Today’s post is part 2 of the beauty I have experienced from the ashes of parenting my self-destructive daughter. To my surprise, I found “gifts” on this long, hard journey. This Bible verse was the inspiration behind my thoughts:
I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places (Isaian 45:3) NIV.
Treasures? Riches? Could they be found in a terrible experience? Facing my worst fears as a mom felt ridiciulously impossible. All the bad I tried to protect my daughter from ended up happening to her: addiction (alcohol and drugs), self-harm (cutting), depression, mental illness, rape, and attempted suicides. This has been a nightmare, but I have now seen good come from the pain. In my previous post (on Oct. 24th) I shared the first 4 gifts.
1) I know my Creator on a much deeper and more intimate level.
2) Scripture became even more valuable and precious.
3) I experienced greater spiritual and personal growth.
4) I’ve grown closer to my husband and other children.
Here’s #5 – 8.
More Beauty From Ashes
5) The gift of deep, close friendships with those who accepted me and did not judge. A few friendships fizzled out – those people who couldn’t handle the depth of my pain. But I made many new, special friendships and even encountered some compassionate strangers. (God’s angels?) I discovered a unique fellowship among parents who have suffered like I have. It is a unique fellowship like cancer survivors share with each other. All along the way I have seen my Heavenly Father continuously put the right person in my path at the right time to offer comfort and encouragement, courage and strength, hope and faith . . . exactly what I needed when I needed it.
Here are a few examples:
- The woman (a total stranger) I met in a public restroom who held me and prayed for me when I ran in there for privacy sobbing uncontrollably after getting bad news.
- The dear friend who washed a large amount of blood off the exterior and interior of my daughter’s car and off the sidewalk in a public parking lot after one of her severe cutting episodes. All I could do while she worked was sit in her car nearby and cry, incapable of helping with the task.
- The friends who brought food, flowers, helpful books, prayed faithfully, called frequently, emailed regularly and sent cards.
- A friend who came from out of town for the sole purpose of asking how I was, then gave the gift of listening while I poured out my heart, and cried (of course).
- Another person I barely knew who made a notebook for me full of scriptures and prayers for my daily use. This became a priceless treasure I used repeatedly over the next few years. I still have that notebook.
6) I Developed a Greater Capacity to Trust God.
Many times we did not know if our daughter would survive. God never gave me any assurances that she would live. Instead, I sensed Him say, “Trust me. Keep trusting me in this dark valley, in this desert place. I won’t leave you or abandon you. I will be with You and I will be with her too. Even if the worst happens, I will help you. You will survive.” He never failed me or let me down in my time of need. He was always there to uphold and carry me. Isaiah 41:10
When you think you can’t go on, keep trusting. By God’s grace and strength you can.
7) God took my greatest pain and turned it into my passion and a new ministry.
We were desperate for support from others who understood. We looked throughout the community, called all the large churches, and searched the internet but found no help or support for parents like us. My husband and I promised ourselves then that when we were stronger and felt ready, we would start a support group. We did that in 2009 after being in 12-step groups for awhile ourselves. After a few years my passion to help other parents grew. Today this is my full time work, my personal ministry – to offer comfort, encouragement, and hope to other brokenhearted parents. Out of my suffering God gave me a new ministry, something I am passionate about. I found purpose from my pain.
I also volunteer with Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ) for an online prayer community, Prayer for Prodigals. I’m part of the team who manage the website. Anyone can join this online community and benefit from it: submitting prayer requests for their child, receiving prayers from others for both their child and themselves, and enjoying the many resources. The site offers Judy Douglass’ writings, devotionals, recommended books, and places for help (treatment centers, camps and schools, and support groups). I’ve found great joy and purpose to be able to help other parents.
8) I Learned to be Authentic and Vulnerable with my Brokenness.
I learned to take off my mask and reveal my brokenness. My mask became too heavy to wear anymore. Keeping it on required too much energy. Faking it became more than I could continue doing. No more pretending I was “fine” when I wasn’t. I decided to stop hiding my struggles. Instead, I chose openness and honesty. As hard as it was at first, for me, being real has been freeing.
Friend, when we’re vulnerable and authentic, we open the door of invitation for others to do the same. Vulnerability is contagious.
“What? I’m not the only one? You, too?” Openness and honesty made my relationships more meaningful too. We go deeper now. We ask each other hard questions. We listen better with our hearts, without an agenda. We’re not quick to fix. Authenticity can be scary at times but is worth the risk. Being real puts me in a better position to have my own needs met, as well as helping me more effectively meet the needs of others. If we don’t share our needs, how can our brothers and sisters in Christ bear our burdens or help meet our needs? It’s true. We really do need each other. The more honest and open we are, the better off we will be.
Hold on to hope, dear mom or dad. You too can find treasures on this painful journey with your child. You never know what beauty may rise out of the ashes of your experience.
WOW! Especially the last one. WOW! For the first time in my life my heart has been broken. Really broken. But until this time, I don’t think I was sincerely in a place to feel the pain of others around me. With MY mask off, I pray the Lord is able to help me better see the pain in others, sometimes behind their masks. We are NOT alone. Thank you for your ministry to so many. Thanks to your family as well.
Thank you, Mary! This experience really does tenderize us to the pain of those around us so easy to miss until you’ve been there in some way. We all need to make the time to really “see”, don’t we?