It’s Week Three of The Longing in Me Online Bible Study! Welcome back!
Last week we talked about the longing to be protected as we studied the story of young David facing Goliath. What giants have you faced with God on your side? We had some great conversation in our Thursday group chats about how David trained himself to respond to his fears with faith – that faith is something that can be learned, and isn’t always our immediate response. I know it’s not always mine!
This week we’re in Session Three: “The Longing for Control” and Sheila’s main question for us is this…
Can you bring the thing you long to fix to God, give it to Him, and trust Him?
This week for the study we will:
1. Watch the video for Week 3 – either on DVD or via streaming video on Study Gateway (you’ll need to be logged in to your free account and connected to the Internet).
2. Answer the group discussion questions. If you’re meeting with a small group or in a church setting with others or on your own, go through the discussion questions for Session 3 in The Longing in Me Study Guide (pages 47-58). These are the same questions that we’ll tackle in our Thursday online chats — now at 2 p.m. EST and 9 p.m. EST each week. Join us!
3. For your personal study this week, answer the study questions in The Longing in Me Study Guide (pages 59-67).
4. Recommended (but optional) reading for this week: Read chapter 4, “The Longing for Control,” in The Longing in Me – the hardcover, not study guide.
Just joining us or catching up?
Here are some essential links you might need.
For the kickoff interview with Sheila, watch the replay on YouTube.
Couldn’t attend the Thursday chats last week? Catch up and read some of the archives here.
Watch the Video with Sheila
In the Session Three video, Sheila shares the story of Barbara Johnson. So many of us have lost relationship with one or more of our children. I hear your stories and they’re heartbreaking. King David lost his son Absalom when Absalom staged a coup against his dad causing David to flee for his life. One of my dear friends lost relationship with her son when he decided he was an atheist. Barbara lost her son for 11 years when he announced that he was gay. I, too, lost relationship with a son. It’s been almost four years now.
What do you do?…
By God’s grace, you redeem the situation in the meantime. And, yes, waiting can be a very mean time. — Sheila Walsh
This week’s study was especially hard and deeply personal for me. For some reason God is using my “work life” and leadership of this OBS to dig into dark places that need to see the light of day and be shared for the benefit of others and for His glory. It’s a raw and emotional deal, for sure.
When I look back to the years my oldest son was plunging head-first into terrifying behavior, the feeling I remember most is sheer panic. Panic that morphed into a fierce attempt to control everything that was out of control and that made the conflict, frustration, and distance between us so much worse. Oh, the mistakes I made! I tried everything to get him to behave differently, to calm down, to be ok… every wrong way you can imagine. Maybe I did a few right things, but they were at the wrong time and done the wrong way, and it was just an unspeakable mess. And, I made my precious son so angry.
Of my five children, my older son is the one most like me. He’s blonde with hazel eyes, olive skin, and a square jaw. He is sensitive, has a big heart to help others, is musically inclined, and a natural comedian. When he was small I called him my little meatball. He’s the only baby I’ve ever known with abs. (That is definitely not like me!) He was just strong and on the go every minute of the day except to take snuggle breaks cuddling with me and his “fa-baba” (favorite blanket).
He is my baby. My heart. My darling.
During the burning down of my former marriage when the chaos and danger was at its peak, I did the worst and hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life.
I looked around at our utterly broken, scary, intolerable, volatile circumstances… and I told my precious then-16-year-old son that I loved him with all of my heart, forever and ever, but that because of his behavior that put others in danger, he had to move out (with his dad who was also causing great harm) until it was safe for all of us to live together again.
I’m not going to tell you all the reasons why because that is my son’s story to tell someday if he chooses — except to say that several shocking events made it clear it was what had to be done for safety and sanity’s sake.
I’ve had to make a few really wretched decisions in my life as I’m sure you have, too — horrible in that there was no other choice but to be the adult and make the terribly hard, heartbreaking call. It’s just part of life.
Three years ago, my beloved dog of 11 years suddenly collapsed and I rushed him to the vet knowing he was dying, and painfully. We drove together, just us, him sighing and looking to me for comfort and me stroking his head and telling him what a very good boy, the king of all dogs really, he was and how grateful I would always be to God for his friendship. I was the one who decided it was time rather than to try heroic measures to add a few days, weeks, or months to his life. I chose that for him because he was in great pain, and he was a noble friend, and I owed him so very much. Being there for him as he slipped away was such a sad, but holy moment. It was an honor.
That’s the normal kind of horrible decision. It’s part of the package. We know there’s going to be some measure of sadness in every year that we’re on the planet. We expect it because it’s just life.
But not this.
Not separating from your flesh and blood because he is a danger to himself and to others.
When I think about my son, and how since that day he has refused any gestures of love from me, and how he told me that the more I reach out to him saying I love him, miss him, and am praying for him, the more he hates me, my throat closes up.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. — Matthew 5.4
When will the Lord bring us together again? I do not know.
I want to rewind life back to when he was that precious tow-headed baby and enjoy every single moment all over again. I want to reverse back to when he first got angry — whatever that initial moment was that derailed my boy and set him on a course of destruction. I blame myself and weep for all the things I did over the years that made life harder for him, alienated him, or caused him pain or confusion. I want to make it all un-happen.
I worry about my son and have to continually give those fears over to God and entrust him to my Father in Heaven knowing He loves my son galaxies and millenia more than I ever could. And I remember that God has forgiven me for my grasping for control, for my wrongdoing, my stupidity, selfishness, perfectionism, over-strictness, inflexibility, and on and on.
The moment my two men moved out, the whole house breathed relief. From the chaos, from the drama, from the abuse. But, then we entered into a new pain — the grief of loss and abandonment when neither man chose to make things right but went the other direction instead.
Relief and grief.
It’s the relief of having a leg riddled with cancer cut off. You’ll live and be grateful for having lived, but without a vital part of yourself intact and will forever be affected.
A few years ago, my baby boy laid in a hospital bed after having done something reckless. That was the moment I realized the face he’d been showing me wasn’t real. That the golden thread of honest relationship between us had broken. That was when I realized I was impotent to help, powerless to protect. And blamed.
I wished with everything that’s in me that I could’ve apologized to him for the times and ways that I parented him wrong. I wanted to say to him the words a wise teacher once said, “Son, God’s instructions, God’s boundaries, the ones I’ve tried to live by and instill in you, aren’t cruel barriers to keep you from freedom. They are protective restrictions meant to define where safe freedom can be found.” But for now, I don’t have that access.
I know deep down inside that my son, who is so like me both in appearance and in spirit, will be back. Someday. And I can kiss him and tell him how very much I love him and how sorry I am for every wrong I did to him, every foolish word spoken. That moment will be a holy honor.
Until then, I wait, trust God that He is 100% in control of my son’s safety and his future (and, by the way, I never was!), that He loves him more than I ever could, and I try to love on and cry with other parents who are painfully estranged from their kids…
… and I pray.
Barbara Johnson once said, “When your kids are little you talk to them about Jesus. When they are grown, you talk to Jesus about them!” True, true, true!
Friends, God in in control. He created every single thing (Genesis 1:1). He understands everything in ways we cannot imagine (Psalm 147:4-5, Psalm 139:1-24). He puts authorities in power (Colossians 1:16). He causes the sun to rise and set (Matthew 5:45). He died for us, and rose again, and sits at the right hand of the Father (Ephesians 1:19-21). He sustains us, and shields us, and answers us just as He did for King David when he was on the run from Absalom (Psalm 3:1-8).
We don’t have to try to control the world around us.
God’s got this.
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Prayer for the Week
Father, YOU are in control. Not us. Help us to let go and let You lead us. We so want to grasp, and scrap, and fight for control. We cause ourselves and those around us so much harm when we do. Help us, Lord. Help us to learn from those who’ve been there before, like King David, that we can lean on You and Your Plan instead of trying to do manage on our own. We need You. We love You. We trust You. Amen.
Question of the Week: What about you? Can you bring the thing you long to fix to God, give it to Him, and trust Him? How did you respond to this week’s lesson?