When God Uses Your Wandering Child To Save You From Your Wayward Self

It's my only and most favorite son's 27th birthday today, and I find myself overwhelmed by the power of God's sovereign grace in his life and mine. Michael has always been an emotionally intense lover of raw and unbridled adventure. My favorite childhood memories of him all center around the immeasurable joy he experienced running wildly in open spaces without borders. With arms extended like an eagle he would soar for miles down the beach, singing with laughter like a caged bird that had been set free. 

Hindsight has a beautiful way of clearing away the fog that accumulates on the lens of parenting from our desperate cries and prayers for guidance, and when our children are grown we often see things we wish we hadn't missed. I can see clearly now how tightly Michael's free spirit is woven into the very essence of his God-design. And I can see clearly now how the tightly confined parameters that marked his childhood apart from the glorious vacation weeks at the beach and weekend hikes through the woods and open fields in many ways squeezed the life out of him.

I don't have a lot of parenting advice that runs too far beyond "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind" (Luke 10:27) and "act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God" (Micah 6:8); but I do offer the advice to pay close attention to whether or not love and grace are being written upon the hearts of your children, or whether their hearts are being engraved with the message that, while there's room for them in God's Kingdom, there's not room for them within the earthly walls in which we've assigned them. This isn't about finding fault with a room, this is about the fact that some rooms simply cost too much to house free spirits. 

It's good when parental hindsight brings healthy introspection and humble confession that doesn't immobilize us with guilt. My husband and I are committed to looking at ourselves as honestly as possible, and we've found great joy and forgiveness in the gospel and from our children as we've walked through the mistakes and failures of our parenting. We are both firm enough believers in God's absolute sovereign orchestration to know we're not powerful enough to thwart His plans of grace. We are wholly and completely confident that His plans for His children are good, and that those plans come with a future that's wrapped in hope. (Jer 29:11) And we are also firm believers that His ways aren't our ways, and that those plans often look very different than we could have ever thought possible.

I'll never forget the day in 1989 when we received a call from the adoption agency telling us the news that would change our lives forever. Our son was born, and we were to drive two hours to Columbia, SC to meet him in the morning. Those who have experienced the heartbreak of infertility and the mourning of children unconceived can understand the emotions that accompany this kind of call. If it weren't for intermittent waves of fear crashing reality over my head, I'm quite certain I would have drowned in the ocean of my own happiness and excitement. Elated beyond description, my husband and I chattered through the night about everything that I'm sure could be boiled down to this one truth: We had no clue what was about to hit us. But God did, and in His love and kind mercy He unfolds the joy and sorrow of our lives one perfectly-orchestrated layer at a time. 

I don't remember much beyond our restless sleep that night, I just remember awakening to the news that it was snowing. When you live in the South, a few flurries amount to a massive storm. I braved a blizzard to have my son and bare the stretch marks of truth to prove it. I don't remember much about that treacherous trip to Columbia, but I do have one vivid memory that still makes me laugh out loud. It's of my orderly husband who governs his life with perfect discipline and distinction suddenly leaping from the car into the sleet and snow to straighten the Mercedes emblem on the hood of the car. Little did we know that would be the last time that emblem or anything else moveable on earth would ever stay straight again. We were about to retrieve our son who finds no reason to straighten things when they look so awesome crooked, a son whose journey of switchbacks and hairpin turns has left two proper parents of pride disheveled by sin, but more powerfully dazed by grace.

I could write books about this journey, but I won't. I'd rather just point attention to the God of the journey. He has walked our family through the deep valley of sorrow and sin, and He has never left our side. His grace has sustained us through every heartache and through every trial. There are no words to describe the love I have for our son, or for our God Who so graciously gifted him to us. A wandering son who, like his parents and beautiful sister Maycee, is learning what it means to trust in Christ and find satisfaction in Him alone. A wandering son whom God has used to help save this wayward momma from her sinful and self-righteous self.  

Happy Birthday to you, Michael! I love you with all my heart. I praise God for rescuing you, and giving you a huge heart of love that shows kind affection in a way that puts me to shame. This morning I read this quote and it reminded me of you and me, two law offenders who love their freedom and wide open spaces. Two law offenders desperate for Christ to reign us in with the awe and wonder of God. 

"You cannot threaten, manipulate, or guilt a person into obedience. Only grace can produce this joyful submission in me. Only grace can open my blind eyes to the awesome glory of God. Only grace can free my heart from all the replacement awes that have kidnapped me. Only grace can give me back my awe of God. Only grace can transform me from a worshiper of self to a worshiper of God. Only grace can motivate me to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord until I have exited my little government of one and given myself to the work of something vastly bigger than me. The law cannot motivate me to obey the law. In our disobedience, we don't first have a law problem; we have an awe problem. Awe of God will produce willing submission to his will, and lack of awe of God will lead me to step over his boundaries."  Paul David Tripp 

Grace to you, my dear son. May God continue to open your eyes to the glories of the Cross in ways that have you standing in awe of Him!