There was a big black cloud hanging over Bobby’s house. It grew darker on the days when the unspeakable things happened. He hadn’t been outside for some time now and he didn’t know exactly where he lived but he guessed it was states away from the home he remembered.
He was old enough to know that things were not right. Old enough to know that he belonged somewhere else. But so young, with his whole life to look forward to, with all the hopes, possibilities and dreams that boys should have. But Bobby was robbed. Robbed of his innocence, robbed of sunlight and playgrounds and of so many, many other things. Too many things to count and too many things that are too sad to say.
Bobby spent a lot of time thinking and shaming and blaming and when the bad things came upon him he learned to think himself somewhere else.
Bobby was never whipped, never struck. The pain he faced came in a more raw, invasive, personal way. He was unbuttoned and left undone not only on the outside but left broken, pierced clear through to the very heart of who he was. Chaos ruled Bobby’s home and drove the man charged with his upbringing, the man he called dad, to a personal hell where he had lost the fight with his many demons.
Bobby spend his days hours on end sitting in his own filth. He had nothing and no one, but still the solitude was the only reprieve from the ugly, evil things that happened in the dark of the night.
I wonder if in-between those horrific moments he looked to the heavens and prayed for wings like a bird so he could fly far. Far away to a place of peace. I wonder If he cried out to God for protection, not understanding why his time of rescue was delayed. I wonder if he knew that he was worth more than the sparrows, and that God had not forgotten him. I wonder if he knew that he was loved by the very one who holds all things in His hands and even in the worst of times, when the unthinkable was present, God never abandoned him.
At some point, as he helplessly endured the unimaginable, his fears and tears became anger and hate, feelings that lay with the promise of strength and control while hiding the poison that would follow in it’s wake.
The day that Bobby’s rescue finally arrived, he was found , locked in a closet, with a growing and seemly bottomless rage that had all but consumed him. He was a lost boy void of joy and vacant of life.
Months later a hint of normalcy could be seen in Bobby’s new life, with his new family, but he struggled. He struggled with everything. He didn’t know how to express himself. He didn’t have the faith it took to trust others and he fought with impulses that were odd, excessive, aggressive and explicit.
Bobby was neither excited or hopeful when he showed up at the ranch. Protecting himself with distractions he walked around with no engagement and no plans to let down his guard.
With his face downcast and his eyes hardened with focus and hollow with detachment, he followed always a step or two behind me as we set out to meet the horses.
Dakota, our big bay gelding with a striking white blaze down his face, was the last of our 10 horses for Bobby to meet. Dakota has laminitis and on this day he was alone in his stall, lying down to relieve the pressure and pain of his swollen hoof. There were a few piles of manure scattered around his stall and it smelled, well, like a horse barn would. Instantly, something triggered in Bobby’s heart and he looked straight into Dakota’s eyes and deeply and sincerely sighed. I can only imagine what Bobby was thinking, it may have been the mess in the stall, the chain on the gate or the pain he could see in Dakota’s eyes but Bobby was drawn in and fully present.
Without taking his eyes off of Dakota, he asked if it would be alright if we just sat with him for a bit. So we did. We pulled over a hay bale and placed it in the middle of the gate giving us a perfect view and we just sat. No words were spoken and none were needed. There was no awkward silence, just the quiet of two hearts connecting.
When it was time for Bobby to go, I reminded him that Dakota and I would see him next week and that if he’d like he could help me wrap Dakota’s hoof and we could spend another session by his side.
Bobby turned his face towards mine, I’m not sure if he was surprised that I would trust him to help me care for Dakota or if he was excited over the new found four legged friend, but he looked at me, agreeing to this plan with a smile.
That was the first of many smiles that Bobby and I would share over the course of the summer. He choose Dakota to be his horse so we spent part of each session cleaning his stall washing his water buckets and caring for his needs. The balance of Bobby’s sessions were spent with his mentor, laughing, canoeing, pretending to fish, shooting arrows at made up targets, filling bird feeders, gardening and super soaking anyone who would join him in his epic and mostly undefeated water wars. No one knows better than Bobby that we live In a fallen, mad and tragic world where ugly fights beauty, evil runs rampant, and good can be hard to find… But praise the LORD we have His words of truth “In this world you will find trouble, but I have overcome the world!”
The day I met Bobby I cried. I wept for his lost days of boyhood-wonder and I missed, for him, the carefree childhood that should have been his. I hated the fear and anger that had gripped him and I prayed that God would heal this beautiful young man. I prayed that Bobby would find joy, the courage to forgive, and the faith to trust that God is good and all of His promises are true.
We didn’t erase the painful memories of Bobby’s abuse but we were able to tell him how much God loves him. We were able to help him find his smile, trust in a hug, and love a horse. “Those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” - Isaiah 40:31