Maybe one of the greatest blessings I receive is that of perspective. One of my “perspectivators” is Romeo, my fifteen-year-old wonder kid who has truly lived it all, and lived to laugh about it.
When Jesus was born, the social and political scenario was tragic, and traumatic for many. He was born into the humblest of settings, and few had a clue what impact his life would truly have. These past few days at the Youth Ranch Home, we’ve been reading the first chapters of the Gospel of Luke, and this has led Romeo to have a ton of questions……actually….Romeo always has a ton of questions.
Romeo lives life to the fullest, especially now that for the first time in his life he is living in a real house, eating real food, in a stable situation. First time ever!! He has been accustomed to being constantly on guard on the streets, scolded by abusive drunk male relatives, abandoned, beaten, and constantly told he is not worthwhile. How does Romeo deal with this? He “self-corrects” and “auto-scolds” himself. This gets pretty funny.
“Mark, you should give me the cereal you won in the food basket. Romeo would like the cereal, and I’d hide the box in my room so nobody steals it from me. I’d heat up milk in a pan to eat with my cereal.” Then, he continues his monologue with the correcting. “No Romeo, you can’t have the cereal. The cereal is for Mark, so he can get a bigger belly…” Then he breaks into his habitual laugh, happy he’s cracked himself up. “Romeo is not worth a box of cereal….or milk”, then his laughter continues. These monologues continue all throughout the day.
I love Romeo! Sometimes, especially when he’s in a vehicle, Romeo talks NONSTOP! And I’ve learned that if I look at him and raise my eyebrows (thanks mom!), he will auto-correct. “Ok, time to shut up Romeo. You are talking too much Romeo. Nobody wants to hear your rambling, Romeo”. Then the laughter!
But with all of that trauma comes the reality. You know how most kids have some pretty strange fears? There are things that most children will be afraid of, but most of the time they are things that doubtfully will actually happen. That is not the case with Romeo. His fears are always present, and most for good reason. I mentioned we would spend Christmas Eve up on a hillside, watching the fireworks displays explode over our city at midnight. Romeo contemplated and then expressed his fear. “Would you leave me up there, abandoning me in the dark? I hope not, because the last time that happened I was really scared. When I was ten my brother and I were out, and a guy picked us up. He and some other men took us up a hill and tied us up, and then asked our family for a ransom. But my dad didn’t have much money, and he told the men he would not pay the ransom. They were going to kill us, but decided instead to just leave us tied up on the mountain, and we were finally able to escape the next day”.
How do you respond to that? I told him I was not going to kidnap him, tie him up, ask for a ransom, and then leave him tied to a tree in the night, abandoning him. He happily came along to see the fireworks.
“Do you think my brain is messed up because I didn’t get breast milk as a baby? (Romeo’s mom died during childbirth). Hans says the lack of breast milk messed my head up. He said drinking powdered milk as a baby killed my brain cells. No, Romeo! You are not brain damaged because you didn’t get to suckle.” Then the laugher at his own humor. “I’ll make up for it when I have a wife. When she’s pregnant I’ll drink her breast milk and get smarter”. Laugher!
Romeo wonders why Jesus mom didn’t die during childbirth. He wonders if Mary and Joseph had fresh eggs and cow milk in the stable. He asked if Joseph decided Mary was ugly, and he went out to find himself another woman. Was Joseph sober or drunk the night Jesus was born? Did Jesus ever have his own soccer ball? Did Mary ever abandon Jesus? What would have happened to the world if a mule in the stable accidentally kicked baby Jesus in the head?
“I know what Jesus felt like when those bad guys came to find him in the garden and drag him off to trial. The same thing happened to me”.
But then, I realize Romeo is capturing so much more about life, Jesus, and love. Two days ago he was reflecting on his life, and he said, “This is the first Christmas in two years I’ve not been in prison. It’s nice not to be in prison for Christmas. And I now know what Christmas means. I never really knew anything about Jesus before, and now I’m glad that I do.” Aha!! It’s working. Romeo is learning and growing and slowly learning to trust.
I think most of us need to reflect a little more about life, love, and Jesus. We need to be a little more Romeoesque in the way we read the Bible. We need to recognize our traumas, and how God has brought us through it all. We need to stop and reflect not only on what we’ve not received, but on the spiritual milk God is constantly trying to get us to consume. And we need to “auto-correct” when we get off track or talk too much instead of listening. We need to enjoy our life of liberty and freedom in Christ, and remember we were once prisoners to sin. And we need to trust Jesus more, especially when trusting him means getting over our fears of bad things that have happened in our past.