I did a great thing 32 years ago on September 29th. I became a mother, a task that hit me like a ton of bricks! I felt so unworthy and ill-prepared, but I had loved my baby since I learned he was coming. So I determined that, ready or not, I would do my very best to raise him to know Christ and to help him let His light shine in every interaction he ever had, and to honor God first and foremost all his life.
Somewhere along the way I failed, in spite of my prayers and my reading and my honesty with him. I determined I would never lie to my children, no matter what. So when he demanded to know the why behind some of my actions, I always told him. Coming from a place of low self-esteem myself, I actually placed my child above me in ways that at the time, I didn’t know I was doing. But every parent out there blows it somehow, right? In normal situations, the child matures and forgives. That has not been the case with my eldest.
With the encouragement of those who had little interest in raising a Christian child, the baby that I had on 9/29/85 cut all ties with me when he was fifteen. He was an angry, rebellious teen – has anyone ever seen one of those? And he didn’t care for my rules and my expectations. Then, too, he had been told that I was mentally unbalanced, so he had THAT working on him. And there were my mistakes as a parent. Mostly, however, there was the desire to be on his own, making his own decisions, a lifestyle afforded him living under his dad’s roof.
The pain for me was insurmountable; greater than the loss of one of his siblings to miscarriage, because with that loss I had the comfort of knowing that child was in heaven. For my prodigal, I had true fear, knowing that, though he had accepted Christ in his heart at eight years old, his influences now were all worldly. I apologized to God for my failure.
I still fervently prayed for my son every day. I prayed he would recognize the error in his ways – a prayer I knew would be fruitless as he had always been unable to accept that he EVER did wrong. I prayed that God would protect him and heal him from his pain. I prayed for his wife when I learned that he would marry. I reached out to my prodigal after he called my dying father, only to receive an acid-filled certified letter berating my attempt to reach out to him and assured me he would never expose his children to me, three days after my dad’s funeral.
I prayed for his safety when I learned he was to be deployed to war zones, and that God please use those experiences to, if possible, “bring him around.” I have prayed for his children – especially that he would raise them differently than he was raised. And always I prayed that he’d return to me. I have carried my hopes and hurts for 17 years – far too long.
In these intervening years, I have grown in my faith, in my own maturity, and in appreciation for who I am. I have been able to recognize the God-given good in myself, and I have come into complete ownership of my journey and gifts. And though it felt very odd at first, I accepted that I have positively impacted others both personally and professionally. I have had successes and more losses than I could have imagined, some of which my prodigal has been made aware – including the degree of my current disability. Still, he will have nothing to do with me.
As my self-acceptance and self-respect increased over the years, I began daring to really look at what I knew of my firstborn child. By evaluating his behaviors toward me, how he was as a young child and his genetics (this is why we need to choose wisely, ladies.) Then I considered the dream I had while I was pregnant – where my child, whom I loved so much, was running away from me and I knew something was wrong and just wanted to hug him, but he gleefully stabbed me with a butcher knife whenever I got close enough; and the vision I had of him when he was two: his older was standing at the end of my bed at the age of five or six, all dressed up for Christmas, looking fearful. A demon, so tall and dark, stood behind him, with his long fingers grasping my son’s shoulder. I now considered those last two messages from God.
I started doubting his ability to become the person I set out to raise, the person I had always seen. Perhaps that was the reason my church would do nothing to help me when he cut ties with me – they thought I was better off. No, someone would have said that to me, instead of the outright refusal to do anything. After two years of people asking me, every week, what I’d heard from him, I left that church.
I eventually permitted myself to accept that along with the pain and grief, there had been relief in my home when he left. My home was emotionally safer. And with less influence from his abusive brother, my younger son has grown into a fine man. We weren’t weird or stupid; we just saw the world differently and had different goals.
At some point I wondered why, with all the love and acceptance I have from so many people, I continued to hold on to the one whom likely never would love and accept me? Why did I think it was so important to cling to a hope that was, year after year, so futile? It was clear I was gaining nothing from it.
Then I came across the meme at the top of the first page. It made me think of a heart with a large burn on it – all damaged and hurting.
And then I remembered how God can make all things new, when we let Him. I finally knew I was worthy of a whole, healthy heart, and I finally released my prodigal to God.
To recognize his birthday this year, I shared the meme at the top of this post with these words on my Facebook wall:
I am driven. I am stubborn. I am intelligent. I am gifted. I am forgiven. I am joy-filled. I am accepted. I am loved. I am valuable. And today, I am courageous. I release you, Gabriel, on this, your 32nd birthday. I am healed, by the grace of God, and I am free.
Thank you, God, for loving me.