By Susan Ream
As far back as I can remember, my deepest desire in life was to be the best mother possible. When I came to know the Lord at fifteen, I was convinced God would enable me to fulfill that desire. I believed that when I had children, he would cocoon each one and keep them safe. My belief underwent a crushing blow when my son entered puberty.
I had misguided ideas about parenting and what God provides. I had not contemplated how the effects of living in a sin-cursed world might touch my son, nor had I ever considered the free will of my child.
Looking back, I’d say I had God in a neat little box with a beautiful bow tied around it. I had much to learn about Father God, my sustainer, and his Son, the Savior whose boundless mercy and grace never failed me.
I loved all my kids with every fiber of my being. Did I also idolize them? Maybe. I had come to believe that if I disciplined them, nurtured them, and prayed for them, it was within my power to steer their lives to a safe harbor.
Beliefs that masqueraded as truths were blown apart the year my son turned twelve. We were in full-time ministry in a little town filled with darkness. Bars lined the main street, and rebellion penetrated the city.
The teens in the town offered up animal sacrifices in the underground tunnels. A ministry for these teens tugged at our hearts. We welcomed them into our home and unwittingly exposed our son to the lures of evil.
It was in this town that rebellion entered our household and gobbled up my boy. The story is long, taking place over two decades; the journey was earth-shattering and faith-shaking.
I was caught up in a power struggle, but it was not with my son. It was between me and God. My driving motivation was to fix my son’s heart, but God was declaring that my son was his son.
Fierce battles raged before God stepped in. He walked me through a progression of releasing control. I carried the weight, thinking it was all up to me. I figured I was intelligent; my college major was social psychology; I was resourceful, and I had many connections. (Notice all the “I’s” here?)
Nothing I did, nothing I said worked–absolutely nothing! My son was recklessly speeding down a slippery slope where danger and destruction lurked. I feared for his life, but he feared nothing.
He chiseled away at my pride and fear.
One day, as I was going toe to toe with my son, matching his fury with my own, God spoke in a still, small voice. He said something like this: “Well Susie, how is this working for you?” I was humbled and a bit stunned. “Conducting a hollering match is not helping,” the voice whispered.I determined to change the dance. The next time my son flew into a rage (in those days I didn’t have to wait long), I remained calm and quiet. I looked deep into his eyes and listened attentively. What followed was miraculous.
As I listened, his defiance and fury gradually deescalated until we could talk. That day I began to understand that self-control on my part was one of the keys to reaching my son. I held that key.
The most extraordinary action God performed in the midst of this was the day he cut the cord between my me and my boy. I was sick, weak, and emotionally spent from all my striving. In the blink of an eye, I could no longer feel anything for my son. This numbness was foreign. I have no doubt it was God’s hand of mercy saving me from a complete breakdown.
Consumed in the furnace of refinement, I bowed to the potter. As I released my white-knuckled grip of control, God took the reins so that he could do what only he can do. As the Hound of Heaven, God was in pursuit of my boy. My son could not outrun the love of God.
Today, my son is restored. He has come back to his roots; he loves God. He is not perfect, but he has a heart full of wisdom, compassion, and love. I am in awe of God and of my son who is responsible, ingenious, and so much more than I could have ever hoped or dreamed.
The pain of rebellion in my life is gone. There is but a shadow of memories and lessons learned from my God, who works in the midst of messes.
Susan Ream is basking in the grace of God. She loves all kinds of people. Being a Mom is her favorite role. She has collected many “kids” throughout the years. Most of her life she has been a pastor’s wife. She cherished that opportunity and proudly supported her devoted husband. She is a mother to three grownups and Nana to eleven extraordinary grandkids. Much of her writing features insights gained through the messes of life. God never wastes a hurt, and He is faithful to work ALL things together for our good. You can follow her at godisinthemidst.com.