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When One of Your Children Wrecks Your Parenthood...
pamela spurling

This is simply written from this mother's perspective, very private feelings about a difficult season... 


What a shocking thing it was to discover, ten years ago now, that one of our children was flat-out disobeying us and was in rebellion in our home.  It would be many years before things really turned around for this child and in many ways, what was lost will never be recovered or replaced.  That time is simply gone.  The hopes and dreams, plans and ways for that child were essentially shattered when he decided to go his own way, make his own decisions and choices.  Though new hopes and new dreams have taken place, those original plans were dashed

I suppose, at first, I was in denial---denial that this son could possibly be so rebellious; denial that this son would conceivably turn his back on things we held dear: our family, our home, our way of life.  I was in denial that this son could follow, walk with, live with people who were not part of our life.  Really, as I look back now, I suppose my heart or my pride was assaulted and crushed.  Perhaps it’s like that for sisters whose husbands leave them for younger/other/different women---I don’t know.  All I know is that when it took place, I felt as though I had been hit in the face with a board and somehow, the pain and agony of that blow has never really gone away. 

I didn’t think of this early on, but in recent years a thought has come to mind:  my son, you wrecked my parenthood… you trampled the plans, you ruined the picture.  I wanted to say: my son, you left your place at the table, someone else now sleeps in your bed and occupies your chair as we gather around the Word and in prayer every morning.  I wanted to tell that son that nothing could ever be done to make that loss right, to resolve the longing I’ve had all these years---the longing to help and to watch that son grow and mature in the ways of manhood and in the ways of the LORD.  Nothing could replace that empty spot, those dashed hopes and dreams for that boy. 

Along the way I have had to continually reconcile all of these thoughts and feelings with the reality of our life and the reality of the Word of God.  I had to own up to the fact that I contributed, in part, to the turmoil in that boy’s life---I didn’t understand him when he wanted to do things differently than we wanted or planned to do them.  I didn’t relate to so many things he found interesting---but I couldn’t relate to worldly things---I couldn’t then and I cannot now.  I somehow lost his heart... my husband somehow lost his heart and other things gained his affections---worldly friends became more important to him and he listened to their enticing plans.

But, glory be to the LORD, I’ve learned along the way is to stop and listen to the hearts of our children.  By God’s grace, I’ve learned to watch for seeds of sweet fruit and for bitter seeds of rebellion and prune and shape the sweet roots and fruit and to nip problems or strife in the bud.  Along the way we learned that when the fruit of rebellion is apparent, the roots are already firm and deep and it requires tender, merciful, vigilant and steady effort to remove, clean up and replace that which held sway in the young person.  There’s no simple way, no short-cut, no way around… the rebellion likely didn’t happen over night and won’t likely be cleared up over night.   By the same token, strong branches and sweet fruit don't appear overnight and the same diligent care is required for the staking, guidance and nurturing of the tender tree---but even the pruning is thrilling and sweet work when the health of the tree is evident.


I will never forget the night our son left home.  I still grieve over that event---though it’s been many years.  I think over the years I experienced the gamut of emotions from anger to fear to disappointment to regret to sorrow, loss, defeat, embarrassment, mourning, hope and on and on.  A mother’s heart somehow manages to hold all her children long after her arms no longer do.  In prayer, a mother keeps watch over her children long after her eyes close and the children are no longer in sight.

As I grieved the loss of that boy, friends grieved the loss of their son in death.  I saw our stories as sort of parallel one to the other.  For at that time, as our friends would no longer see their son, we felt, though we would see ours again, we would no longer anticipate ours to return home---there was a death, of sorts to that hope... I had lost hope. 

But then, as life always does, things began to change and soon I began seeing the blessing and benefit to being the mother of a wayward son.  Yes, really... I began to “count it all joy” when I would fall into those “divers temptations” of doubt, fear, regret or whatever.  I began to see that the LORD had allowed all that had transpired and that it was all ultimately for my good, his good, the good of our family and for God’s glory.  Soon we began taking pictures again---with or without all our family present.  Soon I began to overlook some of the glaring faults and began to see that son as the LORD sees him---and I began to weep for the choices he had made, for the trouble he had endured and the rough road and tremendous difficulties he faced because of decisions he had made in the past.   The LORD helped us to comfort and encourage that son as he made right decisions and choices---all the while, we continued to pray for that lost son.

I began to see with Spirit eyes the poor, lost little lamb… content in the early years to eat with the pigs, then longing for the sweetness of home.  The prodigal never returned home---but it no longer was the ache of my heart that he return home to me or to us. It simply  became the ache of my heart that he return to the LORD---regardless of where he lay his head to rest---for, after all, it's not for me that he was given, it was and is for the glory of the LORD that that child was born. 

It’s been a long and winding road---both for that boy and for his mama.  For that boy… in seeking to find his way has stumbled in the dark, has tripped over the snares of the world and has shielded his eyes from the Son.  For his mama, in seeking to find peace and make sense of all the grievous disappointments, the LORD has brought sweet peace and even hope for the day of “restoration” and redemption.  We have enjoyed delightful times of rich conversation, joyful celebrations, and commemorating milestones and accomplishments with this son... the LORD has begun to restore what the locusts have eaten and has given me tremendous hope for complete repair and restoration.

Hope that was once lost has been replaced with a new hope, a bright future and a joy that only the LORD could've brought.  I smile when I see this son---my sweet joy.  This son now gives me great hope and joy---our family rejoices over this son with great joy.  It's sort of a "beauty from ashes" sort of hope and we thank the LORD for His gift.  O, had I known and understood the ways of the LORD and His mighty acts.  I do praise Him more and more.

I can honestly say with the Psalmist:

 But I will hope continually,
and will yet praise thee more and more.
Psalm 71.14

So… if you ever experience the anguish of one of your children wrecking your parenthood… please join me in trusting that God has a bigger picture we as yet cannot see---a bigger plan we as yet cannot fathom---for I know who holds the future and I know who holds my hand.  Just because the past may have some very rough patches and dark spaces, the future is bright… no matter how the horizon looks today.

with love and praise,  pamela    19992010   PO Box 2130 Snohomish, Washington 98291 USA
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