As many of you know, Rhonda and I were foster parents for six years. Our oldest foster son is now 19 and has more than his fair share of struggle. I've never talked about him openly in this context; I've always used euphemisms, but I was so moved by my experience this morning, I think people deserve to know. Of course, it's no secret my son went to jail recently. The charges will remain confidential, but his current residence is fairly common knowledge.
When I visited him this morning, we sat inside a cell the size of a broom closet, and spoke to each other through a thick glass window. I've seen him this way before, but something about him seemed entirely different. His facial features appeared softer than I've seen in many years, and his eyes regained some of their youthful sparkle. When he spoke, he smiled and looked directly into my eyes. I wish I could have taken a picture; he looked like the son I've been missing for quite some time.
As the minutes passed quickly by, we shared experiences on a deep, heart-to-heart level. I saw qualities in him I had only hoped for in previous years. He showed insight, empathy, truth, responsibility, and love. For example, at one point he said, "Sometimes I sit in my cell and I tell lies to myself. Sometimes I think I shouldn't be here, but then I catch myself, and I tell the truth: I deserve to be here." He showed concern for the other children and sincerely apologized for being a negative influence in their lives.
Like I said, I was deeply moved by his growing maturity and insight.
Just before the officer ended our visit, he said, "There are lots of so-called friends in my life who will kick it with me if I ask, but they're not here for me like you and Rhonda." As he said those words, his eyes welled up with tears. He put his hands on the glass and said, "I love you..." Then he turned and walked back to his cell.
As I left the jail and drove home, I felt my own tears welling up inside. It grieves me to see my son in jail, and yet I feel such deep gratitude and joy to witness his open heart. For one brief moment, he achieved a freedom more real than any release from jail; he achieved a freedom of the mind.