Some years ago, in 2004 actually, I wrote a poem for my firstborn, and read it again this morning as she has just turned thirty. A lot has happened in the last ten years–enough for a few more blog posts, and maybe even a book…but here are the cliff notes till then. When your firstborn arrives you are filled with gratefulness, wonder, and such fierce love that you never knew you had. And it grows, even when the bad times come. And for our firstborn those times did indeed come.
She started out so happy and sweet, and then for a number of years took a turn that was painful for us to watch. The details are not important, but needless to say she found life to be difficult for a number of reasons, and it made us sad to see her struggle and not know what to do to help her. So we prayed a lot. We also cried, wrung our hands, worried instead of slept at night, got angry, took turns being the good cop/bad cop, and generally begged God to help her find her way. And He did; today she is a happy, productive, and spiritually-minded adult. She found her way back to God, and the things she enjoyed as a young one: peace, security, purpose, artistic talent, and the knowledge that God loves her and has a plan for her life.
I thank God for her every day, and for how God used my Prodigal to teach me some important things, things that my other children could not teach me. (new parents–you thought you were teaching your little one–but surprise! They teach you, make you learn about yourself, and grow–the circle of life, Jack.) No, I learned other wonderful things from my other kids–things that I cherish each day, and that help me get through life. But from my Nat-I learned about forgiveness, and the great love of God. And for that I shall always be grateful.
Forgive me, but pop culture must intrude here for a brief moment. It sounds as if I am glad I had a Prodigal and went through so many tears. Well…I would of course have preferred the easy road. An old Dick Van Dyke show episode entitled Big Mouth comes to mind. (It aired on Sept. 15, 1965 and was said to be Mary Tyler Moore’s favorite episode, and it certainly is mine.) Her character, Laura Petrie accidentally tells a television audience that her husband’s boss, Alan Brady is bald! Later when Laura meets Alan to apologize, he admits to her that it is actually a relief to have his secret come out. She quickly says so you’re happy I told? to which Allan replies along the lines of not only do we have to forgive them for their destruction, but we have to be happy…. That episode still makes me smile, and when I watched it in 1965 I had no idea that I would think of it during our sad years.
No, I am not glad one of my children had to go through so many hard times; but God does not waste anything; He uses all things, the good, the bad, and the ugly to show us things about ourselves and about Him. These things, if taken to heart, can have a deep and lasting positive effect on us. Or…as happens probably just as often, they can make us bitter. I chose the positive side, only because my difficult years of infertility had already provided me a few rounds of bitterness, and I learned that it never makes one feel better.
Before all our trouble, I thought I understood forgiveness but I now realize that I was only skimming the surface till the deep waters overwhelmed me. As I learned how to forgive, I also came to see my own need for forgiveness, and how freely it had been given to me by God through His son Jesus’ death on the cross. I could forgive because I had been forgiven. Recently I watched a great & funny video on the Unmerciful Servant. I have to say, it hit a little too close to home. Instead of thinking how ungrateful my kid was for all we had done for her, I came to see that I too was a Prodigal; I often did the exact same thing–taking God’s forgiveness for granted and doing what I please, with little care of how my thoughts and actions effected others, myself, and what message I was sending to my heavenly Father (who incidentally had my number the entire time). I came to see myself as one who had been forgiven much, and therefore I can and must forgive others–even those closest to me who “should know better.”
I also saw the need for my Prodigal to forgive me for my many missteps during those sad years. (My mom friends and I often commented that so many parenting issues are not covered in the mom manual we received when our babies were born.) I would not want to do it all over again and “fix” it, because I would probably just make different mistakes, overcompensating for past ones. No, my Prodigal and I are at peace now, and it gives me great joy to see how God changed both of us from the sad years. We have learned a lot about forgiveness and about appreciating each other for whatever time we have remaining in this fallen, but often still beautiful world.
So Happy Birthday my Precious Nat– I think I owe you a new poem called Forgive Me. And don’t worry-I have plenty of material, mostly from my own mistakes. :).