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waiting

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.

13 thoughts on “waiting”

  1. I have a son who has struggled with drug addiction for 11 years. I have felt all the emotions you mentioned. I have no answers. But I do know that we have a loving Heavenly Father who has a plan and knows what struggles each of us need to return to Him. And I know that it's about loving the child in spite of their struggles, while at the same time keeping your own faith and heart intact. God bless you, and you son.

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  2. Beautiful story. Thank you so much for posting. Someone very dear to me is also struggling with some majore issues and is trying to work their way back to church. It is hard to watch….. I never really understood the phrase "endure" until now. It is harder than I thought.

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  3. I loved your description of how you identified with different characters in the prodigal son story at different stages of life. I wonder if that's one of the reasons why we're to revisit gospel topics over and over.

    I also had the thought as I was reading that I wish I could be the kind of person who loves despite and because of my loved ones' weaknesses, to be able to see a 'whole' vision of the people that it's easiest to see only parts.

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  4. We had the best lesson on this subject in our ward conference last Sunday. That is basically what the stake president said, simply, "Love them." The discussion also included mention of how important it is to reach out to, love and accept other people's children who are struggling.

    I have walked this road with a few close friends. As heartbreaking as it is, there is great joy in watching the light come back into their children's faces when they eventually come back. Sometimes it takes a very, very long time, but I have witnessed returns from some very far gone places. It is a miracle every time and a testament to the power of the atonement in our lives.

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  5. What a mature and concise son you have that had the courage, temerity, and true understanding to vocalize that he wasn't worthy to go to the temple. His tender and knowing soul will win out in the end. Your love and belief in him is such a boon to your son. He is blessed to have so much support.

    Thank you for the strength to share this. Too often, I think we all feel too alone and isolated in situations such as this. You've likely helped several others here (including myself) who are strengthened by your wonderful perspective and faith.

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  6. I second Justine's comment. Give him kudos for his honesty, and for his respect of the standard, for the idea of what the temple represents.
    I wish you the very best, and know that you are not alone in the 'waiting' of it all.

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  7. I remember when one a close family member struggled with bad decisions, addictions and then the ability to overcome those addictions. It was a difficult and sad time for those of us who loved him. It was especially difficult for him. He knew he wanted to overcome temptations and tried for years. When he was finally able to overcome his temptations he became a mountain of strength and a leader to those around him.

    I truly believe Satan works harder on those (especially members of the church) who are destined to become strong advocates for Christ. There are so many latter-day Alma the Youngers. Your son obviously has a conscience and that in itself is a victory and beacon of hope.

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  8. Ditto Elizabeth-w. I remember as a youth knowing that the boys who were blessing the sacrament were not worthy. It is awesome he respects that and is doing what he can to overcome his obstacles. Best of luck!

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  9. How great that your son was open and honest with you. And it sounds as though he continues to be, that is key to ever finding redemption.

    As Dalene said, "Love Them". So many people in my life are working through major sin. I am happy to love them, I'm not their bishop, passing judgement. Loving them sins and all frees me to see how God loves me too. Of course we also become acquainted with the sorrows of Christ as we watch those we love suffer because of sin. That is what takes strength, to continue loving despite the heartache.

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  10. This is a beautiful post.

    I have been (and am) the mother in a similar spot. I have been the prodigal child.

    I worry, and I wonder. And I wish I could do a better job.

    What a blessing that your son feel he can be honest with you. Without you as a lighthouse, his path would be that much harder.

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  11. I meant to add –

    I recently was reading on someone's blog…I wish I could remember whose. She posted about a loved one who was a drug addict, and at rock bottom. And then she posted about a hypothetical conversation in the pre-existence, where this person was surrounded by loved ones & agreed that she would take *this* life, with it's hardships, in order to learn the lessons she needed to learn.

    Ok, I am probably butchering the story but it really stuck with me. It is so important for us to keep loving our family, and especially helping them to FEEL that love. It sounds like your son feels just that.

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  12. "Love them" is such good advice because sometimes that is all that you can do. When you see their pain, their stupid and wrong choices (prompted by the addiction), them stealing from family members and society, the lying, manipulation, the remorse, the anger, the rock bottom feeling, broken families, the "try and make me change attitude, the highs, the low, the hate, the love…….When you no longer have any "noticeable" influence over them……"Love Them."

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  13. I had a rebellious time in my teens. I just want you to know that there was nothing at all that my parents did to cause this. There was no one to blame but myself.
    My parents were so loving and non-judgemental during this time and it was this that eventually made me turn my life around. So just keep being loving and supportive. It's the best thing you can do for him – IMHO.

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