Now he looked up at me again and he said, “I was trained to kill people and then cut them up into pieces.” Each time, he spoke so much more than just those words. He was asking this temporary surrogate father for approval and punishment. He had been trained, tested for two weeks standing in sewage, in the pitch dark, and promoted to the elite rank of soldier for the cartel. This was the one accomplishment in his life that he could hold up for a father’s approval…yet he also knew that it was the one accomplishment that deserved a father’s punishment. And I don’t know what he might have known about a heavenly Father, but deep inside he knew that the only way to live with himself was to receive punishment or absolution from God Himself.
Somewhere in this story, he looked up at me and for the third time he repeated, “I was trained to kill people and cut them into pieces”, and this time there was a pause, and he said, “and I liked it!”. Again, this seemed to be an admission and a plea for forgiveness. But the most amazing part was my reaction to these words, and it wasn’t until later, in retrospect that I could understand this. What I felt at the time was pure understanding unspoiled by judgment. I wish my entire life were as pure from the dross of judgment and criticism as it was at that very moment. Here was the confession of a murderer evoking in me only love and compassion. Truly there is one explanation. The Love that can only flow from the heart of the Father, was washing over this unlikely trio, and there was no room for anything but love. Again, I thought of the ticking game clock that would instantly end our talk. “Better finish your story,” I said, “before the game ends and we all have to leave.”
There was surely a lot more to this story, but time was pressing us to move on, and we skipped to the last day of this boy’s life on the outside. It began with a call to arms, and a large stack of weapons loaded in the back of a pick-up in which he rode with several heavily armed comrades. The truck proceeded at high speed over a small bridge which gave way, and landed up-side-down, the men buried under the truck and weapons. Our boy was the only survivor, but was found unconscious at the site of the accident. And here we were now, standing almost toe to toe in this Mexican high security prison, feeling an inexorable force drawing us together. And it was at this point, with dozens of other inmates looking on from all over this walled in exercise yard, that I took him into my arms as any loving father would a son.
This was it, surely. This was the moment that the three of us knew was coming. It was the moment repeated when Jesus, the incarnation of the living God, having been beaten beyond recognition, forgave his own killers: “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.” The moment repeated, as it is for all eternity, when He, being sinless, took on all the sins committed before or since, and removed the guilt we all carry. And finally, realizing that I didn’t know this boy’s name, I asked what every Gringo knows to say in Spanish, “¿Cómo te llamas?” And he looked at me and said, “Alejandro”. And I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that this was a divine appointment: Alexander is the name of my eldest son!
He was already in my arms, and I inclined my head and kissed the top of his head which reached to about the height of my shoulder. Father had found son, and Heavenly Father had found His son. The rest is predictable. I told him how much Father loved him. And of course, I told him of the cleansing of the blood of Jesus, and the forgiveness found at the cross for all Alejandro had ever done. We spoke about the joy that is set before us, on the other side of the cross, where resurrection happens. And yes, we prayed together for this miracle to happen, and he entered the Kingdom of God right there, in the arms of this tall Italian Gringo, his young countryman, Josué as witness.