A mother becomes a restored daughter in the Father's eyes.
by Michelle Reed*
There was a time when I wouldn’t miss a church service. During my marriage, I was a stay-at-home mom who thought I loved the Lord with all my heart.
But my marriage of thirteen years had terrible secrets, and no matter how hard I tried, the marriage failed. When news of the separation surfaced in my church, support for me waned. Many church friends openly condemned my divorce. I began to feel completely alone with two young daughters.
“I’m leaving the church,” I confided to my close friend, Dawn.
“Seriously?” she asked.
“Yes.” It felt good to take a stand. “I can’t live with the condemnation.”
Within a few days I replaced my devotional time with daily exercise, and I soon started to feel better than ever. Because the church didn’t seem to care, I convinced myself God must not care either.
Life seemed good. I was getting healthier and more fit, It wasn’t long before men began to take notice. I had just turned forty, and weight loss was a welcome perk of my daily workout. I felt attractive for the first time in years.
I started attending a women’s support group, which was nothing like the church groups I had attended. The ladies in this group talked about my rights and putting myself first. It was there I met Cindy, whose marriage story resembled mine.
Cindy and I became good friends, so we started going out on the weekends when we didn’t have our kids. We enjoyed line dancing and often ended up in bars. I was playful and light with the men I met, but made it clear I wanted no commitments. This seemed like the best time of my life — doing whatever I wanted.
My carefree attitude began to carry over to the workplace. As with my relationships, when a job wasn’t fun anymore, I left it to get another one.
Soon there were more struggles, and things weren’t so much fun anymore. My challenges at work and at home deepened. Everything I touched now seemed to be disastrous. For the first time, I realized I was making terrible choices. But in many ways, I felt trapped.
One day, my teenaged daughter announced a choice of her own. When Sara called to say, “I’m moving in with Dad,” I was devastated. Sara was angry with me for getting involved with my fiancé, who had moved in with me a couple weeks before. Now that she refused to come back home, I ached deep inside.
The day Sara moved out, I was beside myself. What’s happening?
A few months went by, and Sara hardly visited me. My thoughts began to turn to God, but I quickly brushed them aside. How ridiculous, I thought. Surely God will not listen to me now.
Then late one night the phone rang. I answered it with a sleepy “Hello.”
“Mom?” It was Sara, but her voice was so soft and shaky.
“Yes, honey,” I replied.
“I need your help, Mom.”
“What do you mean?”
“I want to kill myself.” Her voice wavered, and she gently cried, “Can I come over to your house tonight?” I wanted to hold her so badly.
“Of course. I’ll be right there,” I said.
The cold night air stung my teary face as I got into the car to get my daughter. Please help her! I prayed. This time I had no problem praying for the help I needed as well. Help us!
The next day I didn’t get dressed but sank into a chair, with a coffee mug in hand, to gaze out the window. As I tried to figure out where to get help for my daughter, oddly, a biblical parable came to mind — the one about the son who gets a fortune from his father but squanders it all and ends up literally living with pigs. When the son grows weary of living as he did, he humbly returns home to his father, who greets him with open arms.
Am I the prodigal mother? The thought startled me. Grabbing a Bible, I turned to the Gospel of Luke. “So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him” (15:20, NIV).
I felt as if I were holding a mirror instead of the Bible.
Returning to God
But how can I change?
A comforting voice said, “Just return.”
I got on my knees and prayed, Lord, I have sinned terribly against You. Please forgive me! Then something compelled me to release all my fears. Once I handed them over to God, an overwhelming peace covered me.
With as many parties as I had attended over the past few years, I had no idea what a real party was until I came home to my Father. Although I didn’t deserve a single blessing, He readily opened His arms and wrapped them around me. His love was more intoxicating than anything I’d known.
Soon God led me to a church where I started fresh with people who, though they had never met me, began meeting my needs in remarkable ways. My daughter got the help she needed, and I spent time in prayer with others, confessing my lifestyle.
I shared my deepest hurts, how I felt trapped by a fiancé who neglected to tell me he had herpes, even though we were intimate. I thought I would carry this horrible disease with me the rest of my life, and I couldn’t bring myself to tell my daughters the truth about why I agreed to marry him.
At first, I broke off the engagement, but then he came back begging. Defeated, I agreed, believing no other man would ever love me again. Through these prayers, God miraculously healed me of all effects of the herpes disease I had been exposed to. I hurriedly moved out of the house I shared with my fiancé and bought a house of my own. In time, I worked up the courage to apologize to my daughters and ask their forgiveness.
Working at love
Within a few months, Sara moved in with me, but she still seemed angry, acting like a watchdog while observing my new behavior and church involvement. Although she was challenging at times, I was determined to end our conversations with “I love you.” Sara never returned the love. In fact, she acted as if she hated me.
When Sara came back to live with me, I never let her know that I turned down dates with men. I wanted to focus on, and be committed to, her alone. Each day I took long walks and prayed for my daughter’s heart to open up to me again.
One great day while I worked in my home office, Sara peeked through the door. “Mom, I’m sorry I’ve been so awful,” she mumbled. “I love you.”
“What?” I joked. “I couldn’t hear you.” We both smiled, but she could see the water pooling in my eyes.
“You heard me, but I’ll say it again. I LOVE YOU!”
I traded a life that was falling apart for one being beautifully pieced back together. Yes, I was the prodigal mother, but the shame I feel about past choices doesn’t compare to the joy I experienced in coming home.
* Names have been changed.