I clicked out another text and sent it, but I didn’t expect a reply. My smart phone announced its delivery but it was never read. I hadn’t heard from my son, Jerrod, for months and I had decided my number must be blocked. I longed to talk to him, to hear his voice and to know that even if there was a silent wedge between us there was still communication – at least some pretense of a connection that kept us bound together as family. I longed for the comfort of knowing he was well and safe and thriving in his world – even if it was a world I knew nothing about. But still there was nothing; no reply; no contact; nothing . . . nothing but silence.
That was last spring…
And a lot has happened since last spring. While my heart ached to hear Jerrod’s voice and to reconnect with my son, my world was full of baseball games and science trips, track meets and teenage tantrums as I struggled to parent my two orphaned nephews. Parenting children you didn’t birth or raise is difficult. Initially I set rules and stipulations for staying in my home – respect me, respect my property, remain celibate, and obey the law – but in the end I felt compelled to simply offer my home for as long as they wanted to stay. There would still be consequences for poor decisions and they would have responsibilities in my household, but they were welcome to stay. If they wanted to leave it would be their decision. By the time school started again, Luke had decided that blood ties can be stronger and more stabilizing that he ever imagined and he chose to live with his older brother. While Beau, on the other hand, decided that at seventeen he was old enough to make his own decisions. In the midst of circumstances that were less than ideal for making such decisions, he moved out and went to live with friends. The year they were here in my home was a difficult year, but I have no regrets and I pray for them as they are often on my mind and in my heart.
And in the midst of these changes….
Last summer, while Beau and Luke were gone for a few weeks visiting their brother and in an effort to keep my mind off of my lost relationship with Jerrod, I decided to resume blogging which had been sporadic amidst the busyness of teenagers. (As those few who actually read and follow my blog are well aware) However I discovered to my dismay, my website was down! It suddenly dawned on me that I had no ownership of my site or knowledge of its operations. Jerrod had set up my site and added it to his other sites and accounts. I had simply reimbursed him for my domain name and hosting but I had no access to the accounts or knowledge of how my site was built. I had lost my website and I was heartsick by the loss, but it was also an acute reminder of my lost relationship with my son.
So fall arrived…no website…no nephews…no word from Jerrod.
I felt as all of my dreams were crumbling and along with them my identity both as a writer and as the Christian patriarch of a traditional family. My heart teetered between anger that wanted to lash out to the heavens, “Have I not already lost enough!” And a growing despondency that threatened to shrivel my inward thoughts and surrender to the tedious task of living without hope.
Hopeless silence descended on my heart as summer waned and autumn arrived….
But not long after Beau and Luke moved out, I received a phone call one evening from the mother of Jerrod’s roommate and partner. She told me her son had taken Jerrod to Oklahoma Medical because Jerrod was delusional and irrational. She said Jerrod had already been in the VA mental hospital once and she thought I should know Jerrod was suffering from a complete mental breakdown. I will be forever grateful to her for contacting me and her kindness to my son.
And yes…I have long been silent on this subject too, but Jerrod was – and is – living a homosexual lifestyle.
However his lifestyle had never given my heart cause to completely abandon him and I left for Oklahoma City the day after that phone call. I have been back several times since to offer what little help I have to offer. With medication and counseling Jerrod is better, but he is still struggling with several difficulties that seem almost insurmountable. It was and is painful to watch him struggle, but rather than lead me further into despondency and depression, God has graciously allowed his struggles to spur me on and start me on a quest for answers to some of my most difficult questions.
How do you carry the gospel of grace to someone you’ve drilled in the law? How do you show love to one whom you fear feels unloved and rejected? And how do you quiet a Pharisee heart keeps interjecting – what about repentance?
And while I was looking for answers and trying to learn more about Jerrod and how to help him, I was surprised to discover my questions for Jerrod were echoes from the depths of my own heart. I suddenly realized I couldn’t carry the gospel of grace to anyone when I didn’t know how to preach it to my own heart
And so in the silence of hurt and pain, broken dreams and disappointments, grace began whispering to my heart….
And the whispers of grace pierced both the pride and the shame that have long dictated my righteous works. There in the silence of a broken heart, the rivers of life were suddenly stilled and I could see through the water as though it were glass without the distracting ripples of a busy life, and at the bottom of it all I saw my own sin covered by grace – grace that I had so desperately tried to repay with righteous deeds. I was the one drilled in the law that needed to remember that grace was found at the foot of the cross and not at Mount Sinai. How my Pharisee heart crumbled when I saw so clearly my need to repent of my righteous deeds and my self-righteous pride. Despite the long journey with Justin that the Lord so graciously carried me on, somehow I had forgotten that I cannot save my children…and I cannot save myself. But when I removed my stained cloak of righteous deeds and looked squarely at my sin, I was also the one who suddenly felt exposed, rejected, and unlovable. Oh, how I needed to be reminded that I was clothed in Christ’s righteousness and I was His dearly beloved.
And silence was broken by joyful praise!
So once more the Lord is prying my fingers from my children and crumpling the castles I have built in the sand; He is revealing my idols and at the same time freeing my heart to love my children and others even more deeply than I did before. Today I break a long silence with this new post on an old but restored site. In these months of silence I feel as though another layer of dragon skin has been peeled away and my own skin is still raw and tender but fresh and clean. Jerrod has restored my website as his mind has cleared a little, and the Lord has graciously restored my relationship with Jerrod. But far beyond those little blessings, the Lord has used these silent days to deepen my relationship with Him and to remind me that my identity is found in Him – not in what I do or who I am; and those trials that once threatened to destroy me, now seem but fading shadows in the growing light of dawn.