It was twenty-one years ago on my son’s 9th birthday, July 5, that the Lord told me to purchase a house in the community where I had been attending seminary. Since his birthday this year, I have been thinking about that summer, and today decided to read my journal from those days. I have boxes and boxes of journals! It has been my way of keeping a more objective record of important events and conversations, as well as a record of my prayers and God’s counsel and answers.
We think we will never forget some things, but we do, or we remember the most emotional parts and lose perspective. As I read some entries from that summer, I was struck by how differently my son and I must have perceived and experienced the events of these weeks. There are things I did not share with him because they were not burdens for a child to carry.
My son was painfully feeling the lack of a dad, and very angry that he didn’t have one. His parents’ marriage had failed, and his father chose little contact with him after the age of two. When he was four, God called me from Texas to seminary in New England. My son’s dad told him when we left Texas that I was “taking him” from him, even though he was not showing up at the times that he had reserved for visitation to be with him. In June of 1991 my son told me that he blamed me for the divorce. I didn’t try to explain the divorce or excuse myself from the responsibility, but I asked him to forgive me for the pain it caused him.
His lack of a father has been a deep grief for me. I felt responsible for the choice I made of a husband, and ashamed that I had not attracted another man to be a husband to me and father to him. My nine-year-old was so hurting and angry that he was doing things like cutting the power cord to the electric fan in our seminary apartment. He was disrespectful and disobedient, arguing and arguing before eventually yielding with sarcastic compliance. He was a great Little League baseball player. On June 11 he had a dream about losing the championship baseball game to the Red Sox! In real life, he had badly sprained his ankle at church and been on crutches for over a week, angry with me that he could not play baseball. It seemed that he could not wait to get away from me and be with his dad in Texas.
I was reacting in all the wrong ways. I had had a bad, bad headache off and on for two weeks. I was tired and anxious. The previous year I had been diagnosed at Mass General Hospital with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I had shortened my seminary studies to graduate earlier. Now a year later was the transition from seminary to another season with important decisions. A local church had called me to join their pastoral staff. Our apartment lease was up in August and we had to be out in six weeks.
I felt we needed a home, a dog, and a neighborhood with community. I was afraid of making wrong decisions. I felt insecure as a woman and as a mother. I felt a failure in my most significant relationships, with my parents, my husband, and now my son. I felt guilty and defeated. My son was crying out for help and I didn’t know what more to do. He said that he was not willing to forgive me for the divorce and that he wanted to spend the summer with his dad. His dad agreed for him to come for three weeks if I would pay the expenses.
I asked a pastor friend who knew us well if he had any counsel for how I could be a better parent. He said that parents are to raise their children to live in truth, goodness, righteousness, and justice – knowing and loving the Lord — that the main goal is not to get your children to like you or to be your friend. He warned me not to give my son power over me by fearing the withdrawal of his affection and friendship.
I knew this was my vulnerability. All parents need affection and friendship as they go through the challenges of being a parent. God intended that a husband and wife provide this for one another. When one parent is missing, the temptation is to rely upon the child’s friendship and affection. I was not a bold person to begin with, so I had difficulty standing up to strong manipulating forces that seemed never to abate.
My pastor seemed to understand things about a boy that came naturally to him. He knew he needed someone to wrestle him, tickle him, and challenge him physically. By the gracious providence of God, our pastor was the Little League baseball coach that summer and he himself LOVED the Red Sox! He sat down and talked with my son about the hurt of divorce. Not knowing about the recent baseball dream, he told my son that “divorce was like baseball: Whether there’s a strike out or an error, the consequences are the same, and the team has to put it behind and go on from there.”
After my son left for Texas, I searched more seriously for a house. I thought it would be something positive for him to return to if I could afford one in a good neighborhood with families of young children. I found such a neighborhood, and saw three houses for sale. Finally, after four visits and much prayer, I made an offer, only to learn that an hour earlier a higher offer had been made and accepted.
My son had noticed and liked the largest of the three houses, but I felt it was more than we could afford. The owner had reduced the house twice, but it was still way too much. However, on July 5, his birthday, the Lord told me to make an offer of a specific amount. I waited in prayer to be sure. The next day He told me “not to labor,” that He would “work it out.” He said, “Just receive it as a gift.”
Finally I got up the courage, and made the offer. When I did, the owner rejected it and countered that he would definitely not go below a certain amount. It was still too much, and not the amount I thought the Lord had said. This caused me to doubt that I had heard the Lord correctly about buying the house at all, and I made an offer on a less costly third house! However, by the time the owners of the third house countered my offer, the real estate agent came back to me and said that the owner of the large house had changed his mind and would sell for the price I offered! I was overwhelmed by the Lord’s grace to choose such a lovely home for us, and I was so excited to be able to have a home that my son really liked waiting for him when he returned from Texas. However, on the next day my son called to say that he wanted to live with his dad.
I was deeply saddened that he felt he would be happier with his dad, but also shocked that his dad was willing to be responsible for him. I took it very hard, naturally, but I so wanted what was best for him, and I saw how miserable he was with me. I knew he needed a dad and that I might have to give up living with him, but I shuddered at the quality of life he would have with his father. I said that I would think about it and make a decision by the end of a week. I cried and cried.
He called back exactly a week later and immediately asked if I had made a decision. I said yes, and explained that God was holding me accountable to Him for showing my son who He is and teaching him God’s ways. Of course I didn’t tell him how I had agonized over the decision for a week, to the point of nausea, so afraid of not hearing God and making a selfish or plain wrong decision. When my fear and stress came to a head, God finally showed me through Scripture that His best for every child is to live with parents who know and love Him. My son’s father was an agnostic who was highly antagonistic to God. I was so thankful for the clarity.
But I had felt so small amount of stress and anxiety about my son’s response. I expected his anger and blame to be fiercer than what it was when he left home. I knew that I had heard God, and I knew that I was accountable to Him. But I was still torn, wanting my son’s love and desiring harmony between us.
When my son heard my decision, he was so upset that he hung up the phone on me. He did not call back, and his dad did not call me until a week later. My heart was broken. There seemed to be no way of softening the hostility. My joy over our new home was lost in the grief of such a severe breach in our relationship and fear of the tension that would ensue upon his return.
At night, for about five nights, in the very moment I turned off the light to try to sleep, the Holy Spirit came like a fire into my heart and just rested there comforting me until I fell asleep. The first night I thought it might be my imagination, but it felt so good that I just allowed myself to think of the fire as God with me. By the second night there was no question that He was really doing something in my heart.
When my son’s dad finally called, he made five emphatic statements that I actually wrote down. His pride was gravely wounded and he was absolutely livid. The final statement was his deathblow, because he knew I would not betray him, out of concern that our son would be wounded by his rejection. He said of our son:
1.”He hates Massachusetts now more than when he first went there.”
2.”He is not buying into your theology or the pastor’s. He sees that life in Texas is not ‘unchristian.’ And he’s not accepting your convictions.”
3.”He took your explanation for your decision as a slam against me. He does not accept your thinking and he won’t accept it.”
4.”You will experience increasing rebellion from him. He will eventually choose to live with me.”
5.”It would be too difficult for me to have him live with me anyway, but of course I could not tell him that.”
Looking back on this I wish I had had the boldness to expose his hypocrisy, but I was afraid again. In the past he had lied to our son about other important things, and it just left him caught in the middle not knowing whom to believe. His dad let both of us suffer a week over a decision that he had already made and to which in reality he had never been open. The real damage was not just that week, but the months and years to follow. In his junior year of high school the pain and confusion reached its peak, and my son left home to be on his own.
I’m grieved that he was repeatedly caught in these dilemmas, torn between loyalties to both parents. I hurt deeply for him each time. This is only one episode of many in which he was misled, and I was made to look like the obstacle. Things were not as they seemed to him. I do not hate his dad for the things he said and did or didn’t say and do. I did for a time, but in time I was able to forgive him and remember the good qualities in him that first attracted me to him. As I prayed for my former husband over the years, God gave me pity for his captivity to severe addictions that kept him in cycles of failed marriages and failed relationships with the children from these unions. His body finally gave out, whether because of the damage done by substances or by a broken heart, God knows. In 2011 he died alone in his apartment and his death was sadly not discovered for two weeks.
In 1999, eight years after the momentous summer of 1991, my son experienced an encounter with his Heavenly Father than propelled him into a three-year period of spiritual revival that was nothing short of miraculous. He woke up and went to sleep talking with his Father, and with his whole heart he wanted nothing but to please Him. I have saved an email message that my son sent me from college during this period. The Subject line reads: “You are my friend and I love you.” He wrote me that he considered me to be his closest earthly friend. What I had longed for so deeply when he was a child had come to pass by putting first my friendship with God.
In HIS Service,
Kent Simpson, Prophetic Pastor
Prophetic Ministries Tabernacle
PO Box 774
Gainesville, Texas 76241
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