He looked rather disheveled. Life hasn't treated him well recently. His clothes were clean, but his hair was a mess. His face even thinner than I remembered. But it's probably been a year since I've seen him. At least this time he wasn't high.
Years back, he was a good friend. He had a ministry not that different from mine. Working with lost, broken and abandoned people. He was brusque (and you might say arrogant) even in the good times. But his heart was right. We met (over coffee, of course) almost every week. We shared our war stories... struggles and victories in ministry. Encouraging each other to keep moving forward.
Eventually, he came to trust me enough to share his personal struggles as well. His background, upbringing, training and family led him to believe that he had to be perfect in order to lead. But he knew all too well that he wasn't perfect. To open up about that with me and still be accepted and encouraged provided real relief. And courage.
As he opened up with others, things didn't go as well. Fellow ministry leaders shamed him. That led right back to closing up. Hidden lies created hidden life. And the more he kept hidden, the more courage he developed in that. Until one day the hidden life came into view.
That was the beginning of the end. He'd spent so much time deceiving that people didn't know how to respond. They were truly wounded. Condemned by his church and family, he walked away from all of it. Our weekly visits became monthly, then occasional. Then I just didn't see him for a year.
As he openly pursued all of the things he had previously hidden, he began wilting away. No job, no home, no connections. The last couple of times he came to see me, he was obviously high on something. Both times, eventually, he worked his way up to asking for twenty bucks. Once I had declined, he soon ended conversation and left.
But this time, he wasn't high. I hoped things were improving. It was several minutes before he would look me in the eyes. But we had a lengthy conversation. He brought me up to date on his life... in broad swaths and general terms. Told me he was doing better.
Much of the conversation was laced with anger at "the church," always followed by "not your church, of course." He's upset at what he lost and blames the church for the depths to which he has fallen. He speaks of grandiose dreams as a calling from the Lord and then complains that nobody will raise him up as leadership.
My heart broke for him all over again. He realizes what he lost, but it's all someone else's fault.
I truly hope he finds his way through and gets back on his feet. I know it's possible. He's got a lot of potential and a lot of life ahead of him.
But eventually, the conversation came around to needing some cash to get out of a sticky situation. When I told him I wasn't in a position to lend him the kind of money he was asking, the conversation died off...
He said one thing in our conversation that summed up his situation.
"It's easy to throw your life away. But it's really hard to pull it together again."
I grieved as I watched him walk out.