The Fatherless Beloved

A few years back, I got the opportunity to ferry out to McNeil Is. near Tacoma with a Dr. friend of mine. McNeil used to be Washington’s ‘Alcatraz’ – it housed a fed. penitentiary in the late 1800s and then was run by the state until it closed in 2011. On the other side of the island, the Special Commitment Center is still operating. It is a DSHS facility that rehabilitates the state’s most at-risk sexual “predators”. I hate that word, honestly. It is a great description for the behavior, but not the person.

We spent the day talking with doctors, counselors, and those who have been committed for offenses. There is one thing that still stands out to me 13 years later: these guys are hardly different from you or I. Please don’t misunderstand – I wildly detest their behavior. But I felt a deep love for these guys as we ate lunch with them and heard their stories. My heart was broken. There was one common thread throughout: almost every one of these men were fatherless. They grew up without a dad who was emotionally and/or physically present. Many were beaten, abused, abandoned, raped – you name it, they all had a vicious story to tell of their childhood. This is not God’s design or intention. These are His beloved kids, too. The behavior is grotesque, but their hearts long for the same thing you and I do – to be fully known and fully loved. “You are my beloved”.

I couldn’t help but think “why them and not me?” Given the abuse in my past, why haven’t I given in to the ways they did? I’m no more or less loved. But I had several father figures that have pursued me and lead me the right way. At times, my thoughts lead down unthinkable paths, but my safety net of “fathers” keep me in line. EVERY day, God gives us moments to lead, love, initiate and father our kids/ nephews/ neighbors/ grandsons. We are all designed to be the face of The Father to our sons and daughters. My heart aches tonight for the men sleeping on an island not only for their behavior, but for what wasn’t done for them and what was done to them. We ALL need to love and to be loved.

Only ONE man had ever been released before we visited. The wounds are killer.

Location: McNeil Island

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