Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Love Wins

Saturday afternoon our family decided to walk to lunch. Upset over an argument with his brother that hadn't gone his way, our strong willed R pitched a huge fit and refused to come.

We strive to be consistent in our parenting that tantrums (or sit ins) do not get you what you are demanding. The fact that our strong willed child is almost 9 years old means all the old toddler tricks are useless. At 50 lbs and 4 feet tall, he is far too big to simply pick up and put in a stroller or car seat for transport. This occasionally leads to a frustrating showdowns.

Because our destination was only about 200 yards across the golf course from our backyard and we had a very clear view, we decided to let him have his way. We invited R to join us, but when he growled and rudely refused, we left our pouting boy sitting on the far edge of our yard.

My husband & I debated the merits of this 'abandonment' during his rebellion, but ultimately agreed this was as safe of a scenario as there would ever be for this lesson. Even when he could not see us, we were always able to observe him. There were no parking lots, streets or strangers between us. He was left feeling angry and alone in his rebellion, but we never took our eyes off of him. We weren't punishing him by leaving, just letting him work it out.

He sat there for 10 long minutes (petting our cat) while we debated when and if to return to him. We were inside with warmth and food while he sat alone without lunch in the windy chill. My heart ached for him to get up and return to us. The Gospel parallels became abundantly clear.

Just as we were about to give up on the lesson, we saw him stand up and slowly start walking towards us. Head down, he kicked the grass as he walked. In our modern day golf course version of the Prodigal Son, my husband ran out to meet him.

I watched through the window hoping for a story tale reenactment & prepared to order chicken fingers to celebrate in lieu of a fattened calf. I couldn't hear the interaction from my window perch, but the body language told the story. As my husband tried to hug him, R turned his back. (Again the parallels to my own rebellious spirit were undeniable. Even in my 'return' there is reluctance and an attempt to retain some control.) After another minute of chatter, my husband hoisted R up onto his shoulders and brought him in from the cold.

If only the stories always ended this way...

Almost 5 years ago I wrote this raw post in response to my broken heart over a situation with a very troubled teenaged girl. I had no idea at that time how her story would continue to intersect with mine and keep reminding me of the incredible truth of the Gospel in our broken world.

After years of rejecting my sporadic attempts to help and support, KP reached out last month. Via e-mail she thanked me, acknowledged she knew I had really cared and confessed she was "just lost and messed up back then." As it is often true in life, this wasn't a quick fix. Seeds were planted 5 years ago that are only now beginning to show signs of life. Thanks be to our patient God. He never gives up--even when we want to.

Today we went to lunch. It was one of the more beautiful moments of my recent life. Sitting across the table at IHOP, beaming with joy and sobriety, she is clearly in a good place. She recounted scar after scar from her time of rebellion. My heart almost lept out of my chest at her honest assessment of the consequences of her choices and the amazing road to recovery she is now traveling.

There were a handful of folks who loved her even when she was in the thick of her rebellion. We wept and prayed more for her than she can ever know. We couldn't 'save' her. Ultimately, she had to work it out. She told me this morning that our love and concern had frightened her. She was afraid to accept it.

Her mistakes had lasting consequences. Her road to redemption is complicated, but her resolve is inspiring. She is planning to talk to other girls about the lessons she learned.

And I am writing so I don't forget the lessons I learned.

God alone is Savior--not me.
We are commanded to love--even when it doesn't make sense.
Obey when God tells you to do something--even when the odds are stacked against you.
Sometimes seeds take more than a season to show signs of budding life. (Many times we don't get to see the end result at all.)
No matter what the circumstances may lead you to believe, a person's story is not over until God says so.
Love wins.


Elizabeth said...

Thank you for this. It gives my heart hope as I wait for a return. The circumstances are very different, yet God has always told me, "I can redeem this. Do you trust me?" And so I wait. Praise God for his faithfulness.

Debbie G. said...

Thanks so much for this post. I sponsor many addicts/alcoholics, some of who struggle with other mental illnesses. I loved your list at the end of the post, most of those I needed to be reminded of daily. As long as they are breathing, there is still hope. Thanks for sharing your experience, and reminding me that God's timetable isn't always my timetable, and that He is in the redemption business, no matter how it looks to the rest of the world. Thanks again!