Last week was another opportunity for me to walk back into the building that houses almost 30 years of memories for me, our local courthouse, in order to watch court proceedings for my son. This date had been on my calendar for a few months, for this was the day for him to say out loud whether he was guilty of the two felony offenses he faces or that he was not guilty and wanted a trial.
As I walked into the courtroom, I scanned the back of the heads of the inmates that were in the first few rows in an attempt to locate him so that I could at least sit where he might turn around to see me. Finally I saw him, sitting on the end of the bench, in that dreaded red outfit and it looked like … uh oh … stitches running down the side of his head. What?! I could feel my heart begin to pound a bit, wondering what he’d gotten himself into this time.
Thankfully he spotted me as I approached a bench to sit down on that was relatively close to him. As I continued to look at the side of his head I began to wonder if they were stitches or … dear Lord please tell me no … a tattoo?! He then turned around and made eye contact with me. Being the mom I am, I asked (quietly) … are those stitches or a tattoo? He smiled and told me it was a tattoo. Again, what?! As he talked to me I noticed something on his face right below his hair-line …. you have got to be kidding me … another dad-gummed tattoo. One of the bailiffs that I’ve known for years was standing next to where I was sitting, so I asked him to slyly walk up to my “child” and see what words he had written on his face. As he was attempting to do that for me, my son turned around again and I asked him what the tattoos said. The one that runs down the side of his face next to his hair line said DAMAGED. The one on his forehead under his hair line said CASHED OUT. I guess my face showed my heart breaking because he smiled, and said mom, you act like I’m going to work in an office some day. So there’s that. How do I process that?
Thankfully his case was one of the first ones called. He shuffled up to the judge, in handcuffs and an ankle chain and respectfully admitted guilt to the two felonies he was charged with. He was not real pleased with the 3 year sentence that had been recommended, but I know that after all of the cases he’d pretty much skated on, 3 years was a fair offer. Plus, as I told him, it will give him more time to devise a plan for his future. Once he was finished speaking to the judge, I exited the courthouse as quickly as possible. I couldn’t process the fact that my son, this person I realize I don’t know any longer, would choose to permanently deface his FACE. I often listen to K-LOVE radio but I couldn’t listen to it as I drove home from there. I wanted to wail. I wanted to shake him. I wanted to hug him. I wanted the past 10 years to have gone differently. I wanted to understand why …
He called a few days later and thanked me for coming to court. He appreciated the fact that I had been there. I asked him why he chose to get those tattoos on his face and he said that it was probably not his best decision ever (you think?!) but it wasn’t that bad … after all, he already had a tear drop and a cross on his face and if he ever lets his hair grow out it won’t show. I cried. I didn’t mean to. But I did. When he asked me why I was so upset I just told him that there are a lot of things that I can deal with and process but for some reason the fact he feels DAMAGED and CASHED OUT and needed that to be on his face permanently breaks my heart as much, if not in some ways more, than all the other bad, bad things that I’ve had to process and deal with from my children. He doesn’t understand that. Mom’s overreacting, you know?
For Christmas he requested that I send him a book. It’s a book that deals with conspiracy theories. The perfect book for a jail cell I suppose. I ordered that book but I also ordered Max Lucado’s book about facing your giants. I even included the workbook for him. He did tell me he’s been reading it and I hope he has. For years, more than I can say, I have prayed that God send him a Godly man, a mentor that he can look up to that can show him how to live a different life, a life for God and I continue to pray that he finds that mentor … maybe while he’s serving this sentence. To think that my child feels that way about himself is heart wrenching. As a parent I have kicked myself and beat myself up about all of the times I failed as their parent … and I’ve been doing that an awful lot lately. I know that these thoughts are not of God – I know that I have to seek Him continually to find that peace that passes understanding because some days I struggle finding that peace.
Philippians 4:6-7 says:
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
I know that God loves my son more than I do. I know that He has great things in store for him should he choose that path. I know that my son’s heart is damaged and broken and that only God can truly heal that. I used to pray that he restored my children, but honestly what I want Him to do is make them new.
I often feel bad writing about my adult children and how broken-hearted they can cause me to feel, because I know that I am fortunate in that my children still dwell on this earth. Therefore there is still hope that they will allow God to renew them and sustain them. It’s a great quandary that loved ones find themselves in when they have people that they love to the moon and back that are for all intents and purposes completely absent from our lives. For me, as a parent of two adult addicts, it’s a chasm that sometimes has seemed as black and deep and wide as any could be imagined. I’ve wanted to desperately save them from themselves, their addictions, or whatever … but have come to realize over the years that it is not up to me to save them at all. That was a rather hard bitter pill to swallow, but it’s one that has led to a lighter burden as the years have gone on. Life with them absent becomes manageable, but make no mistake about it, the pain never lessens, you just learn how to absorb it. Knowing they are still out there, somewhere in this world, means that I can and will continue to cling to the hope that one day God’s work will come to fruition in their lives.
2 Timothy 1:12 says:
…for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him for that day
Therefore, I do know in whom I believe. I am convinced without a shadow of a doubt He will guard those I have entrusted Him with.
I do believe. God please forgive me and help me in those moments of unbelief. You’ve got this. You love them more than I do. You know my son is not ordained to be DAMAGED and CASHED OUT but to be loved and fully known by You and for that I am thankful. Hope anchors my soul even when it seems foolish to those looking from the outside in.