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Bravely Loving a Prodigal: Accepting God's Good and Grievous Gift

By Judy Douglass

God's Brave Women - Judy's Story


My phone rang at 2 a.m., jarring me awake. I had been asleep for two hours in my hotel room, 1,000 miles from home. Not again, I thought. Which will this be—hospital or jail?


It was jail. My son was calling to tell me it was all a mistake; he shouldn’t have been taken to jail and could I help him with bail. And so, I faced one more event in a long and challenging journey.


It all started with a word from God.


I heard it clearly. Not audibly, but just as real: “I’m sending you a son. And you don’t need to do anything about it.”


I was happy in my marriage, my two daughters, my ministry. I was not looking for a boy, so I said “No, thank You.” I think God might have laughed. He said, “Oh, yes. And he will be a gift.”


Time passed. No boy. We had moved from California to Florida. And there a new friend suddenly turned to me and said, “By the way, do you know someone who could take an 8-year-old boy?”


That was the beginning.


We opened our home as a foster shelter to a 9-year-old boy who had been taken from his alcoholic, drug-addict mother. With slight trepidation, we were excited about the privilege God was entrusting to us. We were sure this boy was a gift from God.


 

"With slight trepidation, we were excited about the privilege God was entrusting to us. We were sure this boy was a gift from God."

 

The next years were not easy. The neglect and abuse he had experienced overshadowed everything we did for him. Fetal alcohol syndrome spawned significant reasoning issues. Abandonment fears led to reactive attachment problems. Spotty school attendance robbed him of reading and writing skills.


Most of all, he was sure we would be just one more in a line of those who left him. His need to be the center of attention shattered peace in our home. Our daughters were deeply disappointed—this was not the little brother they were anticipating.


 

"He was sure we would be just one more in a line of those who left him."

 

Nevertheless, his mother’s rights were terminated, and we were encouraged to adopt him. Much prayer and family conversation convinced us he was a gift from God, so we welcomed him fully into our family, hopeful this would give him confidence that we loved him and would not abandon him.


The challenges of the early years paled in comparison to the difficulty of his teen and early adult years. The calls from jail and hospital evolved from middle school bullying, gang membership, drugs, alcohol, mischief, stealing, girls, and wrecked cars.

We placed Josh in a nearby residential program for troubled teens. It was a lifesaver, though very difficult for him and for us. Josh was safe, living with strict rules and consequences. He studied at his own pace, filled his head with Scriptures, did many chores, received counseling—and even had fun. And he was forced to relate to us—to the whole family.


The high point of his 1½ years there was the night he committed his life to Christ. It was also the night Josh was truly born in my heart as my son. I had loved Josh over the years. I had given him abundant time and attention.


But that night, as I thanked God for Josh’s decision, I had a dramatic experience. I felt as though God were hovering over me with a giant vat overflowing with something he was pouring into me. That vat was filled with God’s love for Josh, and He was giving it to me. Oh, how I would need that love in the years ahead!


 

"I felt as though God were hovering over me with a giant vat overflowing with something he was pouring into me. That vat was filled with God’s love for Josh, and He was giving it to me. Oh, how I would need that love in the years ahead!"

 

He came home from the program determined to walk with God and lead a different life. That lasted until he ran into his old gang friends, which launched us on a roller coaster of good choices and very bad choices. We encountered people and situations we would never have known. Every way we tried to help him toward a safe and productive life failed. He was failing, and we felt like failures.

This was a gift? If so, it was a grievous gift.


But he truly was a gift. Perhaps more a gift to us than we were to him.


How? For me, this became the question God kept before me: Could I continue to receive this boy as a gift? Slowly the Father opened my eyes and heart to see the many ways God had blessed me. I recount them in my book, When You Love a Prodigal—in the Gift chapter.


 

"This became the question God kept before me: Could I continue to receive this boy as a gift?"

 

And now? How is he?


Prayers have been answered. Love is winning. God continues to give good gifts. He is married, with an angel of a wife, an artistic stepdaughter, and two little girls. He works harder than I have ever seen him work. He asks for prayer, advice, and sometimes a listening ear.


But any parent of a prodigal knows to be alert. I still live on my knees.


 

"Prayers have been answered. Love is winning. God continues to give good gifts... But any parent of a prodigal knows to be alert. I still live on my knees."

 

I asked him a few questions:


What helped you begin to turn around? I was tired of getting in trouble. Fear of going to jail. Seeing how stupid the things I was doing were. Growing up. Good people who loved me and spoke truth to me.


What helps you pursue the path you are on now? Talking to God. The people I surround myself with—and the ones I don’t hang out with. People who have prayed for me and loved me.


What do you desire prayer for? That I will keep walking straight. There are so many ways to step off the path. For freedom from past choices—there are still consequences. Pray that I keep choosing God's path.


And how am I?


I’m grateful. I am such a different person because I bravely received this gift. And as hard as the journey has been, my gratitude overflows.


 

"I am such a different person because I bravely received this gift. And as hard as the journey has been, my gratitude overflows."

 

 

Brave Woman Manifesto


Make sure to check back next week as another courageous Sister shares her story.

And by the way...


You are Brave!


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