The young man sat like a stone wall. “That’s not me. That’s not me.”
We always share messages from God to encourage members of the group of people about their future on the first day at the Bridge, a substance abuse treatment center. It’s usually what opens the boys up. This time, however, it didn’t seem to be working.
“That’s how God sees you,” we told him, but the words seemed to fall to the ground.
Surprisingly, this young man later signed up for a one-on-one counseling session. We took him for a walk around the grounds. He told us his story, which was one of the saddest stories I’d ever heard.
His mom abandoned him when he was two weeks old and his grandma admitted him to a psych ward at age thirteen, claiming he was schizophrenic. He was put on lots of medications that led to addiction. Feeling compassion for him, I asked, “If we could change one thing for you, what would you have us change?”
“That my nightmares would stop,” he said.
We wanted to know what his nightmares were like. He looked up at us and said seriously, “I don’t even want to tell you because they’re so scary. I’ll tell you one because it’s a mild one. In the dream, I’m lying on my bed and this black goop is on the ceiling, and it slowly sucks me in so I can’t breathe. That’s a mild one. I have that one all the time.”
We prayed for him, not sure anything would change. He also wanted to forgive his dad because his dad hadn’t been around and hadn’t fought for him. We walked him through forgiveness and afterward he said, “It feels really different.”
That Sunday we saw him at church and he came running up to us, shouting, “The nightmares have stopped! The nightmares have stopped!” He seemed completely changed, and from that moment, we could see him begin to trust us.
As a result of being touched by God, he started having good dreams and began asking us questions about them. The first dream he had that wasn’t a nightmare was God showing him his house in Heaven.
Then he started having “split” dreams, where in one part, he was standing in front of a school assembly telling them his story and how God saved him, and in the other part, he’d done something bad and was on the run and the police caught him. Listening to him, I said, “It sounds like God is showing you it can be one way or the other. If you go back into your old bad choices, you’re gonna get caught and it’s not gonna be awesome. Or you can keep pursuing God and this is what it’s gonna look like.”
After we left, he wrote me a letter: “You’ll never understand the impact you’ve had on my life. You’re like the mom I never had.”