Romans 8:1 - There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Today's the day. My oldest child graduates from high school tonight. I feel numb.
I feel like there are so many things that I took for granted while he was growing up. I didn't spend as much time with him as I should have. I didn't pray with him as much as I should have. I didn't do a lot of things that I should have. I find myself wishing for more time to do all those things I never did for my son when he was younger.
I feel ashamed of my selfishness. I feel guilty. My heart aches for my boys who grew up always separated by hundreds of miles from their dad. He is in the military, so visitation has always been rather difficult and infrequent, which is no fault of his own. Their childhood could have been happier. Instead, it was painful because, in addition to the fact that they couldn't be with their dad, I was distracted and preoccupied most of the time, searching for my own happiness. And it was my own selfishness in that pursuit that caused their pain. For a time, I couldn't see past my own desire for happiness enough to put them first. Not that I didn't love them. I did, always. But I took them for granted. I lived for myself and justified my actions by convincing myself and others that I would be a better mother if I could find happiness for myself. I was so lost and deceived.
What I didn't realize was, it wasn't happiness that would make me a better mother. It was God. And it was God who would fulfill that need that I was so desperately searching for.
The boys' dad and I divorced when they were young - they were four and two-and-a-half years old. I remarried first, and my new marriage wasn't without its problems. It was quite rocky and for a while, I questioned whether I had done the right thing. I guess deep down, I knew that I hadn't done the right thing, but I really wanted it to be the right thing. I had been counseled by therapists who merely validated my feelings and then prescribed anti-depressants to numb my emotions. Things just didn't seem to get any better.
One day, I called in sick because I was so depressed, I just couldn't get out of the house. I broke down sobbing that day and in my bedroom floor, I fell to my knees begging God to take the pain away. I begged for His forgiveness and pleaded with Him to just show me what He wanted me to do. I told Him that if I was supposed to go to my ex-husband and beg him to take me back, then that's what I would do. I just needed God to show me. I was exhausted from trying to figure it all out myself. Once I got it out of my system and felt a little release, I waited.
I don't remember exactly how long I waited, but it seems like it was about a week. I had been talking off and on with my ex-husband and told him I was thinking of bringing the boys to Charleston, where he was stationed at the time. I still wasn't sure what I needed to do, but that plan was on the radar. Shortly after this conversation with him, I learned that he had remarried and didn't bother to say anything to me about it.
So, that was that. Now what? Despite our problems, I knew that I loved my current husband, so I wasn't devastated. But I was still confused. I decided that, probably, God was trying to tell me something, but it didn't sink in right away. Sometime shortly after the news of my ex's remarriage, I became sick with what seemed like a stomach virus or food poisoning or a parasite of some description. Whatever it was, it was nasty, and it came out of nowhere. After a couple of days of it, on a hunch, I ran to the drug store and picked up a pregnancy test.
Yep. You guessed it. I was pregnant. And stunned.
If that wasn't a confirmation of what God wanted me to do, I don't know what was. As if my ex getting remarried wasn't enough. But, I guess in my mind at the time, it wasn't really. I'm sure God knew it would take more than that to get through to me. This pregnancy felt like God was saying to me: "What's done is done. You need to stay right where you are and trust Me from now on." It took my having another child to realize how precious children are and what a blessing it is to be a mother. God brought me to a place of utter dependence on Him and He knew exactly what it would take to change my heart. After so many of my mistakes and selfish decisions, He finally got my attention. He created me to be a mother, and it was in that role where he made known to me my deepest desires.
It still took me a long while to really appreciate the lessons that I learned in all this. My boys continued to suffer in that they were still and always would be children from a broken home, and with the birth of a baby sister, they were regrettably not given all the attention they needed. This breaks my heart. Also, when my daughter was about a year old, I decided what better time to go back to school and pursue my dream of becoming a lawyer. I was still searching. Thankfully, ours is a God of patience, and He saw me through a year-and-a-half of classes before He finally showed me that this wasn't His plan for me and my family. It was just another attempt by me to write my own destiny.
Gradually, as the kids have grown, God has revealed to me what He was trying to teach me all along. That marriage and children are gifts from Him, and they're a reflection of His love for us. He showed me that, since he blessed me with children, maybe He just wants me to be a mother. Not a student. Not a lawyer. Not anything besides a mother to these precious children. Raising my daughter along with my boys has given me a new perspective on God's love and forgiveness. Through all my mistakes, God carried me. That may sound corny, but it's true. Looking back, I can see that He was always there. He didn't leave me for one second.
Since that day of reckoning in my bedroom floor, I've seen my marriage restored and my family cared for beyond the scope of comprehension of my feeble little brain. Where my deepest desires were once to merely be happy, now, my deepest desires are to see my children walking with God and for my husband and I to be righteous examples of what it means to follow Jesus.
Knowing all this, it's so clear where all the condemnation surrounding my son's graduation is coming from. As my son graduates from high school and moves into the next chapter of his life, I will not embrace the guilt and shame of the past. Instead, I will, with a grateful heart, accept the abundance of God's grace and forgiveness, and, in faith, look forward to what great things He has in store for us.
Thank you, Lord, for your forgiveness. Thank you for your mercy. Thank you for your patience and love. Thank you, Lord, that in you, there is no condemnation. Amen.
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