Aaron has left the faith? The words echo in my head as I watch her pale, strained face. Mothers shouldn’t have to pass on this kind of news about their sons. She tells me how things weren’t the same when he came home from college. He didn’t hide his resentment anymore. His parents finally had to ask him to leave their home. His mother can’t hide the pain and sorrow that linger in her eyes, making her tired and worn. Those eyes told me something was wrong from the moment I saw her. She’s supposed to be happy, here at a Christian family conference, but she stands small and frail in the midst of the crowd moving purposefully around her.
I hear Pastor Wilson ask if I know Andrew. I answer that I do as I turn to wash my hands in the bathroom. His question has come with a hint of joy, a crinkling of the eyes, that tells me he knows something about Andrew that I don’t. I dry my hands as he tells me, a smile working its way across his face, that Andrew became a Christian last night. He says something is different about Andrew today, that his soul seems settled, at peace. God worked in Andrew’s heart through the preaching, he says, his eyes dancing. He tells me Andrew’s mother is excited, his church is thrilled. I rejoice with him as we pull the door open to leave, shouldering past others who can’t share in our joy because they haven’t known our pain. I can’t contain the grin that breaks out on my face.
I tell Aaron’s mother that I’ll pray for him. As Aaron’s father—a pastor himself—walks up to join his wife, I ask if Aaron will go back to school. His father answers that he doesn’t know yet, but it will be hard for Aaron without his parent’s support. The tilt of his head, his lowered eyelids, the tone of his voice all say he is pained that his son should disregard so much he’s said over the years, but at the same time, he’s quietly confident in his heavenly Father.
I see the bliss on Andrew’s mother’s face, the relaxed joy in the way she sits, the way she laughs, the way she’s at ease, the cares of the world lifted off her shoulders. Her son has come home, her earthly family has become a spiritual one.
I walk away from Aaron’s parents, the news heavy in my heart. How could this be? What turned him away? How could he reject so much love, so much knowledge? It hurts to see a friend, someone I’ve known well, turn away from something he needs so badly, something so vital to his soul. He had it all and now he’s left it all. And for what? Nothing out there could possibly satisfy him the way God can. But for some reason known only to him, he doesn’t trust that to be true. He thinks there’s more and he wants to find it. Somehow, I’ve always seen a little of that in him—a section of his soul that craves the treasures of this world. It was in the music he listened to, the girls he liked, even the way he drove his car—almost reckless, showing off just because he could. Now he has let that desire grow until it has consumed him and he has turned away from what he seemed to hold so dear. I hurt for him, for how foolish he is. I weep inside for his mother who has sacrificed everything for him and now has to watch him repay her like this. What a waste. I can only pray that God will turn him back to what truly satisfies, what truly comforts, what truly heals.
I walk into the next room, still disappointed from what I’ve just heard. Then, I hear the news. Andrew has given his life to Christ. My mood changes instantly. The only possible thing that could have lifted my spirits does so. Another life has been given to God. A heart has changed, an attitude has turned around, a new life has begun. That life will now be lived for the kingdom of God rather than the kingdom of this world. He had always been a good kid—fun-loving, respectful, smart—but it wasn’t enough. He went to church and went through the motions, but he didn’t really want to. Now, in a flash of insight, he sees what it is really all about. He catches a glimpse of heaven, of the glory that awaits, and he gives everything up to God. His sins are forgiven and he is free. Angels rejoice above as we sing praises below. His mother is thrilled most of all. Countless numbers of prayers from her lips have been answered. Her child is now a child of God. I’m excited to hear of a new life to be lived for Christ. I walk away with a happy heart, amazed at what God can do.
I sit late at night, wondering just why God works the way He does. Two lives are now going two different directions. One is running from God, one is running to Him. Two families have opposite emotions: one mother is grieving, weeping, and praying for her son to come home, while another is rejoicing at her son that was lost and is now found. One man stands by grace; another tries to stand on his own. God has reasons for this—I know He does. But we may never know those reasons. We just have to take what happens, whether good or bad, by faith, for He is in control of it all. Then we learn from it and go on more determined than ever to please Him. I will pray for Aaron, that like the prodigal son he will wake up, realize what he has done, and coming running home to his father who loves him still and is watching for him to return. I will pray for his parents, especially for his mother; they must trust God, as hard as that seems. He will comfort and strengthen them.
And I will pray for Andrew, that he will stay the course he has chosen, that he’ll run with endurance the race now set before him. He has so much to help him along the way. This story is not yet over. The ending hasn’t been written, for the lives of these two young men are not yet finished. There is still much to come—all the more reason to pray faithfully for these two souls.
May God bless their lives beyond their wildest imaginations, for there is nothing greater than grace.