It’s been four years since my adult son, David, moved out of our home. He is my only child and we parted ways for reasons which would require a back story to fully understand. I will not tell it here – it is private and deeply personal and quite frankly, only between me, my son, and God.
Does that sound defensive? It’s ok, I feel like I need to be the defender, sometimes. I can tell you that it was deeply hurtful, that I grieved for months, my guilt and second guessing gave me overwhelming moments. I had thoughts of him as a child and I missed those sweet and innocent days. But enough of that. There are more important things to discuss.
I have two grandsons – I could talk about them all day. Jack looks like me with tanned skin, curly hair, and a sense of humor. Sterlyn is the oldest with blue eyes, likes nice clothes, loves dinosaurs, and enjoys writing stories. They live with their maternal Grandparents, Bunga (Tereasa) and Poppa (Keith), on a horse farm in Virginia. Jack loves to clean the poop out of the horse stalls, you don’t have to pay him, and Sterlyn will do any chore for money. Tereasa home schools and they know Jesus and horsemanship. It’s a great life.
I see these little guys a few times a year since our move to Pennsylvania. Tereasa and I talk most every day and she and the boys fill me in on the latest shenanigans and successes.
Sterlyn starts, “Hey Grandma Shell. Do you know all of the dinosaurs found in North America?”
“No, buddy, I sure don’t, which ones are they?” I respond.
He pauses to draw up the list embedded in his mind, “Well, there’s the Tyrannosaurus, that’s one of the biggest. Then there’s the Triceratops, and Tenontosaurus.” And the list continues with something-sauruses from his book on the dining room table.
He gets thoughtful, “I want to dig for bones when I grow up and some of the best places to dig are across the ocean. I think I will have to take a Disney Cruise to get over there.”
“What a great way to get there, Sterlyn,” I say admiring his creative method of transportation.
“You wanna talk to Jack?” he asks showing he’s finished his part of the conversation.
Then Jack gets on. “Hey, Grandma Shell, what are you guys doing? Who’s at your house today? Is it going to snow soon? When can I come back to see you?” The lure of sleeping in the fully finished basement and playing video games, and, if the season is right, the chance to see significant or early snow is on his mind. I believe he thinks Pennsylvania is this magical place where wonderful things are bound to happen.
“Soon, Jack, you guys will come up soon. Bunga and I will let you know.” I respond assuring him and reloading his trust that Tereasa and I will ensure they come up again. I give him the latest weather forecast – snow or no snow- and when he’s satisfied, he says, “Ok, here’s Bunga.” And I hear him running off to play with his brother.
Tereasa fills me in on home schooling, chores, Bible studies, and what she’s cooking for dinner. Our conversations have dipped much deeper, but the updates about our grandsons help me to feel connected to their daily lives from 250 miles away. I treasure our phone calls and I thank God for her and Keith.
A month after my son moved out, Greg and I took a trip to get away and reconnect. We drove to Staunton, in the mountains of Virginia, to see a play at the Shakespeare Theater. We loved going there for the humorous and well produced plays, Shakespearean and otherwise. On the drive, we had one of our deep and detailed conversations of all that transpired the month before. I talked through it to cleanse my emotions and clear my mind. I felt the sadness and grief rise up and then subside.
The car window framed the ebb of Spring slowly emerging along the highway, the pale colors waning the higher the car climbed. Ah, Virginia mountains in the Spring – new birth, new start, an awakening of life after a long winter blanket. Our conversation drew quiet for a while, long enough for me to hear Him.
When God speaks to me, it comes in a loving, emotional, and personal unspoken conversation between my spirit and my Creator. It is a tapping on the window pane of my heart.
“Yes, Lord?” I inquired in my heart of hearts.
“You need to be their Champion,” God said, simple and clear.
What I longed to hear was how to deal with my grief, the heartbreak I felt, and the misplaced guilt of not doing enough. In that moment, God said – I will get you through all that, but right now, focus on being their Champion. I sat pondering in silence.
A Champion¹ is a warrior, a fighter, one that does battle for another’s rights or honor. This was a command, a call to action, a title of the utmost responsibility. I turned to Greg as the car kicked into low gear at the peak Afton Mountain and emerged on the other side.
“God told me to be their Champion,” I informed him.
After a short, contemplative pause, Greg said, “Of course, He did.”
Tears of awakening streamed down my face. The message wasn’t about my son, or me, or our disconnected relationship. It was about two little boys who deserved to have Champions in their lives to carefully nurture and defend them. Their births labeled me their Grandma, but God gave me the title as their Champion. It was about the two loving Grandparents who were already their Champions, the people who sacrificed time and life space to raise these boys. I vowed then and still today, to be the Champion for all four of them.
A year ago, Greg and I went on a ten-day cruise to the Caribbean, a trip that has become a yearly ritual. On this vacation, I truly took a vacation – from job, responsibilities and my relationship with God. I checked in to the cruise and checked out on God. No daily Bible verses, prayers only over food, and no thought of connecting with my Creator. A hard lesson learned and one I will never repeat.
On the last night of the cruise, before disembarking and returning to real life, I had a dream. It was vivid, dark and earthy. I was standing in the middle of a living room looking at a fireplace in a strange house. I glanced around and saw honey wood floors, a white carved mantel over a dark hearth, white plaster walls, and smoky covered windows.
As I was taking in my surroundings, a little boy appeared in front of me. It was my son, David, at five years old. His blue eyes sparkled, and he smiled at me. I kneeled and swooped him up in one motion and gave him the Momma hug I always gave, tight and fully wrapped. For a moment, I felt the warmth of his little body and his arms circled my neck. Then he was gone.
An inky black shadow figure appeared, quietly materializing in front of me where my five year old son previously stood. I watched it carefully and felt great anxiety growing at what was about the transpire. As the darkness floated to the side, it revealed my son as a teenager, but this time I wasn’t allowed to hold him or touch him. David looked at me and smiled, not bothered by this evil standing next to him. My son disappeared once more.
David appeared a third time – standing in the living room, I saw him as a grown man. The dark figure appeared once more, fuller than before, between David and the empty hearth. David looked at me, expressionless, and turned toward the darkness. I was helpless, I could do nothing, and the darkness knew it. I watched my son walk into the abyss and disappear. As he did, the enemy revealed itself and laughed – a deep taunting laugh expressing, I have him and there is nothing you can do.
I was horrified and sickened at what I just witnessed. In a split second, my spirit took over and one thought came to me, “Call on Jesus, Call His Name, Call Him NOW!” I shouted at the enemy, “THERE IS NOTHING IN THIS UNIVERSE MORE POWERFUL THAN THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST!” The darkness slithered to the empty hearth and up the chimney. I was alone in the house. I turned to find a marker in my hand. I wrote Jesus’ named in big letters all over the walls, the windows, the mantel. As I was writing, the house filled with Light, Love, and Joy. I felt my fear, sadness, and pain fade away. Sunlight was pouring in the windows and it changed the atmosphere. I wrote Jesus’ name once more, and then I woke up.
Greg was already awake and asked, “Are you ok?”
“No,” I answered.
“You were going through something. You were mumbling and moving around. I didn’t want to wake you,” he explained.
“I held David…he was five….sparkling blue….I got to hold him,” I sobbed uncontrollably.
Greg held me and continued, “I woke up a while ago, because I thought someone was in our room. I even went and checked the bathroom to make sure.”
“There was someone here,” I answered as I caught my breath and pushed back the tears, “But I called Jesus,” I said. Greg knew what I meant – Jesus came and rescued me.
Yeah, the enemy can do a number on us all. Life dishes out unexpected, heartbreaking circumstances, that is life. Our greatest fears can come true. Our deepest hurts can surface unexpectedly. Our guilt and shame can throw us down a dark hole. Our memories can touch a place in our hearts that no one knew was there. I know it happens, because it’s happened to me.
God is ready and able to help us through it. Jesus is our Champion, our Designated Fighter, and will win our battles. He will defend us from the enemy. How do we get Jesus to come to our defense? We must call Him, stay close, keep God focused, change our atmosphere to the Holy, and be connected through scripture and prayer. Jesus will come to the rescue. I know He will, because I’ve seen it. I called Him and He rescued me.
Jesus said, “But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers and sisters, relatives and friends. Stand firm, and you will win life.”
Luke 21:14-16,19 NIV
Jesus also said, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”
John 16:33 NLT
¹”Champion.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 27 Mar. 2017.