“The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because generally they are the same people.” ~ GK Chesterton
Stewart Poirier was my “enemy”. He was also my neighbour and my friend.
I don’t pretend to understand his life. He was a complicated man. He was raised by the system. (For those of you who may question that statement, he was institutionalized (read: asylum) when he was somewhere between 6 and 7 years old and in and out of all the various agencies and institutions our fine country has to offer.) I only knew him at the end of his life, for the past 5 years really. But in that time, man, did I get to know him.
Stewart was not a shy man. He was energetic, enthusiastic, passionate, full of love and hate. He was a brute too. He was a bully. But, above all things, and this he did know, he is, and always will be, a child of the most high God. It was the dawning realization of this reality that was difficult for him to understand and grasp, and even caused him pain. When you’ve lived in the system, a system that tells you every day how worthless you are, that you have nothing to offer, that you are incurable, that you will never amount to much of anything, well, when you believe that you have a hard time believing anything else; when you have been rejected by everyone you have ever known, to be accepted is not the norm, and that is something that we all fight against. It seems bizarre, and it is, however the reality is that we all fight change, even when it is good change and we know that it is good.
Stewart lived for so long being rejected, that to change overnight was impossible. It was this desire, but perceived inability, in himself, to be able to change that, I think, drove him to do what he did in the fall of 2010: a hyper-violent lashing out during a church service at Sanctuary. This was especially painful for our community as many had never really seen that side of him. Those of us on staff had, and we were working with him on these things. This incident led to a painful separation. During this separation he assaulted me. I wrote a blog post about it –> “Am I Really A Disciple“. Here’s a section from that post:
Lately I’ve been struggling with “Love your enemies”. Being here at Sanctuary has thrust me into the heart of the gospel in a way I’ve never been. Last December  I was punched in the face by someone in our community. The long and the short of it is that when he was released from jail this August , I was immediately filled with fear and anger. As those feelings washed over me and consumed me, I was immediately aware of Jesus’ words: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you…”, and I realized those words made no sense to me. Sure, it’s a lovely thing to say when someone is angry about what someone did to them, and when you have no real enemies, those words are easy enough to digest…theoretically anyway. But all of a sudden here I am, faced with someone who wants to do me physical harm; who punched me when I was giving him the medication he had left. How am I supposed to love him? what does love look like in this situation?
Shortly after he was released, he was back in jail. This time it seemed that it would be permanent. Well, it was permanent. I found out today that Stewart Poirier died in prison on Saturday, February 9th, 2013. This has wrecked me, and that is what is confusing. I was terrified of this man. I couldn’t visit the corner where he assaulted me for close to 6 months and even then, I was always looking over my shoulder. When he got out of jail, I was terrified that he would find me, that I would have to confront him in front of my family. In spite of all of this I can’t explain why I am heartbroken about his death; I don’t even know if I want to explain my heartbreak.
There is some joy in this: he is no longer suffering. Our LORD has taken him home.
I don’t exactly know how to end this post. I am writing because I feel that it helps me to process what’s going on. It also gives you, my friends, family and readers, a glimpse into what I do, what I experience. Thank you.
I know what I’ll do. I’ll end on a happy note…
That picture at the top of this post is probably the best picture of Stewart. It captures his essence, his radiance. You can see in his eyes a joy and an enthusiasm for the moment. You can see in his rosy cheeks the joy of life, the smile that just has to escape and fly around the room blessing everyone. There is even a twinkle of childlike mischief in those eyes, those deep blue eyes. Stewart was a complicated man. Our pastor/E.D. said this about Stewart:
I never heard anybody preach the gospel, or claim it for himself, more clearly than Stewart during the period when he was more or less clean and sober.
Thank you my readers for taking the time to read about Stewart.
Thank you my LORD for the blessing that Stewart was to me. Thank you for what you taught me through my relationship with him.
Stewart, thank you for being so vibrantly you! I miss you.