the music ushered forth, declaring a journey whose companionship was deep and sweet and wisdom laden. It blessed the hearer, even those not wanting to be blessed.
Shortly before that bright summer day brimming with such promise for him, the day he would join that great cloud of witnesses cheering us on, Justin voiced to me, for the only time, that he wished he had friends. Heaven must have smiled upon hearing that longing, not with laughter, but with a shared knowing.
How does a motherís heart know? It was another mystery. Yet answering a knock that revealed a policeman, hat in hand, standing in the doorway telling me about a car accident in which there was a fatality, I knew my son now walked hand-in-hand with his best friend in a way we can only dream of on this side of our own eternal doorway. But I wasnít ready to say good-bye. There were too many lessons left for Justin to teach me.
I found myself in his bedroom, staring at the scattered vestiges of a life well lived. His was a typical teenage boyís debris-laden room, with messages speaking to me from every corner. Desperately needing contact with a life too soon gone, I picked up a battered school notebook Justin apparently used as a haphazard journal. Only a few pages were written on, though I couldnít help but smile when I read the words, "God is like a coat; and itís a cold world out there. So stop complaining, and button up." The smile turned into a chuckle as Justinís words went straight to my heart. How perfectly they portrayed the framework of his life. He was teaching me still.
The next page contained words I could only stare at in puzzlement, and I thought of Mary "pondering in her heart" the message of the shepherds. For there was no frame to offer an understanding. So holding them close to my own heart, I set them aside as I strove to capture more of the son who remained only in my heart.
My eyes fell upon a crumpled piece of paper, wadded tightly in a ball, cast aside. Something tugged at my soul to discover what was hidden there, so ever so tenderly I opened it, flattening out the creases until the words were readable. My heart knew a fresh ache as my eyes beheld Justinís soul.
"Who knows why they do what they do.
They obviously donít understand.
Mocking and jeering they think theyíll get through
But my strength, itís but by Godís hand.
I truly forgive them, but it still hurts Ė
Not body, but pride,
But I see myself as blessed because
I have a glimpse of what Christ felt like
When He died.
The things that they throw are not just of paper
But stab like daggers in my heart.
To live like Jesus, forgiving them,
Is merely just a start.
To truly be upright and just
I need to do something more.
Pray for them daily and love them the same.
Iíll be even closer to the Lord.
So as they mock and as they throw
There is one thing that I know.
Jesus forgave them and so should I,
Even if they mock me until I die."
My tears were too full to fall, and the journey I thought I had known, now skewered my soul. How had grace flourished? How had abandonment to love found nourishment to grow?
The words I could only ponder earlier flooded back to my heart. No longer did they need a framework. They were the framework, turning bitter dregs into heavenís nectar.
"Lord, as they persecute me,
Use the turbulence to let me fly on eaglesí wings."
Justinís life brimmed with wisdom. Wisdom born, not out of ease, but in a heart truly set on pilgrimage. A heart willing to pass through the Valley of Bacca, that Valley of Weeping, turning it into a place of springs where one goes from strength to strength.
A mere fifteen years, but your wisdom, Justin, still graces my life. Still shows me the way to a Fatherís heart. I want to learn to soar!
DeAnna Brooks is a freelance writer currently living in the blessed hill country of Texas. She has written, primarily for her own enjoyment, for over twenty years and is now looking to spread her wings. You can write to DeAnna through the Letters page of this magazine.
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