I can remember the year his world fell apart, but I couldn't tell you the day or the trigger. The suspect line-up is just too long, with far too many likely candidates. For that one year, disasters poured forth like rain in the days of Noah with no end in sight.
His friends were astounded at the change it wrought in him. Once outgoing, engaging, and charismatic, he shut down entirely. It became very hard to get a reaction from him.
Not that I'd know much about that; I had only just met him that fateful, horrific year. Steadfast, brave, loyal... how could any man take such a beating and still walk onward like that? Perhaps his friends noticed a change, but as far as I was concerned, he was still smiling, still laughing, still serving, and that passed all comprehension. How could such a person even exist?
No matter how crowded the room, if he was there, I knew it. I was always watching him, though it was not long before I (deliberately) forgot why. I didn't want to think about pain - his or mine, since my world had also been uprooted that same year - and I preferred to focus always, only on the moment directly in front of me.
I became best friends with his close friends and learned quickly that they were some of the most valuable, most precious souls I had ever met. Loyal to a fault, they could take a great deal of abuse without faltering in love. Dealing with me, I'm afraid they had to.
It is not an easy thing, to look into the eyes of your grandma and find instead the eyes of a wolf. But Red Riding Hood was lucky; she never had to believe that her grandma and the wolf had always been the same person. That is one breach of trust that can never be forgiven or forgotten, because it has nothing to do with the wolf.
It had everything to do with me.
Every morning, as I looked into the mirror, I looked into the eyes of one who could not pierce a deception as thin as a spider's web. Every moment, the sounds of life filtered through the ears of one who could be fooled by fancy words and a big Bible. Every night, every day, as I opened my Bible to read, I was assaulted by waves of doubt.
So-and-so believed this... but so-and-so was a liar. Why am I clinging to a myth? Curse God and die!
But clinging to God was far easier than dealing with men. In regards to God, it soon became as clear to me as it had once been to the Apostle Peter that Christ alone has the words of life. No other well springs eternal and no other name brings salvation. But among men, I was paralyzed by fear and by suspicion.
At first, it seemed as if he had, somehow, escaped that fate. He kept walking on, as if untouched by any hint that those around him might not be, after all, as they seemed. He did not make many new friends, but he kept the old. I thought he might have passed through the fires entirely unscathed - until it became clear how paranoid he was of loosing those close to him.
I am ashamed to admit that my thoughts were predominately ones of relief. So he was human after all! He understood pain - how could he not? I could not offer any cure; I had none, but perhaps a cure would come someday. Someday, perhaps, there would be healing.
It has been several years since then. They tell me he shows signs of recovery, that he has begun to reengage with the world around him, to interact with strangers, and even to make new friends. I believe them. It has been a long time coming, but he was not the kind to be held back forever. His strength comes from the LORD.
And the LORD will not allow his beloved to be kept captive forever.