"Expulsion from the Garden of Eden" Masaccio
One of the greatest ways I can honor my son's memory and help to bring good from his death is to talk about those things that contributed to his great difficulty in living well. And, perhaps surprisingly, that wouldn't be first and foremost about drugs or alcohol. Rather, the failure of his parents to fear the Lord and His commands, and the consequent failure to train and instruct Joe's heart, is where the problem began.
"Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it," Proverbs 22:6 says. The sobriety I mentioned in other pages, what the Bible calls sober-mindedness, begins in the heart and mind of a child and of a parent. Have you as a mom or dad been living your life without paying close attention to God's word? Do you routinely parent according to what is convenient and easy, not realizing that your child's deepest need is to be brought up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord? If these things are true of you then you are not parenting soberly, and you will pass this way of living on to your precious son or daughter.
Our negligence in training our son in God's ways was simply symptomatic of our neglect of God's word; we were also negligent of our marriage. As the years had gone by, I had begun to allow my thoughts free reign, rather than being careful to think about what was true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise (Phillipians 4:8.) My thoughts became actions, as they always will; and those actions ultimately led to divorce.
In these uncertain and directionless times, many women in America have done as I did, compromising character, integrity and even maternal love in order to follow their own desires. Two-thirds of divorces in this country are sought by the wife. In some cases, extreme situations may lead to unavoidable separation, but many women and men just don't want to be married to their spouses anymore; and so they get out.
In a real sense, divorce orphans kids. The parents may be still living and breathing, but neither parent is really available as they used to be or should be. In a sense, the child's divorced parents become, as far as the child is concerned, two very changed people... another aspect of the loss and sadness the child feels. That's hard to hear, but true. What's more, divorce can begin in the heart of a mom or dad long before it shows up in court records. When one spouse begins mentally and spiritually to separate from the other, then divorce proceedings, with all the devastation and wreckage to follow, have begun.
What can stop these sad and sinful proceedings once they've begun? Epecially when there is adultery involved--for adultery, whether in thought or action, removes the last vestiges of good sense a parent may once have had!--how can the hard and covetous hearts of the only ones who can give their children a family be reached?
Jesus told a parable. "There was a certain rich man who was splendidly clothed in purple and fine linen and who lived each day in luxury. At his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus who was covered with sores. As Lazarus lay there longing for scraps from the rich man’s table, the dogs would come and lick his open sores. Finally, the poor man died and was carried by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried, and his soul went to the place of the dead. There, in torment, he saw Abraham in the far distance with Lazarus at his side. The rich man shouted, 'Father Abraham, have some pity! Send Lazarus over here to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue. I am in anguish in these flames.'
"But Abraham said to him, 'Son, remember that during your lifetime you had everything you wanted, and Lazarus had nothing. So now he is here being comforted, and you are in anguish. And besides, there is a great chasm separating us. No one can cross over to you from here, and no one can cross over to us from there.'
"Then the rich man said, 'Please, Father Abraham, at least send him to my father’s home. For I have five brothers, and I want him to warn them so they don’t end up in this place of torment.'
'"But Abraham said, 'Moses and the prophets have warned them. Your brothers can read what they wrote.'
"The rich man replied, 'No, Father Abraham! But if someone is sent to them from the dead, then they will repent of their sins and turn to God.'
"But Abraham said, 'If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t listen even if someone rises from the dead’” (Luke 16:19-31, NLT)
"They won't listen even if someone rises from the dead." If you have determined on a course of action that includes selfishness and even divorce, it may be that nothing said here will change your mind. Perhaps not even the story of how I lost my dear son to the ravages of selfishness and sin will ultimately warn you away from destruction. The fact is that there is only one thing will truly change our hard hearts and dull minds. Abraham revealed it to the rich man when he explained to him that his brothers had already been warned by Moses and the prophets...it is the heeding of God's word, his commands quickened to you by his Spirit, that alone can change your heart. If you refuse to listen to all that He has said in His word, then you will not be persuaded. You will likely continue on until the day of reckoning and accountability comes, in this world or the next, as it surely will.
But I hope you will listen to Him today. I hope that you will begin to "become sober-minded" by taking heed to the very words and instructions of God from the pages of Scripture, applying them to your life and determining to give over all your thoughts, hopes, dreams and desires to Christ. It's a day-by-day, and often a moment-by-moment undertaking, and not for the faint of heart. Yet the very One who has commanded us is also the One who will give us the power to live lives that please Him, and in so doing, bring hope and healing to the ones we love. We can't turn back the hands of time, though I have wished with all my heart that we could. But we can definitely experience the mercy and grace of Him who "makes all things new" and who offers such great and precious promises (2 Peter 1:4) to those who believe.