What you are about to read may forever change the way you see me, and I'm okay with that. This is my story, and I am not ashamed...I am forgiven.
About four years ago, as Chris and I were being called into the ministry, Brandon began facing some of his own changes. The once calm, well behaved, easy-going toddler was all of the sudden much more temperamental, demanding, and hard to manage. MaryBeth and Benton had dealt me their fair share of trials and challenges, but Brandon really seemed to know how to push my buttons. Not to excuse any of my actions, but one can only handle just so much. Little by little, I finally lost control and began to really let my temper fly.
While I have spanked all three of the kids from time to time, I've never been one for too much physical punishment. My tongue, however, is way more powerful than my hand or a belt. In my anger, I would lash out hurtful things to punish Brandon, and I would say things to try to "put him in his place." Honestly, it felt good sometimes just to let out the anger that was raging in my soul, and in the moment I didn't care about the damage...I just cared about myself.
A few weeks ago I was simply trudging through life. This fall has been especially difficult with our finances, my job-related stresses, busy sports schedules with the kids, living in one community but going to church in another, gas and groceries eating us alive...and Brandon. He just has weighed heavy on my heart day in and day out. Regardless of what happy circumstances were going on, I knew there was a deeper sadness within my soul, and I was unaware of what the root of it was. As I poured my thoughts out to the Lord, He slowly but surely unfolded one of the most beautiful stories I have ever known.
The Lord first revealed to me that I had damaged Brandon" spirit (I was actually unaware of this); and like the wall in Nehemiah's day, Brandon's spirit was broken. As one can imagine, this broke my heart. How could I have done such a thing? What was I to do? I couldn't undo my actions...how do I change the past? That old childhood saying, "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me," simply was not true. The Lord led me to John 8:11 where Jesus tells the adulterous woman, "I do not condemn you either. Go. From now on sin no more." There it was. He was telling me I was forgiven and I wasn't condemned. I had to "go" and be mom (i.e. discipline as needed) but my harsh words had to stop. He then took me back to Nehemiah to the wall around Jerusalem...He showed me that it was humanly impossible to rebuild that wall in 52 days (Neh. 6:15), but with the Lord it was possible. I may have spent the last 4 years tearing down Brandon's wall, but the Lord, Jehovah Raphe, is the Great Redeemer and Restorer. He can repair and restore anything that I've messed up, but like the people in Nehemiah's camp, I must work and do my part in the rebuilding.
As the scriptures were coming alive from the pages, I started getting excited! And this is the point that it really got good!!! Every time I prayed about this restoration, the Lord kept placing in my mind a phrase from a verse: "beauty in ashes." As I searched and found that verse, I found the most precious promise the Lord could make me in regards to Brandon. The passage was written to the Israelites, but I have somewhat adapted it to my own personal situation. Here was the promise God gave me for Brandon:
"The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me...to bind up the brokenhearted...to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They (he-Brandon) will be called (an) oak of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor. They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated..."
My little Brandon...the very one I had been tearing down...is going to be an "oak of righteousness." I have to do my part to work to rebuild him, but the Lord can restore Brandon with God-speed. A few nights after I was able to connect all of these scriptures and circumstances, I was laying down with Brandon, loving on him and doing a little "rebuilding." The Lord laid on my heart the need to acknowledge to Brandon what I had come to understand about my past words, and I needed to ask for his forgiveness. I explained to him how the Lord had shown me what a treasure he was and how I had not been treating him like the precious jewel that he really is. Of course, he accepted my apology and we snuggled till he fell asleep. It was one of those "It is well with my soul" moments. What had started out weeks earlier as me pouring out my complaints to the Lord had resulted in sheer excitement to see what the Lord is going to do with and through Brandon.
In short, I failed. I messed up. I mistreated one of the greatest gifts ever given to me. I had basically spit in Jesus's face...much like the people did as Jesus marched to Calvary. I was more able to understand what Jesus meant when he asked the Father to forgive them because they didn't even know what they were doing. There is no reason the Father should forgive me. There's no reason He should clean up my path of destruction. There's no reason He should restore my treasure. Not only does He still love me but He also gives me a second chance. As if that were not enough, He then blessed me with a promise for Brandon... a future and a hope. This may possibly be the most tangible lesson of grace I have ever known. "Amazing grace...how sweet the sound (and the peace)...that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost (in my own mean,selfish nature) but now I'm found (thank you, Jesus) was blind, but now I see (the beauty only He can create out of my ugly old ashes!)"
I don't know if you can relate to any of this or not, but the truth of the matter is, none of us deserve God's forgiveness. I believe this little segment in my journey has forever changed me, and I am so thankful for God's unending grace!!!