Several years ago, I heard a woman tell her story about checking her son into rehab for alcohol and drug addiction. She spoke of his downward spiral, of the destruction and carnage left in its wake, of lost jobs, flunking out of school, sleepless nights, anxious days, and spending every waking hour wondering what in the world would happen next. She was bewildered. How had this demon of addiction invaded her family?
Finally he had agreed to go to treatment. Being a supportive mother, she went with him. Truth be told, not just for support, but also to ensure he would actually go through with it.
As they sat at the intake desk to fill out paperwork and answer questions, the counselor looked at her son and said, “Thank you for bringing your mom in. We’ll take her from here.”
Wait . . . what?
By all appearances, SHE was the one tore slap up and all to pieces. She had bags under her eyes, wild and unkempt hair, no makeup from crying, shaking hands, and wrinkled clothes hanging on her haggard frame. She wasn’t just riding the roller coaster with him. She was in the front seat.
I don’t know what happened to them. I don’t know whether he utilized the amazing tools given to him at the treatment center and stayed in recovery. I don’t know whether she got it together and made a manageable life for herself, regardless of her circumstances. I hope she went home, took a shower and SLEPT, knowing that at least for this one night, her son was safe.
What good would it do to keep pacing the floor, wringing her hands, fearing the worst, losing her mind and throwing away peace and serenity? None at all.
When my life was most unmanageable because of fear and worry, a dear friend said to me, “When the plane is going down, they tell you to put on YOUR oxygen mask before you can help others put on theirs.”
When you’ve done all you can do, when you just can’t fix it or make it any better, (and many times, when you’re just making it worse anyway!!!), it’s not selfish to take care of yourself. No sense in continuing to “waller” in misery, as we say in the South. It doesn’t mean you don’t care about your loved one — it means it won’t help for you to die too.
King David found himself in a similar situation. His newborn son was gravely ill, and it wasn’t looking good. The child been born in less than ideal circumstances. Although God described David as “a man after His own heart”, David had some serious character flaws. The baby was the product of an affair with Bathsheba, a married woman. David actually had her husband murdered, then married her himself.
Sort of makes your family seem a little less dysfunctional, doesn’t it? I love that the Bible has stories about real people with real problems. They’re just like the rest of us, only sometimes worse!
2 Samuel 12 records the story:
16 David pleaded with God for the child. He fasted and spent the nights lying in sackcloth on the ground. 17 The elders of his household stood beside him to get him up from the ground, but he refused,and he would not eat any food with them.
18 On the seventh day the child died. David’s attendants were afraid to tell him that the child was dead, for they thought, “While the child was still living, he wouldn’t listen to us when we spoke to him. How can we now tell him the child is dead? He may do something desperate.”
19 David noticed that his attendants were whispering among themselves, and he realized the child was dead. “Is the child dead?” he asked.
“Yes,” they replied, “he is dead.”
What David feared most had happened. His son was gone. What to do now? Should he blame God for not answering his prayer? Should he blame himself for being unable to control himself with Bathsheba? Should he blame Bathsheba for tempting him? Could he turn the clock back, do the right thing, and stop this train wreck from happening? No, he couldn’t change the past. What was done was done. It didn’t matter whose fault it was. The child was dead.
20 Then David got up from the ground. After he had washed, put on lotions and changed his clothes, he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped. Then he went to his own house, and at his request they served him food, and he ate.
21 His attendants asked him, “Why are you acting this way? While the child was alive, you fasted and wept, but now that the child is dead, you get up and eat!”
22 He answered, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, ‘Who knows? The Lord may be gracious to me and let the child live.’ 23 But now that he is dead, why should I go on fasting? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.”
David could have chosen to let this unspeakable tragedy destroy the rest of his life. Choosing to live didn’t mean he didn’t care about his son. He went to Bathsheba and comforted her, and he comforted himself with the assurance that he would see his child again. He did the next right thing — a very simple task of bathing and nourishing his body.
The Bible records that David felt deep conviction for the things he’d done wrong. He sought and accepted forgiveness, grace and mercy. I believe he wisely realized that beating himself up over it wouldn’t help. He accepted what he couldn’t change, and he set his mind to do the best he could with what he had left.
Friends, if you’re like the distraught mother or King David, and you can’t fix or heal some person or circumstance, can’t change the past or what you’ve done wrong, please don’t let yourself go. It won’t help. Care for that wayward or sick loved one the best you can. Pray for healing. Take time to grieve the loss of hopes and dreams, or even of the loss of life.
It’s time to get up out of your sackcloth and ashes. Take a long bath, put on some lotion, grab a bite to eat. Wipe your eyes, take a deep breath, and choose life. It’s the only one you’ve got.