*The following is part of a series called “A Changed Perspective” to challenge the way in which we view the world, culture, people, and places from a biblical perspective. Undoubtedly, for Christ followers to live in the world but not be of the world is a challenging task, but with humble spirits, teachable hearts, the Word of God, and His Spirit that lives within to guide and lead us, He allows us to be part of His redemptive work in the world around us.
I, Lisa, asked a dear friend of mine to write this month’s blog focusing on the heartbreak of brokenness and addiction. Randy and his wife are honestly more than friends, they’re family. I have known Daniel since he was an infant, I’ve changed his diapers and I am very familiar with this story. I love and pray for Daniel as if he was my own and I will never stop. He is so much more than the addiction and brokenness that has a firm grasp on him in this world. He is brilliant, funny, handsome, a son, a brother, a father, a friend. As you read this may you be moved by what they have had to walk through – Daniel included. My prayer is – next time you run across or see ‘an addict’, may you push yourself to see them through our Father’s eyes with compassion and grace, remembering that they are someone’s daughter or son also made in the image and likeness of God. See the person, not the addict and remember, brokenness comes in many forms.
My son turned 29 the beginning of this year. He spent his 29th birthday in jail where he still is. My son would be labeled an addict. His drug of choice is heroin so the label fits in many ways.
About the time Daniel started 1st grade his problems of impulsiveness and failure to follow rules began to show itself. You’re supposed to be excited to attend parent teacher conference, especially 1st grade, I dreaded Daniel’s. As I look back over the past 23 years, it feels like my stomach is and has been constantly tied in knots.
You see I love my son very much and the future I hoped and prayed for him will likely never materialize.
A popular refrigerator verse is, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jeremiah 29:11). However, I don’t often pay attention to the previous verse on the refrigerator, “‘This is what the Lord says: ‘When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place’” (Jeremiah 29:10). Perhaps timing is everything.
Pastor Stan Simmons gave a New Year sermon when Daniel was about 10. He made a statement something like: We are the people of faith and we are not afraid. I listened to that sermon and thanked God I was not afraid. Instantly a question popped into my head. Are you afraid for your kids? Talk about hitting the nail on the head. I believe God was strengthening me for what was to come. He knew I needed to trust Him with the kids regardless of what their paths might look like.
I would like to say after this revelation things started improving with Daniel, but that would not be correct. Things went downhill and drugs were not even part of the equation, yet. Try as we might, we were unable to effect lasting change in Daniel’s impulsiveness and try we did. The years between Daniel’s 13th and 18th birthdays were the longest five years of our lives. You know the question people ask, “How are your kids?” I became a master at dodging that question.
Eventually drugs entered the picture and things went downhill even more quickly. We learned as much as we could and tried everything to change the course of Daniel’s life. When we tried something new I went into it hoping this time would be different, he’d ‘get it’ and turn his life around. Hope became hard and twisted with one disappointment after another.
When Daniel turned 19, he got into more legal trouble. It was recommended we have some psychological testing done on him. After the testing Daniel told me the doctor knew him better than he knew himself. The doctor told us Daniel was very smart, very impulsive and wavered between narcissism and antisocial behavior. I remember my wife, Daniel’s stepmom, and I sitting in the psychologist’s office with tears streaming down our faces as he outlined Daniel’s chances of success, or rather, lack thereof. I asked what happened. What did I do wrong? He said the brokenness in Daniel’s brain took place when he was less than two years old and there was nothing I could have done. The break was with his mom and her emotional absence.
These are some ways my worldview has changed because of my relationship with my son:
- People with labels like ‘addict’ are no more broken than me. Their brokenness is simply more obvious.
- ‘Cannot’ and ‘will not’ are not the same. Very few would ever look at a person with their legs amputated as a baby and say, “Try harder to walk.” Psychological trauma is difficult or impossible to see directly, yet it is devastating to those who have it and to those who love them.
- Connection and enabling are not the same, but the boundaries sure can become blurred.
- Hope and expectations are not the same. I have great hope in Jesus’ work. I continually must remind myself my expectations of how He works is flawed.
I know one day Daniel and I will have the fullness of relationship as God intended. I no longer expect the fullness of our relationship will happen before Jesus returns. My expectation is my son will struggle all his life due to something imposed on him as a helpless baby. Having a child who struggles as my son has is without a doubt the hardest thing we have ever done. Dashed dreams, crushed hopes, one failure after another for years. The word exhaustion does not do justice to the experience. But my hope comes from this: “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve” (1st Corinthians 15:3-5).
Once I asked God why. His imprint on my heart was – I gave you Daniel because I trust you with him, not because you did something wrong.
My challenge to everyone and anyone is to be compassionate to those whose brokenness is different than yours. See the person behind the brokenness, they are there.