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Of Roses & Wayward Children

A Welcome Home message from Mother’s Happy Day ~ 2004

T
he topic I feel led to share tonight transcends cultures, language and socio-economic boundaries or barriers. When a child wanders out of the way, it doesn’t matter what you’ve got, what you know or what you don’t.  It doesn’t matter what you’ve planned or what you hoped would happen.  It doesn’t matter where you live or where you’ve been, when a child wanders out of the way, it is a heaviness only a mother or dad of a wayward child knows.  It’s a very very lonely road sometimes.  It’s a very isolating road and some days the hill is too tough and too steep to climb.  And sometimes, it seems as though the road, with all its twists and turns and deep ditches and dark valleys, will never end and yet goes nowhere.  This is the road of the wayward child.

     On a warm September night as I lay in our bed watching the dark and silent movie on the ceiling of our bedroom, my eyes hot with tears and my heart breaking, I listened, hoping to hear the opening of the door, the long hoped for return of our son.  That scene would be repeated many times over the years and many times I would pray to God to take my son home if he was never going to turn from his ways.  If he was ever going to hurt another mother’s child or if he was ever going to bring heartache to another person, I prayed the LORD would take him.  Grieved over the loss of this son, the disappointment and “shattered” dreams, all the poor choices that led to more bad choices… I thought I’d never live through the heaviness of the days following our son’s leaving home.

      Those days, as I rocked a newborn, glancing at pictures of days gone by, the recent wedding of our firstborn replaying in the theater of my mind, tears streaming down my cheeks, I had to recognize that my son would never come home again… not to live, perhaps to visit, but never to live again, joining the children around the breakfast table, lying on the floor listening to dad read the stories each night, or running out to see what dad brought home from the store, never sliding into the row next to a brother or sister at church on a Sunday morning,  never standing at the sink eating a peanut-butter and jelly sandwich and drinking a glass of milk.  Regrets and what-if’s flooded my mind.  Buried in an avalanche of disappointment and discouragement, I couldn’t see that none of this had escaped the gaze of the LORD.  I couldn’t “fix” this one and I couldn’t rewind and make this one turn out differently.  It doesn’t matter how many babies a mother has, when one is wayward, that’s where the heart is most tender.  Oh, how I loved my boy… how I ached for him and how I wished I could change the course of that night—that fateful night he turned and walked away. 

That was nearly six years ago and while the story is yet unfinished, and this son never did return home (to live), never did come back to “church” with us, never did fulfill some of the hopes and dreams we’d had. Something very wonderful did happen.  The brothers and sisters eventually learned to love their brother in a new way.  They stopped hoping he’d return home, they stopped looking for him to come for dinner or to play volleyball.  We started taking pictures of the family at home even if all the members weren’t present.  We stopped concerning ourselves with what people were saying about him or about us.  I stopped praying he’d not do more wrong, instead, I prayed he’d do more “right” and that he’d yield his heart to the LORD.  This once faithful and loyal son was searching for his way in this world and all the while the LORD obviously watching over him, giving him a very very long line.

      Precious friends have experienced the agony of the loss of a child in death, a pain I do not know, and I am sure that to compare the pain of living with the reality of a wayward son or daughter would be degrading and so I refrain from such a comparison.  However, I do draw an analogy of death or an ending of hope and of everything that had previously transpired.  I know that in death, it’s so over when it’s over.  There is no hope of ever restoring that which was lost—though we have precious comfort in a reuniting in heaven at the end of the journey.  Having a wayward child is like no loss I’ve ever experienced and I know I’m not alone in the grief.  Brothers and sisters the world over are grieving the decisions of children who walk away from home, walk away from the family, walk away from the faith.  They grieve every day and every day the grace and mercy of God, the blessed Controller of all things,  harnesses them and carries them through.  Things may seem to never change.  In fact, things may seem to go from bad to worse.  We may often wonder how bad is bad going to get?  Some days the grief seems unbearable and unmatched.

      This is where my “But God!” comes in. 

      “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were
dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised
us
up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages

to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through
Christ Jesus.”  Ephesians 2.4-7 

      I haven’t stopped praying for this son and I haven’t lost hope that one day he will return to the LORD and serve Him with his whole heart.  I haven’t lost hope that the miraculous could happen—-I believe this because I look in the mirror and see one who was gloriously saved—one who was not too far or too independent to save.   I have learned that for this son, my hope is in Jesus—-all my hopes are in Him.  This is the child who taught me to pray; this is the child who taught me to wait; this is the child who is teaching me kindness and mercy.  This is the child who is teaching me to rejoice evermore, and again, I say rejoice.

       I was driving along in the van, mindlessly switching the channels when I came upon a song I remember hearing many years ago.  I recalled that my son, who played the guitar very well, loved this song—but because we were so dogmatic and so legalistic about music and “right and wrong (!!)” I never allowed my son to buy the tape (would be CD, today).  I thought it wouldn’t be “right” to have that music here.  What I didn’t understand in those days (and am only barely understanding today, by the way) was that that son knew the message of that song…  he understood that music and I didn’t.  I didn’t know that boy’s heart and I didn’t know how to love that boy and train him up in the way *he* should go. 

       I am only beginning to understand the great depth of that verse!  Well, so I called my children on the cell and asked them to turn on that station—they immediately knew the song and in the weeks to follow, they helped me find the CD and to shorten a long story, I did purchase it and as I gave Mother’s Day presents to my children, I gave this son his gift and a card in which I shared my heart and the new understanding about this song… and when he opened the gift, he saw the CD and immediately he got up from his chair to hug me and to thank me, saying we’ve both received a great gift today.  I understood as I sat there with his gift to me sitting on the table… the fragrance filling the room. I realized that roses are sort of like life… sometimes sweet, sometimes budding, sometimes the thorns grab your attention and bring you some pain, sometimes there are bugs and pests that threaten the blooms, sometimes deep pruning needs to be done in order to produce strong canes full of fragrant flowers.   It’s sometimes hard to see where we are in the process.  It’s hard for the wayward child to see where he is in the process and will remain that way until he stops running from the very One he longs to see. 

The Song?

Well, part of it is this: “…And I know that you don’t understand the fullness of my love How I died upon the cross for your sins And I know that you don’t realize how much that I give you And I promise I would do it all again Just to be with you I’ve done everything There’s no price I did not pay Just to be with you I gave everything Yes I gave my life away I gave my life away Just to be with you”      (Third Day)     And I’m learning that the sweetest roses are on the bushes with the most thorns.

 

—-pamela spurling

The Welcome Home  © 2004    

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Thank you for joining me here today, may the Lord bless you and your home.