I’m grateful to M. ‘B’. Roberts for his affirmation of the following piece, despite any (hopefully, slight, inaccuracies it may contain). The original version was published in The Watford Guide-Advocate, July 1, 2010, issue.
“And the winner in the Book – General Readership category is Michael ‘Bull’ Roberts of Mississauga, Ontario, for 'The Tender Heart of a Beast.'” Emcee Herbie Kuhn (a.k.a. “The Voice of the Toronto Raptors”) beamed when making the exciting announcement.
A huge form, with tattoos over his face and a black hat (kind of looked too small!) perched on his cranium, rose from the audience to make his way in a rolling gait to receive his award, while a small cheering section hooted and whistled their delighted support. His suit and hat hid the tattoos on his body, although those facial ones were still very visible in the muted lighting of the auditorium.
The annual Awards Gala of The Word Guild, hosted at the World Vision Centre in Mississauga, was attended by an audience of several hundred people comprised mostly of Christian writers and editors, plus supporting family or friends. Later, Roberts was again called up, as his book received Award of Merit in another category.
But, Michael “Bull” Roberts – who’s he? . . . He’s a former gang leader in the illegal drug trade, and was high up in Edmonton’s criminal element. His life was characterized by the violence, money, immorality, and excess that goes along with it. One day his own people turned on him. He was left for dead, and found himself with multiple injuries and smashed legs on a floor in a pool of his own blood and urine. It was then that he called out to God for help.
That cry was heard, and over time his injuries healed, although he still bears the marks. More important is the spiritual and emotional healing taking place in his life from that time on. Michael, like any other, is a work in progress and in need of much support. His past haunts him, chickens come home to roost, and he’s received threats on his life from old associates.
Hard living takes its toll. The brutal beating left his knees in bad shape. Roberts, older-looking than his thirty-five years, faces serious health issues, requiring him to reduce bulk from his six-foot-four, 450 pound frame. An author friend assisted him in writing his book, in which he tells his story. She and her husband – among others – have helped mentor him in his new way of life as a follower of Christ. His news bulletin provides encouragement to incarcerated people in Canada and the United States.
Michael has struggles. Fresh challenges appear suddenly from life’s ocean mists, looming like great icebergs, threatening to sink him. I told him that our friend Donna keeps him very much in our thoughts and prayers. He highly values prayer.
We’ve heard of ex-cons and people from various walks of life – whether the entertainment industry, the world of sports, et cetera – who rise quickly to celebrity status as ‘born-again’ Christians, only to be disappointed when some fall by the way. Eyes roll with an Oh, not another one of those ... sentiment.
With all due respect, Roberts is a spiritual infant; however, he’s on the right track to grow in his faith, and is unashamed to cry, “Help! It’s tough! Pray for me.” Will he make it? Or will he too, fall by the wayside? He doesn’t have to, and neither do we. God hears the cry of a humble, penitent, and sincere heart. And that ain’t no ‘bull’!
© Peter A. Black, 2010.