I remember the moment I first saw him. I was so overwhelmed by the miracle of him that I cried out, ?It?s a baby!?
From the beginning people said that our boy, David, looked just like his dad, Michael. I wasn?t sure that was a compliment to Michael. This scrunchy, red-faced baby looked more like an old man than like my handsome young husband. But Michael beamed. And people continued saying it until, as a toddler, David would complete their sentence.
?You look just like??
?I know: my dad.?
As he grew, so did my love for him?and my amazement at every new step and phase. I adored him. My new mommylove was so huge that I wasn?t sure I could ever love another child like I did him. But the second I saw his brother three years later, my heart was captured again. My life?every moment, every decision?became wrapped up in these two incredible little boys.
For 14 years I was a stay-at-home mom. Even after going back to work when David began high school, my hours fit into the time they were at school. I drove them back and forth to church school, and later to the Christian high school they attended in our community. I took them fishing and Rollerblading. We built Lego castles and ?forts? made of blankets and chairs in the living room. We talked and hiked, rode bikes and played miniature golf. We laughed and cried and went camping in the rain so many times that rainy weather still makes me think it?s time to get out the tent.
Much to their dismay (even today), I made them healthful food. Homemade whole-wheat bread. Granola and Cheerios. No soda. Few desserts. Lots of vegetables.
I volunteered at their schools. Took them to church. Had worship at home. Prayed with them every morning as I drove them to school and every night as I tucked them into bed. We learned praise songs and hymns. Memorized Scripture and learned Bible stories. I cried tears of joy as each of them committed their life to Jesus at a very young age.
I hugged them. Told them I loved them throughout the day, every day. I encouraged them. Cheered for them. Believed in them and made sure they knew it.
I thought our story would be a happyever-after story. We were so close. They loved God so much. What could ever change all of that?
In a split second
One day this adorable little boy with the incredible smile that still melts my heart grew into a six-foot-three-inch-tall teenager. Friends became very important to him. His friends were good kids. From Christian homes. Friends he made at the conservative Christian high school he attended. I prayed for his friends. Remembered their names and the little tidbits he?d tell me about them. Tried to keep track of who was dating whom.
But in a split second our lives changed.
One gorgeous fall evening David and his friends attended a local community fair and parade. His friend, Craig, stopped by our house, and they drove over together, where they met up with the rest of the guys. They ate french fries. Watched girls. Talked about cars. Laughed.
David headed home as the rest of the group decided to watch Craig drag race afriend. Craig invited David to go with him and ride in the Trans Am with him. But David wanted to be home for curfew. He wished his friend luck, saying, ?You can tell me all about it at school tomorrow.?
But tomorrow never came for Craig. On his way home from racing, he lost control of his car, hit a cement bridge, and was killed instantly.
David heard the news when he arrived at school the next morning. He called me in disbelief. ?Why Craig?? he asked. The next few days were a blur as the group of friends banded together, weeping, shocked.
David?s pain was great. He felt anger?and guilt. If only he had gone with Craig, maybe he could?ve prevented the accident. I watched my easygoing, always smiling son retreat into the pain and depression that engulfed the situation. I could see the pain and darkness in his eyes. He didn?t smile. He kept as close to his other friends as possible?maybe in fear of losing another one.
The next month a close friend?s brother died of a heart attack while playing soccer. He was 22. Another funeral. More unanswered whys. Then another friend?s father was diagnosed with bone cancer. Two friends in school were diagnosed with brain tumors. One was miraculously healed. The other had surgery and slowly recovered. Another classmate?s leukemia came out of remission. Another was hospitalized with a chronic lung problem. What was supposed to be a fun senior year for David became a year of tragedy. And I watched, feeling helpless, as my son slipped further into the darkness and depression.
He and his friends attempted to numb their pain. Smoking. Chewing tobacco. Alcohol. Driving fast and recklessly. David had always been a careful driver, but now he had two accidents within months, totaling his truck in the second one.
My heart ached as I smelled the tobacco on his skin each evening when I kissed him good night. I had strongly taught my boys about the dangers of tobacco, alcohol, and drugs. I felt disbelief when I found two empty alcohol containers in his closet. Not my son! It felt as though our whole world was falling apart.
Then one January day he didn?t come home from school. For two weeks he stayed with a friend. Our conversations were strained. I knew he was hurting. I prayed as I had never prayed before. Pored over Scriptures. Begged God for a miracle. For healing. There were days when my own pain was so strong that I felt as though I couldn?t breathe. How were we going to make it through?
Yet deep inside, I knew we would.
I reminded myself that God loved this wayward son of mine more than I did. Hard to believe. But He did. He would relentlessly pursue my son. His son. Hadn?t He always pursued me?
I had prayed for this young man even before he was born. My greatest prayer for him had been that he would know God, really know God?intimately, personally. That it wouldn?t be just a way of life or a habit. That it would be a real, dynamic, personal relationship with a God he knew and loved.
Gently God nudged my heart. Hadn't the painful experiences in my own life been the catalysts for my growing closer to Him? The times when my life had seemed the most out of control were the very times that He had been pursuing me to be real with Him and dependent on Him.
I wanted these very things for my son, but I didn?t want him to have to experience the pain to get there. I wanted God to ?zap? him with passion and spirituality. But God urged me to let go. To trust Him with my son. To believe that He would not allow David to feel pain just to hurt, but to grow him for eternal purposes.
Our story isn?t over yet. I don?t know the ending for sure. There are days when my belief is strong. When I see reasons to hope. Then there are days when I cry out to God, ?Please, God, do something! I?ve sacrificed so much to raise these children for You?was it all in vain? Was it pointless? Why aren?t You using all these painful things for good??
On one of those days I asked God to speak to me. He urged me to read Jeremiah 31:3 as a reminder of His love. I read on in Jeremiah 31, stopping in amazement at verses 16 and 17: ??Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears, for your work will be rewarded,? declares the Lord. ?They will return from the land of the enemy. So there is hope for your future,? declares the Lord. ?Your children will return to their own land.??
As I continue to pray for David and his friends, I see God working. Slowly. Sometimes it appears that they take a step forward and two steps back. But I know that God is pursuing them. Deepening their understanding of who He is. I?ve seen evidences that everything I taught David is still there?in his heart and mind. He knows that God loves him. He knows that his mom loves him. And one day, I know we?ll have reason to celebrate.
Allison Holt is a pseudonym.