Today’s guest poster has requested her name be withheld, in order to protect someone who is dear to her heart.
“Hurry, you’ll be late,” I called down to my son who was supposed to be joining the rest of the youth for the ward temple trip. “Mom, I need to talk to you,” he replied. As I walked down to his room, I knew something was wrong.
“I can’t go to the temple,” he told me. “I’m not worthy.”
He then confessed to me something that had been bothering him for some time. I sensed his relief as he unloaded his burden, as well as his desire to seek help. I let him know I was grateful for his honesty and we talked about what he needed to do next to find his way back.
He may have felt some relief, but I felt heavy with the burden of his struggle and his guilt. Actually, I felt like I needed to throw up.
Now, a couple of years later, his challenge persists. I am both heartbroken and afraid, for even though it’s only a glimmer, I have a small understanding of what he’s up against. I continue to be grateful for his openness and courage and his efforts to change. I am hopeful as I acknowledge that despite this battle he hasn’t turned completely away. But I know his efforts to succeed are not constant. Sometimes I fear he lacks the deep conviction needed to overcome this.
His situation is often complicated by well-meaning leaders who don’t stop to think there may be a good reason he refuses to pass the sacrament. And by the fact that his older sister seems to be doing everything right. It pains me to hear people say what a great girl she is and then pause as if they don’t quite know what to say about her younger brother. I want to say, “They’re both good kids.” Because they are. One of them is just struggling with the effects of some of his choices right now. But I know his heart and it is good.
As a mother I wonder what I could have done to prevent this. I know it’s not my fault. Both kids have been raised the same way. But could I have protected him better? Taught him better? Somehow given him more of what he needed to resist this obstacle?
I have watched as other mothers whose children have struggled or rebelled have looked about frantically to once source or another, pleading desperately for help. Some even have, for the lack of anything else to do, resorted to blaming leaders, friends and most often themselves as their children’s faith has faltered. I sometimes feel tempted to do the same. The “If only…s” torment my mind. But I know it serves no purpose and can sometimes undermine the very structure in place to help. What good am I to him if I lose faith?
So I pray. I pray that this, too shall pass. I add his name regularly to the prayer rolls of the temple. I seek counsel from leaders and people he looks up to. But mostly I just love. I don’t know what else to do.
I am reminded of the story of the prodigal son. Over the years I have identified with different characters in that story. When I was younger–more self-righteous and rather indignant in my own supposed goodness–my sympathies were with the good son. I admit that sometimes I didn’t feel it was exactly fair that all was forgiven so easily.
Later in my life, when I developed the courage to face my own unworthiness and humbly seek repentance for sin, I could identify with the prodigal, seeking to return to his father and his home. Wanting to turn away forever from the mistakes of his past.
Now I wait to feel the joy of the father. I know how it feels to have a heart heavy laden with worry, sadness and fear for the soul of someone you love more than you love yourself. I understand what it is like to hope, pray and plead for his return. I don’t yet know yet how great the joy will be. On most days it feels so far distant I can hardly imagine what it will be like. Yet I am reassured that if I keep my covenants all will be restored.
I’m still waiting.