If you have seen the movie Braveheart, you know of the scene where
young William’s father is brought home to him, on a cart, dead. You may also
recall that, after the funeral, an imposing, battle-scarred man
arrives unlooked for. This is William’s uncle Argyle. And his
frightening visage is grace’s unexpected face.
Of all the things he does for William, the most powerful is to,
despite his heavy loss, let him know that he is not alone in his suffering.
Grace once came to me like that–unexpected, unlooked for. Only his
face was not that of a battle-scarred Argyle, but that of my stoner
friend, Pat. His wounds, the ones I could see, were the battle scars of adolescence:
he bore the telltale pockmarks of acne.
Pat was a husky, olive-skinned Italian. And oregano was not the only
herb he was fond of. We were the same age, had brothers around the
same age, and were fast friends from about 1978 until high school.
Then our paths diverged, and he got into drugs. Somehow, God knows, I never
got into pot. I smoked–cigarettes, cigars–chewed tobacco, drank. But
somehow drew the line there. I don’t know why. Certainly I was wounded
enough to make drugs an alluring escape. All I can surmise is that it
must have been the grace of God protecting me (even before I believed
So Pat cycled in, and out, of my life throughout the high school
years. Our biggest falling out had to do with something said in passing about my aunt. I didn’t see him for sometime. And one day, he dropped by unexpectedly. We had shared some in
our appreciation of the feminine form, swapped magazines.
In fact, it was about magazines that he’d come by. Thinking that he
wanted to borrow some of my goods, we went to my room.
“Dude, aren’t you sick of this?” he asked.
“The porn, man, the porn.”
I took deep breath, exhaled, took another. Realized I was.
“Yeah, man, I am.”
“Let’s trash it, dude.” It took a moment to register what he’d said. I swallowed, took a deep breath, and said:
“Okay.” So that’s just what we did: took down the centerfolds, gathered the
magazines, trashed them all.
I felt so free, so gloriously free. Here was Pat, the stoner I
couldn’t get to give up weed, calling me out about my porn, recognizing my addiction (but not his own. And isn’t that the truth? We so often lack necessary perspective about ourselves). Looking
back, I realize it was God moving, perhaps getting my house in order: less than a year later I would bow
the knee to Christ, make my faltering profession of allegiance in a speeding car.
After that day, I never saw Pat again–until his brother’s funeral.
Grace often comes like that–wearing a face we don’t recognize. Look
for it, and you will see. And how I wish that was the end of my
involvement with pornography (oh, it was–for awhile).
How has grace come to you unexpectedly?