This story from a fellow Hope*Writer and mother resonates with me on a deep level. A loved one’s struggle with substance abuse changed the course of my life, and I so appreciate my friend’s willingness to share her story about walking through that as a mother. I am so thankful for this friend’s vulnerability and courage to share here.
Here is a mother’s Freedom Story.
“You shall have no other gods before me,” (Exodus 20:3 NASB)
“You shall not worship their gods, nor serve them…..but you shall utterly overthrow them and break their sacred pillars in pieces,” (Exo 23:24 NASB)
I cannot remember a time in my life when I did not want children. It was the deepest desire of my heart. After marriage, I struggled with infertility. Our son was born when I was 35 and soon I quit my job of 15 years to stay home as a full time mom.
I LOVED being a mother. I poured my energies into raising our son. I taught him the Bible, and took him with me to Bible study so God’s Word could be poured into his young heart. My deepest prayer was that he would know and love the Lord early in life. He asked Jesus to be his Savior at age 5.
My son was the source of my joy and happiness. I carefully weighed every decision we made for his life. I don’t think I am different from other mothers in this. But due to various circumstances, I never had any more children. So he was the sole focus of all my parenting energies.
Eventually I returned to work to help our family finances. Our son was 15, and my husband worked from home, so I thought we could make things work. Our son had always been very easy to parent; he had a level head, worked hard in school, and was a successful athlete.
But, our son had a learning difference that was not diagnosed for years. He struggled academically in certain educational settings, and to try and meet his needs we moved him from one school- and peer group- to another. By the time he was 17 he had been to 5 different schools in 5 years.
My new job in sales required more than 40 hours a week to be successful. I trusted that our son was old enough not to need intensive parental oversight. He had been taught right and wrong, he had been taught the Word of God, he was well loved and had everything a child could need.
But, the five different schools in five years had devastated his social connections. He was an island, and a very lonely one. I did not see that, because I was focused on my job. But our son was drifting.
I don’t know exactly when it started. Those details belong to my son’s story. But little things began to nag at me about his behavior. He was always out with friends, but he would not bring any of them home. Some odd incidents occurred but he always managed to come out of them with a plausible explanation. But I could not shake the feeling that something was wrong.
Unsettled, I quit my job to return home as a full time mom. Soon after, we learned that our son had some serious issues with self-esteem, and drugs. He told us that he was miserable with his life, had only a few friends who were poor influences, and was terrified of disappointing us.
I was heartbroken and devastated. I did not want him to have lifelong consequences from teenage choices. And I did not want him to have to battle substance abuse.
And I was mad. I had given up career, and financial comforts, to raise him and give him everything he could possibly need. I felt his series of choices invalidated all of my work, efforts, prayers and sacrifices. I felt that my life’s work in parenting him had been for nothing. I felt betrayed. These were my honest feelings at the time.
But most of all, I felt fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of whether not this would haunt him, and us, forever. Fear that he would not turn away from that life but instead would be sucked deeper and deeper into it. FEAR kept me cold, nauseous and unable to sleep.
After very tense weeks, our son made the choice to change his life, environment, peer group and focus. He knew kids who had made better choices with their lives, and he wanted to do the same. He chose to get counseling through a unique program for adolescents. He began to set his life on a better course. But my fear and devastation continued.
Standing in church a few weeks later, I closed my eyes to sing the morning hymn. Immediately, I saw a clear vision. There was a room with an aisle down the middle. At the front, a screen covered the entire wall of the room, and on it, appeared a picture of my son’s face. Down the aisle leading to the photo of my son were toppled and broken statues, the pieces scattered on the floor.
Then I heard the Lord speak. He said, “These rocks that line the aisle are the broken idols of your life. They are the idols you have smashed because of your love, faith and obedience to Me. But there is still one idol in your life, and that is your greatest idol. That is the idol you worship, you love, you take joy and hope from, instead of Me. Your greatest idol is your son. You need to lay that idol down before me, and place your love, joy and hope in me, not him.”
I opened my eyes, gasped and looked around to see if anyone else had seen what I had. But everyone was singing normally.
I had not seen it before, but once the Lord literally laid it before my eyes, I knew it was true. I adored my son. I worshiped him. I placed my hopes and dreams in his life and I took my significance and worth from being his momma. He was my all. I could never have seen it to admit it without God’s intervening conviction.
And then I heard God’s calm voice say, “He is YOUR idol, but he is MY child. Lay him at my feet, so that I may lift him up and He will know My love. No one loves him more than I do.”
I gasped again realizing that this was God’s promise to walk alongside my son in the present circumstance. God was not just asking me to give up my greatest idol. He was asking me to place him in God’s care in faithful obedience and trust. I sank into my chair, sobbing, overcome by the revelation about my heart.
In truth I was a lot like most of the mothers I knew who poured their lives into their children. In a culture where outward achievements and material possessions signal success, we mothers often see our children as the primary tangible fruit of our labor, time and care. Their successes and achievements validate our major life choices, and consequently their failures or shortfalls may make us feel we have failed.
When we place our faith in something else to give our life significance, or hope or joy, we have made that thing an idol. My son is a great love of my life. But he is not my Savior. I have only one Savior, my Lord Jesus Christ.
That day I asked the Lord to smash the greatest idol of my heart so that He would be free to reclaim the heart of my son. In doing so I was freed. I was free to love and enjoy my son as the wonderful gift he is, without requiring him to give my life meaning and purpose.
And so, ironically, my son was set free that day as well.
Years later, our son is a healthy, thriving college graduate, who served as a mentor to other struggling youths, as well as a sober role model for others in college. He is engaged to a wonderful young woman and successful in both his business and personal life. He lives out his freedom with joy and purpose. And so do I!
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About the writer:
The author is a Jesus loving southerner who celebrates being a daughter, wife, mother, grandmother and cancer survivor. She loves her family, laughing with friends, teaching others that the Bible is relevant for today, encouraging women in their faith and Italian food. She lives, writes, teaches and avoids cooking as much as possible!