Mike doesn’t remember it, I’m sure. He was twelve years old. I was eight. I was hopelessly infatuated with him–as any eight year old girl would have been. He was adorable. Picture this: dark hair styled like Paul McCartney’s; grey-green eyes; tall and still verging the growth spurt that would make him a lean specimen of manhood any artist could use as a model for Peter the Apostle.
He was my uncle George’s best friend. I was certainly perceived as a bratty kid–and a redhead at that, with invisible eyelashes, barely-there eyebrows and an ever present “I give up” pony tail binding my unruly hair.
Usually, Mike responded to my attempts at conversation with something like, “Go away, Kid.”
But there came a time when I was standing on a couch and Mike was two feet away from me. I am no mathmetician, but I started calculating distance, velocity, risk. Yes, I could do it. I could reach out, grab his shoulders, and plant a solid kiss on his lips. I waited until he was perfectly positioned, and then I leapt. Yes! I was exactly where I needed to be, and my lips were smack dab on his! The chance would never present itself again. I kissed Mike Crapo.
His response was predictable. “Markie! Eeew!” He wiped his lips–twice. Didn’t matter. My kiss had transcended his skin and gone into his blood. That’s how passionate it was. My uncles and aunts had all witnessed it, and sputtered out incredulous reactions like, “Markie! What were you thinking?” “Why did you do that?” “I can’t believe you did that!” “What kind of a girl are you?”
Their condemnations were nothing. I had kissed Mike Crapo.
That was the last time I remember being within a few feet of him. I suspect he avoided me from then on. But I suspect he remembers me. If you asked how old he was when he got his first kiss, he would probably give a different age than twelve, but I know better.
Mike got married while I was still in high school. I moved on to other infatuations and finally to a deep and steadfast love. Still, Mike’s name brings memories of innocence and youth.
So it was a personal shock to see that name and his sixty-one-year-old face, the hair no longer black but still thick, on the television screen above the news banner: “Idaho Senator Mike Crapo Arrested for DUI.”
I was at the gym, working on the elliptical and listening to “Rock You Like a Hurricane!” I wonder if anyone heard me gasp, “Oh no! Oh Mike!”
Nobody needed to tell me what LDS Church positions he had held. I knew. I remember my grandmother talking about seeing Mike in the Idaho Falls LDS Temple. He approached her and said, “Hello, Sister Groberg.” They had a delightful chat, as she described it.
My first thought, after I had processed the news of Mike’s DUI, was that he must have been carrying a terrible burden for years. I don’t know if he’s an alcoholic, but I do know addiction, and I think he might be.
I attend LDS “Addiction Recovery Services” with my son weekly. He is fighting a drug addiction and I am learning how to love deeper and how to let go. Too many of us parents see quick fixes for our children and try to impose our agendas on them. I am simply with my son on the path, and we are enjoying one another’s company. I have a new appreciation for him as a recovering addict, and a new vision of his depth and determination.
I have a friend who also attends a 12-step program. He is addicted to sex and pornography. I knew him once as my student and enjoyed his work and his personality. I wrote to him occasionally while he was a missionary. After he returned, I introduced him to one of my Sunday school students, a sweet nineteen-year-old girl.
I won’t describe more than that. He confessed what he had done. I took the news in, let it sit, cried, but found that I couldn’t hate this young man. I couldn’t kill my maternal concern for him, even though he had hurt someone dear to me. I knew he was ill. I wanted him to get better. I wanted her to be healed–to see her own magnificence.
I love how my friend Kent White describes the power of the atonement:
I assert that there is no “stain of sin” in the traditional sense (a debt to some impersonal “Justice” leaving its mark of “unworthy” on our soul), rather only relationships that are at various levels of trust and love, for which I feel a sense of obligation. In this sense I agree with William James that there are no insignificant or private sins, in that my sins are what keep me from becoming fully engaged in the humanity/divinity of others. Habits to me represent the very deepest sense of how we see others and respond to their needs. The fruit of sin is not registered on some tally, but rather in my very habits, my entire way of being with others. I do not need to repent of my sins, rather I need to repent of sinning; I need a new set of habits which will lead me to a trustworthy character.
Whether or not Mike Crapo needs to attend a 12-step program is his business, not mine. My son says, “Most people go to church so they won’t go to Hell. Addicts go because they’re already in Hell.”
Mike Crapo as a model for Peter the Apostle? Yes, he could still be that. He could still be the man who denied his “better angels” and then learned a new level of loyalty, deeper and more demanding than he had ever supposed.
Mike has already apologized to his family, his constituency, his state. I am not on his side politically–I’m a liberal. But I am on his side, and on anyone else’s side, in the light of Christ–regardless of what denomination each of us claims. I believe in hope that transcends shame. I know each of us can become a new creature in Christ, and that each of us can fall. Each of us will fall. We must then ask ourselves if we’ll label our fall as the end or merely a bump on a much longer and more arduous journey than we had realized.
The questions–“Why did you do that?” “What were you thinking?” “What kind of a person are you?”–begin to fade as we remember the stronger messages radiating from the Heavens. “Fear not. Lift up your eyes. I bring you good tidings of great joy. You are mine, you are mine, you are mine.”