Two years ago, Robert was living under our roof. It was six months of learning as we went, a time of angst and struggle and so many misunderstandings ohmygosh.
It didn’t go down like I’d pictured.
Even though I knew better, a tiny part of me thought he’d fold into our lives seamlessly and walk away a really tall, really loud, unexpected, brash- and-wild Jesus guy.
Whatever about the rest. It didn’t matter.
But what I meant was, “We’ll help him get strong in his faith then God will scrape out the parts of him that need scraping.”
It felt like a win/win.
When I tell you it was hard, I’m not done talking.
There was so much more. So much good.
Like how I’d wake before dawn and hear his boots across the kitchen floor and the universe couldn’t contain my pride for my hard-working son. I’d listen to him coo at his boys and my heart would split at the seams. We watched bad 90’s movies and one time he “fried up” a bunch of potatoes with the fanciest bottle of olive oil I’ll ever own, then did a boil/bake combo-of-doom with a New York strip steak. There were laughs. And nonsense. He taught me to be a better listener. He taught me the importance of saying, “I was wrong.”
But by the time he left, we rarely even talked about God. When we did, it was complicated. Frustrating.
He taught me I can never be good enough, middle-class enough, or faithful enough to change someone’s eternity. It’s not my job. Never was.
Can I tell you how humbling it is to do (most) things “right”, and end up further away from the prize than when you started? You cannot possibly imagine the doubt this brought to my door. Or the ways I replayed moments and nitpicked my best effort. (Maybe you can imagine.)
I worried we had somehow, accidentally, squandered one of our best gifts. I knew we’d missed the mark, despite our best efforts. It wasn’t long before we watched from the sidelines as things got worse for him and eventually blew up in his face.
I cried on the phone while the jail-house line crackled in my ear like deja vu. I wanted him to be ashamed of himself. I wanted him to feel guilt for the pain he was causing me. I hoped he’d default to Jesus like he had before, but I was well past holding my breath and in the end, I decided maybe jail was the best place for him.
I decided all these things and did my best to burden a young man who was already carrying bricks.
It didn’t make my load any lighter.
I’m sorry if this story reads like a burned-out bulb.
The good news is, there’s always good news. Jesus wasn’t playing when He said I’d never outrun my chances.
Robert moved home yesterday.
He called from the factory and phrased it just like this, “Mom, I reached the highest level at work release. Can I come home for the rest of my home detention?”
Cory and I laughed, because the kid is smart. His word choice? Brilliant.
Of course he could come “home”.
We’re at it again, only this time, we all know what we’re getting ourselves into. There’s no room for anyone to feel duped or jailed. He knows we’ll keep telling him to run to God and we know he might ignore us forever.
We can’t give him back his first 18 years. We can’t unstitch old wounds or paint him a rosier future. We sure as heck can’t hand him eternity or make him want our faith.
But we can show him that faith of ours, and hope it matters.
We can prove again that he can’t outrun his chances.
He’s home. So we are, too.
We did it together.
The next six months will be full of outlandish misbehavior on all our parts. At some point, I’m sure I’ll cuss, and I know I’ll eventually cry.
God will use us to show him; he’ll use him to show us, one more time, over and over again, who He really is and how crazy He is about us.
Because we never outrun our chances to come home.
Shannan Martin believes the turns in life that look like failure are often holy gifts, a lesson she chooses to embrace after the bones of her comfy farmgirl life were shattered and rebuilt from the toes up. Together, Shannan and her family sold their dream farmhouse, moved to a disadvantaged area in the city, and adopted a 19-year old felon. Nothing could have prepared her for the joy she would discover as her family began to live the simple, messy, complicated life they were created to live. In walking beside the forgotten and broken and seeing first-hand the ways she so cleanly identified with both, Shannan’s faith was plucked from the mud. She and her jail-chaplain husband now live on the wrong side of the tracks with their four children. She blogs often at Flower Patch Farmgirl.