By Lewis Campbell

Dear Molly*,

This has been quite an afternoon. All I knew when you came in was that you had a drug problem and your children were having strange, unexplained accidents. Because of that, a judge was about to use a little-known and less understood federal law to “terminate your parental rights.” You wouldn’t be your little boys’ mommy any more. If you understood this, you avoided the subject. I decided not to press the issue at the outset.

The judge either had insight or was required to ask me to do an evaluation and report back to the court. So we started three hours of interview, questions, pictures, puzzles and all the rest that goes into a psychological evaluation.

I almost fell out of my chair when you indicated that your therapist said you had obsessive-compulsive disorder. The pictures you drew, which I never really trust, were saying the same thing. Then I realized I hadn’t asked about your family.

When I did, the dam broke. Almost emotionlessly you poured out a history of hurt, rejection, abuse and disappointment that broke my heart. I struggled to retain my professional objectivity. I pictured a little girl becoming a slavish perfectionist trying to earn love, an adolescent drowning hurt in a cookie jar till she ballooned to over 300 pounds, eventually turning to diet pills then hard drugs to numb the pain of emptiness.

I grew excited with you as you shared the wonder and thrill of your new-found faith. To the cynic, it might look like a ploy to impress the judge. I know that is a possibility. Yet I sensed a joy and hope, immature as it was, that spoke of reality. I thought of the many mentors I had as a teen and wondered where yours were. I wished for a support system of godly men for your dad when he raised you as a single parent.

But that is all history now. Tomorrow I will spend several hours counting dots, adding scores and doing math to make sense of what we covered, then more hours before God trying to use that data to make recommendations that would be redemptive for you and your family.

As we worked, I thought of another teen—me. I remembered kneeling at an altar at youth camp telling God He could have me if He could use me. It never occurred to me that I would not be a famous pastor, evangelist or maybe missionary. The road since then has certainly been a bumpy, uneven one—sometimes in sunlight, sometimes in shadows, up and down.

Tonight, I think it makes sense. I see God making an appointment 50 years ago to bring us together today. Without trying to be dramatic, I felt today that I hold your destiny and that of your children in my hands. It is at the same time wonderful . . . and scary . . . and . . .sacred.

*Name has been changed.

About the Writer: Lewis Campbell is a psychological examiner and Christian counselor in North Little Rock, Arkansas. He is president of Training Resources, Inc., a consulting firm which serves as a backup resource to family service and juvenile agencies in Arkansas. He is an alumnus of Free Will Baptist Bible College and the University of Central Arkansas. He leads Sunday School leadership and pastoral counseling seminars for churches and church organizations.