Just like that those dark days, which I still remember, are forever in the past. Poof. The end result is what I expected all along. But the middle part…has changed all of us.
I don’t believe I will ever forget the depths of that pain, how I was knocked down, my decision point to get back into life again, how I tried to manage my fears, and how I eventually came to the decision to live with joy no matter what. And then suddenly there is the ending.
This is what I’ve learned through it all.
But first, neither of our boys are being released from prison yet. This is one of the regular struggles of our lives but the future date of a sentence being over is not the ending I’m having now. We’ve long worked through the disappointment of the crime, the powerless feeling of the criminal justice system, and coming to terms with our sons’ futures looking very different than what we dreamed for them. We’ve long been in this decision to live with joy no matter what with them. A release date will be a beginning.
Due to privacy issues I need to keep this story vague. You don’t need to read into the vague-ness that this involves either Kenneth or Terrill. I’m afraid the rest of my life isn’t exempt from pain just because two of our four boys made bad decisions.
I remember where I was when I got the phone call. I remember what store I was in. I remember the spot in the store I was in. I remember trying to finish up my purchase while trying to get home as fast as possible.
I got home, dropped everything, found my Bible and one certain book that God reminded me of on that drive home, and went to bed. I stayed there for days. I missed church that Sunday (all the more noticeable when you are a staff pastor). I stayed in bed some more days.
I read the Bible. I yelled at God. I slept. I grieved the future that was now lost. I read through that book more than once and found some hope, found a plan. (Does anyone want this book? To even look at it reminds me of those days?)
Days later I decided to get out of bed and to try to find a new normal. But that pain tainted everything every day.
My First Plan for the Way Through
Equipped with all that Bible truth and this helpful book, I started in on my plan. It involved a lot of me trying to control the outcome. I have so many regrets now.
I was passive-aggressive. I was forceful. I used the Bible more as a weapon than an invitation. These behaviors of mine are just as much at fault for the lies I was now being told on a regular basis. I created a relationship where it was better to lie to me than it was to just talk to me.
I have so many regrets.
This lasted five years.
My Adjusted Plan for the Way Through
Eventually I realized my part in why I was being lied to every time. I was also still grieving the loss of the future I had planned. I extended that grieving time by the years I wasted trying to control the outcome.
Eventually I simply decided to be in the relationship. I decided to vulnerably be in the relationship. I decided to choose joy that we had this relationship. (Choosing joy was not so simple, by the way.) I decided my discomfort was my discomfort and I was going to love—and to love big—anyway. I made loads of brave decisions.
Eventually our visits were more joyful. Sometimes full of pure joy. The lies were less. I got glimpses of why I loved him so much. I started to see the man I knew again.
Truth though there were times I was smashed again. My vulnerability was taken advantage of. I let it happen. I knew I was going in and would be tromped on again. I decided that the pain was worth it. This is what unconditional love looked like.
I also decided to keep my Christian mouth shut. I had beat him over the head enough. He knows the truth of God and the call on his life. I finally understood that he always knew that and that I didn’t have to beat him over the head with it. He knew it so much he was haunted by it without me having to add to it. The Holy Spirit was doing the work the Holy Spirit does so why was I trying to be the Holy Spirit? (Fear leads us to do crazy.)
This lasted six years. There was lots of pain. There was lots of joy. These were vulnerably brave times. I am proud of these years even as they have scarred me.
Then suddenly we were back in an unconditional love relationship again.
The suddenly came from the decisions he made. He made them because life went in that direction, because the Holy Spirit was speaking to him, because he was bravely leaning into his vulnerability. I’m sure it helped that I had long given up my attempts to control the outcome. For six years I just showed up, dared to love and dared to forgive (forgiveness leads to boundaries), and kept showing up.
And just like that–after 13 years have passed–this is over. Life is full. Life is joyful. Life is trustworthy. Life feels like a future I can’t wait for. My scars are becoming distant memories. I am often caught off guard by how happy I am day in and day out.
It just took 13 years to get here. It feels like nothing now. I can’t believe I am saying that.