I can still see his sweet face. He had the most beautiful eyes for a little boy. His mop of beautiful brown hair framed a face that spoke of gentleness.
He loved aliens and video games. He was eight and I was 33 or something. He was the kind of kid you had to respect. You had to give him the space to open up to you. You couldn’t force your friendship on him or he might run away. He was tender, maybe too tender for this world.
He took everything in, especially the pain and terror of the world. I had tried not to see that. It is my own way of being neurotic. I always go through life trying not to see what is really there, if that reality is too much for me.
Logan was a little prince. I was the mother of a queen. She was an alien queen, as Logan put it when he saw her come to his house and ride down the wheelchair lift in our van. Her golden hair and laughter helped all realize that aliens were really quite lovely, even if they couldn’t walk.
Amber was her name. She left the world for heaven, or the alien world, if you prefer, two months before Logan did. She’d given all she had to give to the world, and it was time for her to make her grand exit. My heart broke as I escorted her to the door and let her go. My world was shaken and emptied of all that was good.
Then, as I struggled to plaster a smile back on my face, I got the news. Logan had gone too. He had left the world of his own free will, and it was a devastation beyond description.
You see, I had not been surprised that Amber slipped away. She struggled every day and her struggles wore her out. In spite of the obstacles life threw at her, however, she was generally happy, loving and a joyful spirit. I cherish her memory. Not only that, but she had faith in Jesus. We had read our Bible every night, prayed, talked about God, read books about Him together and I felt at peace knowing that when she left this world, she would be welcomed with open arms into the next.
With Logan, I was not quite sure. I had not seen him since he was 10. His mother became one of my closest friends. We had worked together. It was an interesting friendship, that at first, I wanted no part of.
You see, I was a good Christian, holy, self-righteous, and quite honestly, scared to death. She was a witch. Yep, you read that right. She still is a witch, actually. She ascribes to the Wiccan religion, and it is deeply meaningful for her. When I heard that this soldier, a witch, was coming to be stationed at the Army Public Affairs Office where I worked, I wanted no part of her. Every time I honestly tell people this, I feel ashamed of myself.
That is what I thought a good Christian was, an enemy of all evil-doers, and witches had to be at the top of that list, right? God had other ideas, however.
She arrived and I was shocked. I was expecting Elvira, Mistress of the Night. She looked normal, cute even. She was short, like me. She had freckles, pretty auburn hair, and wore glasses.
Not only that, but she was a very nice person. Still, my guard was up. When they sat her next to me, I was not thrilled. I write all of this still feeling shame, but I will continue. When she once said something on the phone that sounded derogatory about Christians, I remember wanting to jump down her throat and argue. I was going to stand up for God and set her straight, call sin sin, and do all those things Christians think they’re supposed to do when being “persecuted.” That’s when I felt God literally put his hand over my mouth and stop me. This is how I know God is not just some figment of my imagination. He actually surprised me. He told me, “I don’t need you to stand up for me. I am big enough to take care of myself. She needs a friend.”
I looked at her through His eyes for a change and I saw that she was scared, missing her family, in a new place where she was being judged before she ever did anything. I was not the only one who had a prejudice against witches.
It took more godly coaxing for me to begin to think of her the way God did, as a valuable treasure, a loving person, a real friend. We became very close, me just a bit afraid the entire time, but praying and being encouraged that God was not afraid of a witch.
Her family and mine, just me and my daughter at that time, became very close as well. My friend’s husband became Amber’s after-school daycare. We celebrated holidays together, with us being invited into their home for Christmas, birthdays, Thanksgiving and yes, Halloween. Amber and I went Trick or Treating with my friend Tess, her son Logan, and daughter Freya.
I treasure all of those times. I had gotten to know Logan a bit by then, having played video games with him, and listening to him tell me about aliens and all sorts of boyish thoughts. He once invited me to come around the block to his friend’s house. I walked with him as he scooted on the sidewalk on his skateboard. We showed up at his friend’s house and he knocked on the door. When the little boy came to the door, Logan pointed at me and introduced me. “This is my friend, Barb,” he said. I still chuckle remembering the look on that kid’s face.
One Christmas, as I was preparing presents for Logan, I had some wrapping paper that depicted a quaint toy store. The art had us looking in through the windows of the shop, filled with toys. For some reason, I thought of drawing little alien heads peeking out of the windows at Logan. He loved that to the point of asking his mom if he could take art lessons from me. I still laugh at that too, and treasure it. He came over to learn to draw aliens. It was a short lesson, let me tell you. You just kind of draw a bulb head and some almond shaped eyes. That’s about it.
His mom once told me that he asked her, “Barb isn’t really a grown up, is she? She just looks grown up.”
I found that to be high praise.
Not long before his death I had befriended him on Facebook. I saw that he wrote for his religious beliefs, “atheist, but I’m not a dick about it.” We chatted about movies once in awhile. I liked him still.
When I found he had taken his own life, I was devastated, not just for me, but more for his mother. He was a precious son. She loved and doted on him. She was the one who had dealt with his troubled heart and mind for his entire life and accepted him fully. She was the one who did everything she could to let him know how special he was, and she was the one who got him as much help as she could in the way of doctors and medicine.
But, like the Alien Queen, my sweet Amber, Logan had been worn out by the world. His spirit was tired of the pain of life, just as Amber’s body was. He left us too soon, and his death propelled me on a faith journey that I had already begun after Amber’s death.
You see, like a good Christian, I had always believed that if you don’t accept Jesus as your savior before you die, you’ll go to hell. I didn’t like that belief, but, I thought it was the truth. When Tess broke the news to me about her son’s death, she said, that she hoped he was with Amber. It broke my heart. I was scared that maybe he wasn’t, but I just could not imagine that sweet, gentle boy in hell. That was not something a loving God would do, was it? Oh, I can hear all of the trite lines now, the ones I used to believe and cling to, that God doesn’t send people to hell, they choose to go by denying him. Now, the pain of reality made me not so sure those barbarous beliefs were accurate.
Months before a Methodist pastor friend of mine shared some writing with me from a guy named Rob Bell. He had written a controversial book called “Love Wins.” He had the evangelical world up in arms over it. People said he had written that there was no hell. I was shocked and wanted no part of it. I thought the man was crazy and very wrong.
Still, I was curious and began to read a bit. After Logan died, I sought out that book. When I was given an iTunes gift certificate for my birthday, I bought it on audio book. I listened to it with longing, and what I heard was so filled with grace and hope. If it is heresy, it is a good kind. But really, he doesn’t really say anything as radical as people think. For one thing, he still adheres to, and strongly believes in the central truths of the Bible that all Christians believe, that the Bible tells the truth, that God is creator and that Jesus is his Son, who was crucified for our sins, and who rose again and is Lord. So, I wonder how he can be a heretic when he doesn’t deny one central truth at all. And, when it comes to his ideas on hell, no, he most definitely does not say hell doesn’t exist.
What he does do is go through the Bible for truth and he finds it. Not only that, he is simply repackaging ideas that other Christian thinkers have believed for centuries – that death is not necessarily the end of our ability to choose, that God is merciful and kind, loving even. That God does not get delight in torturing people in hell for ever and ever. He is not a sadist. He says he is not willing that any should perish, and doesn’t God get what he wants in the end? Doesn’t Love Win in the end? Or, does evil and death get the last laugh?
With Logan’s passing, I began to be open to guidance from God that veered away from some ideas that I had thought were biblical, but, now, I reject. I know that I am terrifying friends and family who still believe the way I did once, but, I have to follow the truth that I see.
And, I believe with all my heart that it is God who has been leading me. I pray and read my Bible every day. I seek God with my whole heart. I hunger and thirst for righteousness. I want only the purity of Jesus and his ways, unsullied by doctrines of fear and rejection. The Good News should not be telling people they better repent or go to hell. It should be about inviting people into the Kingdom that has been opened by Jesus’ sacrificial love. The Kingdom is not some day. It is here and now. It began when Jesus came to earth, defeated sin at the cross, and death at the resurrection. It is now and I plan to live in that kingdom, with mercy and grace for all.
I have Logan and Tess to thank for the greatest lessons I’ve learned in my walk with God. Our God is amazing. I am almost certain that Logan and Amber are together now and are enjoying their time with the Prince of Peace, and getting in a few laughs together at our expense.