Mark is a psychiatrist working at a facility for adolescents in Northern Wisconsin. Their behavioral problems are serious enough that they reside in a locked, secure facility where they can spend from one to twelve months.
Mark likes the work. The kids are a challenge but Mark has hope on their behalf. There may be society and family challenges that seem overwhelming, but there’s also youthful energy and the possibility for new beginnings for a young person.
It’s pretty common for these young people to be entrenched in a defiant and oppositional stance. It was no surprise to Mark to enter the male unit and find a sixteen-year-old boy in an argument with a nurse about the existence of God.
The boy’s parents are serious-minded Christians. They expected that a conversion towards God would be evidence he was making progress. The boy knew that by resisting their religious beliefs he was irritating them and exacting revenge from what he viewed as injustice from his parents.
The nurse was a devout Christian and she was approaching him with arguments based in scripture. Mark watched from a short distance away and observed as the conversation deteriorated. The young man only grew more insistent that he didn’t believe in God and did not want anything to do with him.
Mark looked up from another patients chart and said, “Gosh, I’m surprised. You’ve always struck me as someone who liked to do good.”
“What do you mean by that?” the young man questioned.
“Well, I don’t know,” Mark responded. “Like if there’s a handicap kid in your school who can’t do sports. Are you the kind of person who would make fun of him? Would you and your buddy’s sneak up and trip him from behind?”
“I’d never do that!”
“You know there are people who do those sort of things,” Mark said.
“Yeah, well those people are stupid. I’d try to help him if something like that happened.”
“That’s what I’m saying. I figured you would. You have a kind heart.” Mark went on after another example. “By the way, did you know the way God created us, our most fundamental nature is to do good in the world? If we’re doing good things we’re cooperating with the way God made us.”
Mark had his attention now. He had the nurse listening too.
“If you are the kind of guy who chooses to do good in the world. Then you and I are on the same team.” Mark stated. “In fact, we’re actually on God’s team.”
It was like a light went on. This time we were talking and not arguing. He was imagining a whole new reality.
Soon after, the young man was discharged and Mark would not have another conversation with him. It was just one moment in the young man’s life. It was a hopeful moment. Actually, it was a decision point for him to declare himself for kindness and fostering good in the world.
“I hope and pray his relationship with God goes much deeper, but first I had to help him move away from his defiant and entrenched position,” Mark later reflected. “He was actually suffocating himself. I had to help him find new space for life and blessing.”
“Now I have to trust that God, who cares deeply for this sixteen year old, will enlist other people to carry on the dialogue and find creative ways to draw him closer.”
Note: In order to protect privacy, the name and location has been changed. This is “Mark’s” account.