Last week I had a heart attack!
Now, I know me saying that is going to make you bombard my wife with questions like “How is Ken doing?” or “Is he alright?” or maybe even “What are you going to do with his stuff you don’t want anymore?” Before you all do anything like that, let me clarify – I did not actually have a cardiac arrest episode.
What I actually had was an attack on my heart.
I don’t know if you have been following the news, but there have been three stories in the Milwaukee headlines lately that are depleting my faith in humanity.
The first story is about a high school teacher involved in human trafficking a woman from Asia he met on the internet. Christian Mothershead is charged with two counts of human trafficking and second-degree sexual assault and now violating his bail.
The second story is about a young man whose Mom was shot dead by another driver while she was giving him a driving lesson. Tracy Smith, a Sergeant with the Department of Correction, was killed while teaching her son the rules of the road on August 30th.
The third story is about a young man with disabilities that was neglected by his parents to the point of death by starvation. Hector J. Pizarro, 16, died Sept. 4 at a Milwaukee medical clinic where his mother, Iraida M. Pizarro-Osorio, had taken him after he became unresponsive, according to a criminal complaint filed in Milwaukee County Circuit Court.
Why are these atrocities attacking my heart specifically? On Tuesday, the teachers of Hamilton High school were called into a brief emergency meeting before school started that day. We were informed by the Principal that two condolences cards were in the office, awaiting our signatures.
The first card was for a senior who had lost his mother in a road rage killing. He is the son of the DOC Sergeant and was returning to school to finish out his final year. He is one of the popular students in our school, among both staff and peers. He’s the kind of young man that even if you never had him in your class, you still know him and can tell that he is one of the people who pass through this school on the way to somewhere special. He always has a smile on his face and the way he greets you with a “sir” shows you that it is not just a word to him, but an honest sign of respect.
The second is for Hector. I did not know the young man’s name from the initial reports, but it was a gutshot when I made the connection. Hector was my student last school year. I remember him vividly sitting in his wheelchair. Hector was non-verbal but you can tell his eyes captured every little detail that went on around him. I remember watching his eyes light up when I would lightly hit a beach volleyball to him in Phy Ed class (I still think it amusing that I, a man with cerebral palsy, would be assigned to teach a gym class). Some mornings I watched his mother drop him off at school when the bus forgot about him or was late in picking him up.
We were also given an update on Mr. Mothershead, the Mandarin language teacher at Hamilton accused of luring a woman and her kids from China under the pretense of a romantic relationship leading to marriage. Instead, Mothershead is being accused of keeping her in his house for about two years as an indentured servant. I had known Mothershead for a couple of years. He seemed like a nice guy, but to be honest, I never had more than superficial conversations with him. Hamilton is one of the largest high schools in Milwaukee, with over 150 staff. Teachers tend to know only those teachers with whom they share students with.
Upon leaving that meeting I was simply floored. It felt like the biggest, meanest professional boxer had come up to me and punched me in the gut, then the face, and then kicked me when I was on the ground. And since that meeting, I have come to a conclusion – some people are just EVIL!
We don’t like to use that word. We prefer softer terms like a criminal, perpetrator, offender. All those words convey that their act was merely a mistake or a temporary lack of judgment. We try to see the other side of the story. Is Mothershead being used by this woman and he is actually innocent? Did the mother’s anger somehow lead to this tragic confrontation in front of her son? Did Hector get an unknown disease that prevents him from eating, despite his parents’ best efforts to save his life? We desperately cling to these ideas, wanting to give the benefit of the doubt.
But we have a more difficult time believing in EVIL.
I believe the reason we shy away from is that we don’t wish to acknowledge the source of evil. As Christians, we believe that all good things come from God, as Paul writes in Romans 8:28:
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
We believe that the Lord of Lord and King of Kings look out for us, interceding in our lives to bring us good and keep the nasty stuff away.
But if we believe that all good things are from one source, GOD, why do we have a more difficult time acknowledging the source of evil? We chalk up the bad things in life as fate, circumstance, or just the way it is. But is it really that hard to believe in a spiritual force that is somehow against us and is interested, not in our welfare, but our destruction?
I am always amazed when someone tells me they believe in God, but not in the other guy. “If the devil didn’t exist”, I ask, ”why do we need Jesus then?”
We have given him many names: Satan, Lucifer, the devil, the Evil One, Bob from HR, you name it, he’s been called it. The existence of an actual devil, a spiritual embodiment of all evil, is not a popular subject in polite conversations, mainly because of the ramifications of what that actually represents. My wife and I like to watch detective shows together and I always have to chuckle when the lead actor looks at the victims friend or family and asks, “Did he have any enemies?” The person is always hard-pressed to come up with anyone who would want to hurt dear old what’s-his-face, but it always turns out there was someone or someones that had a grudge with the victim.
Someone does have a grudge against you! But most people ignore him and actually get uncomfortable when you point him or his works out. Most like to think of Lucifer as that guy from that new show on NetFlix! In the movie, THE USUAL SUSPECTS, one prisoner tells a police detective that “the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”
Peter warns us about him in 1 Peter 5:8, where he warns us to “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” How does Peter know about him? Because he was with Jesus! The closer you are to the Lord, the more you are going to be attacked.
But, as you can see, my heart attack was not fatal. Like a physical one, a spiritual attack can also be a warning sign, a reminder that Evil exists and is looking for more victims! It also reminds me of how easy it is to become one yourself. The devil is still prowling around today, right now in Milwaukee and elsewhere, looking for his next meal. What are you doing to protect yourself?
One of the most simple things to do comes from Sun Tzu, who wrote in “THE ART OF WAR”, know thy enemy. If the Devil has it in for you and wants nothing more to see you abandon your relationship with the Creator of the universe, don’t you think it is time you brushed up on his favorite tactics? The Bible is full of the types of spiritual warfare the Devil has used throughout history, starting with his first and favorite attack, when he simply asks us “did God really say that?” If you learn his ways, his traps are transformed from deadly and horrifying to ridiculous and child’s play. And when he attacks your heart three times in the same day, the best way to dodge that assault is to drop to your knees.
Let’s Pray: Jesus, help us recover from all of our HEART ATTACKS. Help us see EVIL from far off and stay clear of its path. Amen!
If these words have impacted you in any way, please feel free to share them through any social media. Please leave a comment below if you have been attacked lately. I can guarantee that you’re not the only one fighting these days.