Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Heartbreaking Scene

I witnessed a heartbreaking scene yesterday. I had a few precious moments to do some shopping alone and decided to run in to a department store to look for a few items. As I pulled into the parking lot, I noticed a police car in front of the store. Once I parked and began walking up to the storefront, I got a closer look at what was happening. A beautiful young girl, probably in her 20’s, was standing behind the police cruiser with her hands behind her back as the officer cuffed her wrists together. I was struck by the look on her face. With no emotion whatsoever, she stared blankly straight ahead. I tried not to stare, but I couldn’t look away. I don’t know if the policeman was having trouble with the handcuffs or if he was just taking his time to make more of an impact on this young woman.

Then I saw another woman, who I assume was the younger woman’s mother, standing a few feet from the scene, watching with a helpless look of disbelief. This is where my heart broke. I saw myself in the woman’s face. I know the feeling of standing by helplessly watching your child face the painful, humiliating consequences of his or her bad decisions. Your mind is flooded with questions and disbelief. “Where did I go wrong?” You suddenly remember all the times you failed your child. You feel somehow responsible for their behavior, and yet there is nothing you can do to control them. You feel so many things at once: love, pain, sympathy, anger. I’ve never felt more helpless than when I’ve had to watch my own kids struggle with the realities of wrong choices.

I proceeded into the store trying not to embarrass either of the women by gawking, but I was so impacted by their plight, it was hard to just pass by. I came out a few minutes later, and the police car was still there, and I assume one or both of the women were inside. Then I saw an elderly man, holding an adorable little boy who was probably less than a year old. I didn’t really think they were connected until I saw a young man run from the back of the parking lot and take the boy from the old man, probably the young woman’s grandfather. As the young man cradled the boy, he, too, looked questioningly and with disbelief into the back seat of the cruiser. Now I saw that this young woman’s actions affected, not just herself and her mom, but also her child.

I pray for that young woman, who, in the presence of her mother, child and grandfather, must have made the choice to shoplift. Who knows why she did it. Is she a drug addict, shoplifting to support her habit? Does she have a deep emotional hurt that compels her to steal? Did she need something that she couldn’t afford? Who knows. But I pray that she takes this as a wake up call to change her way of thinking and living. I pray that she’ll find Jesus through this experience.

I pray for her little boy, an innocent bystander of the whole situation. He will probably not remember anything that happened yesterday, and obviously didn’t understand what was going on, but what does it do to a child so young to witness his mamma being handcuffed, loaded into the back of a police cruiser and driven away?

And I pray for her mom. That she will continue to love her daughter unconditionally, yet set the hard boundaries that parents of adult children must set. I pray for her broken heart to be touched and healed by God. Because I know her pain so well, I wish I could give her a hug, tell her I’m praying for her, and let her know that God is real, and that there is hope.

I realize I could be completely wrong about many of the details of this story, but the point is, we live in a hurting world, and my heart (and the heart of God) is drawn to parents of adult children who are especially hurting.