And that is where their paths diverged. The orphan struggled academically but thrived spiritually. He became a Christian. He worked hard and persevered even through failure. He completed training as a lab tech, married (in the church no less, and prior to moving in together, very rare) a lovely young woman who shared his values, and now has a sweet 7 month old baby. They were eating dinner with us this week and I was so thankful to see this young man, now in his mid-20's, has become an amazing father. I rarely have seen a man play with his son like that here, helping him stand and walk, getting him to giggle uproariously. God's mercy in his life is so evident, taking him from boy to man against incredible odds.
The story of the other boy has been more of a tragedy. He was much more gifted academically, and did well enough in school to become a teacher. But he lost his job when he was found to have had an inappropriate relationship with a student, he began to slip into his father's alcoholic patterns, he borrowed money and lost it, he floundered, he had a failed marriage and then another. For about seven years his path has led mostly downward. Many times we have sternly warned him, or prayed, or pleaded, or advised. But our lives grew apart.
Today he stood up in church and told the congregation that he wanted to become a Christian. He told about two dreams: in the first he was sitting by the road drinking with a group of men, and people came up behind them singing. One of the singers looked directly at him, and would not stop looking at him, so he ran away. This dream made him feel convicted of his sin but he was still helpless, or unwilling, to leave it. In the second dream he was crossing a flood-swollen river on a log, which began to break, and as he fell into the torrent where he could have drowned, he called on the name of Jesus, and the water dried up. The combination of an awareness of displeasing God, and then a hope in the greater power of Jesus, led him to take the courage to stand up today.
These two boys started in nearly the same place 16 years ago, but have taken very different paths, partly by their own choices and partly because one was the end of the pre-CSB generation and the other had six years of discipleship and oversight there. Yet God was at work in and for both of them. Pray particularly that the young man who professed faith today will have the power to turn away from the destructive cycle of alcoholism. He said that after giving his testimony he knew by evening that his old "friends" would be laughing at him and tempting him to rejoin his former patterns of life.
I would love to see both young men with us, worshiping, this Christmas.