The dark path.

December 29, 2023

I remember seeing a video of a mama bear in the wild who could not find her cub. Though she was animal I could feel her anguish, and desperation. Her eyes were wide with the kind of fear that already sees an agony that can’t be undone. Her nose sniffed violently like two hooks had been inserted in her nostrils pulling her to the scent of a proximate death. I have felt this. I have felt it many times. I have only felt it, though I have close friends who have actually experienced the horror of losing a child. But that’s not what this about. This is about the fear we experience when our children stray. Stray from what? From expectations, from the norm, from what we have deemed the “better way.”

I’m especially sensitive to this for a couple of reasons. First, I have daughters, and to be very honest, they are naive. They think the best of people. They trust too readily. Second, my daughters are extremely beautiful. They’ve always been flanked and surrounded by men- some good, some not so good.

As to the first point, I have worked in the criminal justice system in Los Angeles for thirty years-thirty years of seeing the unimaginable things people can do to each other, and I saw it everyday. I am, and anyone would become hypersensitive about the wickedness of man. Put that all together and you might begin to understand what has been characterized by some as paranoia.

I have been that mama bear on countless Friday nights. Thankfully, those years are over. My daughters are wiser and I am less fearful and far less tainted about how I see mankind-that comes at the end of a lot of work, prayer and time.

We all have hopes and expectations for our children and when they wonder onto a dark path it’s hard to believe in some heavenly calculation, to believe that God is still in control. But I have found, perhaps way too late, that dark paths make up a large part of the map. They are not to be feared, but to be expected. I’m certainly not encouraging such divergence from what is best, as dark paths are rarely straight lines to God’s will, they’re often selfish detours, mistakes, unnecessary wonderings that eat away at our precious, limited time on earth. But they can also be only way to break an unhealthy determination to do it our way, damn everyone else. I have seen this latter experience in myself, in my children and in many that appeared in my courtroom in “country jail blues” and chains.

In my book Sacred Duty, Pastor Max Engle, a committed pacifist, Hitler’s chief critic, a man of great influence has an only child, Peter. Peter adores and respects his father wanting to be like him in every way. But after one horrific event all that changes and he is put on a dark path that was never expected by his father. In time Peter becomes Germany’s greatest war hero, a cold hearted military leader immune from his father’s moral underpinnings, the very embodiment of the evil his father sought to combat. You’ll have to read the book to see how it all turns out. Suffice to say, this dark path reforms, redeems both Peter and Pastor Max in way nothing else could.
If your loved one is on a dark path, take heart, have faith, some of the greatest people I know, love and respect have been on that same path.