I lost my mother 15 years ago and my father 32 years ago and there are times, particularly around the holidays that I wish I could talk with them one more time. I am especially mindful of sitting with mom the day she passed into eternity. As she spoke to me and my brothers her primary concern was our spiritual well-being. She dragged us to church (even as adults), prayed for us, and never stopped reminding us how important a relationship to God is. It is with joy I remember her, and sorrow I think of all the times I broke her heart.
Now I am the parent who has sleepless nights, prays for my adult children, and longs for them to escape the muck and mire of popular culture and pour their hearts into God. All my children have good hearts, care for those who suffer and hurt, but it has taken me nearly six decades to realize that just caring isn’t enough. Let me share a little of my journey (as hard as that is to put out there for the world to see), but maybe it will resonate with others. I will try to keep it to the Reader’s Digest version.
In High School and College I was considered a good kid, but my faith was “inherited.” I went through the motions, but there was no depth to my relationship with God. In college a girlfriend challenged me to be “be more and do more.” She challenged me to make my faith active and not passive – that was when I started my journey towards ministry.
Fast Forward a little over 20 years. I had served as a youth minister, missionary, and pulpit preacher when, in 2003 my marriage fell apart and I suddenly found myself questioning my faith. I left ministry and returned to going through the motions of attending church. There I was at age 44 wondering what I believed and had it not been for some solid Christian friends who dragged me with heel marks on the floor back to a place of purpose, I don’t know what would have happened.
Between 2003 and 2008 I got a fresh start on life (including finding my beautiful bride). It was the beginning of truly trying to open my heart to God (and to those I tried to serve). Rather than always trying to project strength, I embraced my weaknesses. I needed God more than ever. I realized that it is only during my faith in God that I can stand the struggles and arrows that life throws my way. I often ask God why so much of my life was hard. Why it didn’t turn out the way I hoped and dreamed it would? The answer always comes back the same – “Sorrow, pain, and heartache are your learning style.” Struggle reminds me how much I depend on my faith in God. Maybe that is why my own mother was such a SAINT – because she felt the pain that 5 boys could create in the heart of a mother and that moved her closer to God.
I am writing this because every where I look I realize I am not alone. I have friends, family members, and Christian brothers and sisters who all share the same desire – we pray for our children. We sit at the foot of our beds on sleepless nights and shed tears of sorrow and hope as we pour out our prayers to God. I can’t speak for others, but nights I wake up thinking of my children, their lives, and their future I am reminded of these words from Job, “Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, “Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts” (Job 1:5).
Lest anyone get the wrong idea – I have great children. I love them deeply, but they live in such a wicked world and it is always banging on their door. I read my Bible daily and see the struggles of the righteous and the wicked in God’s words. I know my children will struggle, I know that they will sin, I know there are times the world will get the best of them, but there is one powerful lesson I learned from my mother – heartbroken or not she never gave up on her children, she never stopped praying for them, she never stopped sharing the saving message of Christ with her children.
Trent H. Wheeler