It was a Friday night in September during my senior year of high school. Everyone else was going about doing what everyone should be doing on a very nice, Fall evening: enjoying some good ol' Texas high school football. It was warm, the sky was turning the pink, purple, blue shades like those Texas sunsets do. In the haze of concession stand smoke, the flourescent stadium lightbulbs were blurring into one huge glare that could be seen for miles. Everyone was doing what everyone should be doing, except me. I, on the other hand, was actually a little chilly. The flourescent lights above me hadn't been maintenanced in a while, so they were flickering on and off. My solid orange attire was actually quite thin and didn't help much against drafts swirling around cold tile floors. And frankly, the handcuffs around my wrist and ankles were straight up ice cold. I was in jail. I had one phone call to make, and it was to my mother. I took a deep breath and raised the glossy black earpiece to my ear and began to dial home very, very slowly. After about 2 rings, my mom answered almost as if she knew it was me.
"Mom, hey it's me. I love you and I'm okay, but I was coming home and got pulled over. I was drinking and they...found drugs. I'm in jail. Can you please come get me?"
The pause between my words and my mom's were indescribably uncomfortable.
"I'm sorry, son. I love you, too, but I'm not coming to get you. You can stay in jail." Then she hung up.
My mother hung up on me.
Humiliated, I accepted the consequences of my actions and softly hung up the phone and awaited what would be a long weekend in jail.
Ok, pause. Let's rewind about two years prior when my mom first discovered I had started using drugs. It didn't go well for me. My poor mom. I honestly can't imagine what it's like for a parent to find drugs in their 16 year old son's room. At the time, my mom and dad suspected I was maybe drinking beer and tried a few cigarettes, at best. They assumed I was a good kid with good friends who made good decisions and stayed away from "those kids" in the party scene. Trying beer was just something kids did. But when they found a 2 foot high, double-chamber water bong in my closet that I had made from two 2L Sprite bottles, duct tape, and some straws, I'm sure they experienced something equivalent to what one feels when you get the news that, say, blood tests have revealed some unfortunate results. I'm sure finding a half smoked joint would've raised fewer questions, but finding a bong that I had hand-made, had obviously used quite a bit, and had kept hidden in my closet for some time, likely introduced a watershed of questions that were not easy for my parents to answer. I was clearly much farther along than they had feared. What else is he into? How long has this been going on? Where is this coming from? Are his friends doing this, too? Which ones? What are we going to do now? Our son is doing drugs, and we had no idea. Where did we go wrong?
It would've been excruciating for my parents to know that by the time they found the bong I had tried almost every available drug on more than one occasion: cocaine, speed, acid, shrooms, weed, and a few creative combinations of each. Though to this day I have never smoked crack, shot heroine, popped Molly or X, it really matters little. The point is, I was deep in. Though my stomach dropped when my bong was boldly placed on the kitchen table for me to find when I came home later that evening, I had no intention of pumping the brakes. I gave my parents some BS answer like, "It's not mine, I'm holding on to it for a friend but I'll throw it away," and then immediately began scouting more clever hiding spots.
I know for a fact this broke my mother's heart. Deeply. I can't even imagine. I know this because of how hard she tried to help me, but when you're 16 your parents are just clueless, over protective, and strict. They won't let you live. My mom's desperate attempts at taking me to counseling, to church, to other family members who loved me, to police officers who tried to talk sense into me, and her own loving attempts to plead with me to stop, all had a counterproductive affect. She even showed up at a few parties and knocked on the door. I literally ran from her on foot. I was THAT determined to live my own life. Nothing would kill my vibe. In fact, it got worse. I stole money from my parents. When they would ground me, I would sneak out and meet up with friends to drink and do drugs, only to return to find my parents knowing the whole time. I screamed at my mom countless times. I told her I hated her. I walked out of the house on a few occasions during lectures about how I was going to end up dead or in jail, and went and did drugs. I would leave on Fridays and return on Sunday nights with no phone calls or indications that I was okay. My parents just had to wait for me to get home to know I was alive and/or not in jail. I can't imagine the parental misery.
This went on for two years with no sign of slowing. Until my mom prayed a prayer.
Now, fast forward two years to around 15 hours prior to my arrest that Friday night. My mom's story is essentially this: She had tried everything. She'd emptied the playbook of ideas to get my attention. A few months prior she started talking with my youth minister at church who she also began to pray with for something--anything--to change. The Thursday night before my arrest my mom said she was laying wide awake and prayed, "Lord, I've done everything I know how. I've reached my limit. He's yours. He's always been yours. I give him to you. I let go. I can't do anything else. In Jesus name, amen."
I was arrested the very next day and the words, "I'm sorry, son. I love you, too, but I'm not coming to get you. You can stay in jail," rocked my world. Please realize my mother didn't do this out of anger or resentment towards me. My mother had just prayed a prayer that had just been answered in huge fashion. This was a statement of peace. She was no longer trying to control. She trusted what was happening.
Now, for the record, I didn't change that weekend. I was actually arrested AGAIN for the exact same thing two months later, but this time on school property. Yikes! Thus, I spent my senior year at an alternative campus in a cubicle doing self-paced workbooks to graduate. But, my mother continued to pray, and in due time I was drug and alcohol free, doing community service to get my misdemeanors dropped, and had been amazingly accepted to college for the Fall. I reconciled with my mom. One night it was just her and I up late, and before she went to bed I apologized for everything. I told her I loved her and how I was amazed and thankful that during those 2 years of hell I put her through she was still loving enough to make me breakfast every morning. She loved me. She still loves me. And no words can express how undeserving I am of that or how amazed I am at her heart of gold.
The story isn't over quite yet.
So, there I sat after graduating high school in my local church for the annual Senior Recognition ceremony where a senior from the youth group would receive a $500 scholarship to college. I obviously won because everyone knew I was gonna go pro in every sport, but as I accepted my cash money my mom also had a gift for me and everyone else in the room. She wrote a poem. Here's the thing: my mom doesn't write poetry. She said one night, similar to before, she was laying in bed wide awake, only this time not as a result of despair but of joy. This time words of peace came from her heart instead of a prayer of desperation. This is what she wrote:
I Had To Let Him Go
"When our child was just a little boy, off to preschool he did go
To learn the things that children learn--I had to let him go.
Then to kindergarten and through junior high, his mischief began to grow.
It was off to the office many times--I had to let him go.
Then came those teenage years and everything was, "So."
In all of his rebellion--I had to let him go.
There were many years of tough love, we battled to and fro
Through the best and worst of times--I had to let him go.
During one of the bad times, I began to whisper real low.
I prayed for God to take him, but then--I had to let him go.
Good took him with open arms; He loved him first, you know.
Thank you, God, for showing me--I had to let him go."
And then she fell asleep.
The entire place erupted and my mom got a standing ovation, which totally killed my vibe.
So, now, here I am. The undeserving recipient of love that hurt like hell to give. And that's the point. The kind of love that we are most undeserving of, the kind of love that at times feels wrong to give, the kind of love that makes us breakfast in the morning after we've had a rebellious and debaucherous night out, the kind of love that hurts like hell to give, is the love from Heaven that we are secure to lay our heads on at night. Love that hurts is often the love that lasts. And that my friends is why the accompaniment of pain with love in some cases might be a symptom that it's the right kind of love.
Unconditional, beautiful, motherly love. I know others do not have the same privilage as me. Some may not even know their mothers, or even be on good terms. Some mother's may have already passed away. But, if you have a mother who is still with us and y'all are on good terms, she loves you so much it hurts. I betcha. Give her a hug for me.