The boy in the story has had to overcome so much: headaches that were so worrisome at one point, he insisted on having an MRI to make sure he didn't have a tumor. The result? No surprise, the headaches were stress related. Recurring stomach aches that would leave him lying on the floor curled up in pain. How about the "planned out" broken dreams? A teenager with plans of becoming a star athlete and successful student.....how would time spent in Juvenile Hall for refusing to visit his birth father fit into that picture? Could his reputation really hold up in that kind of incident? Questions. Fears. The only thing constant in his life became uncertainty.
The mother, sensing the overwhelming circumstances her beloved son was facing, turned to scripture for help. "God, please give me answers."
He did. Immediately. The answer came first with a recollection of something she had forgotten:
When her son was a very small little man, five years of age, the mother recalled how he often came down the stairs from his bedroom in his jammies at night to ask: "Are you calling my name?" She would answer: "No", and then shuffle him back off to bed. This happened night after night for months.
One day, the young mother asked a Christian woman of high regard what she thought of her son's hearing his name being called night after night. The mother asked: "Do you think something is wrong with him or do you really think he is hearing his name being called?" Wise and ready to answer with God's Word, the elder opened her worn Bible to the story of Samuel. She read the story aloud and then looked into the younger woman's eyes when she asked: "Is he afraid when he hears the voice?" The young mom answered: "Never". With a bright smile and a hug around the neck, the elder replied: "Then know your son is hearing God's voice; like He prepared Samuel to hear His voice, God is teaching your son to discern His voice."
God gave the mother words to say to her son, and as she climbed the steps to his bedroom, she could literally feel the weight of God's Words heavy in her heart. She opened the bedroom door, found her son lying on his side tied up in a bundle of sheets that left his bed looking more like a big knot than a comfortable place to sleep, and woke her son to ask him if she could have a talk with him. With sleep-filled eyes, he pushed himself from slumber, threw his long legs over the side of the bed, and pushed himself to his feet. Quietly, he followed his mother down the staircase.
While she wanted to give him answers, to offer him peace, to say everything was going to be ok, she knew she could not. What she would offer him, however, was worth more than hope of a "perfect" life. They sat at the kitchen table across from one another, the morning sunlight barely peeping through the blinds hanging on the windows and playfully bouncing off of his messed up sandy blond hair:
"Sweetheart, do you remember when you were young and thought you were hearing someone calling your name night after night?" she asked.
"I remember. You told me the story of Samuel and explained to me I was hearing God's voice calling my name." he replied with a grin that caused his top lip to roll over his bottom lip and left wrinkles in his chin. Still wearing the white tshirt he had slept in the night before, she could see the little five year old boy inside the face of the teenager looking back at her. She wanted to scoop him up into her arms for the rest of the conversation, rocking him back and forth in her lap, but knew too much time had passed. He was no longer five, and his hurts were too complicated to be fixed by a big momma hug and kiss on the head. This conversation was one between two people who happened to be mother and son, not loaded with silly antics, but serious in tone.
She asked: "What if God was preparing you when you were five years old for this time? Do you believe it is possible that He was teaching you to hear His voice at a very young age so you could discern truth right now as a teenager going through a very tough time?"
He didn't answer, but his look changed which spoke mouthfuls of words. Unsure, he dipped his head a bit lower, hair hanging over his eyes, and then lifted his eyes to look at her through his long bangs. He then set his elbows up on the table and clasped his large hands together in front of him. It was evident by the look on his face, he wondered what his mother was going to say.
She opened her Bible with a sigh and said: "This is what God wants you to hear today."
And she read him the story of Joseph, recounting each of the ups and downs he endured. Together they discussed how it made no sense that God chose to reveal truths to Joseph through dreams, how heartbreaking it must have been when Joseph's own brothers turned on him, hated him, threw him into a pit, and sold him as a slave....and how shocked Joseph must have been when he earned respect as charge of Potiphar's household only to have it ripped from him when Potiphar's own wife became attracted to Joseph and then lied when Joseph refused her advances. This honorable decision placed Joseph in jail for three long years where he surely felt frightened and alone. Joseph, forsaken by family and forced to become a foreign slave, completely innocent but convicted of a crime he never committed, must have questioned God a thousand times. When he finally was able to interpret Pharaoh's dream, though, and become the savior for Egypt and his family, mother and son around a wooden table, thousands of years removed from the story of Joseph and Egypt, discussed how Joseph probably thought the difficulty he had endured was all worth it. If Joseph had not gone through the hardship, perhaps he never would have been useful for the incredible purposes God had planned out for his life. Because of the one ordinary Israelite man, Joseph, many were saved.
After reading from God's Word, the mother reached her arms across the kitchen table and took her son's hands into her own....her hands showing signs of age, cracked and a bit worn.....his young, smooth and strong. "God is not asking any more of you than He asked of Joseph. He prepared you a very long time ago to hear His voice, and I believe He is speaking to you now."
His answer so sincere: "But what is my life going to look like, mom? I don't want to be known as a troubled kid who spends time in Juvenile Hall and I don't want this to continue to follow my life. I just want to be normal."
Stern and sure, his mother answered with a firmness in her voice: "God did not choose normal for you or for me. You have to learn to embrace this and make it your testimony. God will use your experience to help others if you allow Him to. Pretending these things have not happened to you does not make them go away, so you must use your experience to allow God's light to extend out and touch others."
That day, in early morning hours, a light glimmered in the once downcast eyes of the young man. As mother looked at son, she wondered if Joseph was the same age or the same build as her son when he was cast into the pit by his brothers....could Joseph see God had something huge in store for his life when he was in that pit? could he really grasp the dream he had about becoming a ruler? She continued to gaze, face unchanging, into her son's eyes for a few moments. Her look of calm assurance betrayed her true feelings of uneasiness that surrounded the unanswered questions of what her son might have to endure in the future.
One day at a time....one prayer at a time.....and plenty of faith. These are the three ingredients that helped Joseph endure, and these same three ingredients would clothe her son on the journey God chose for him.
"For I know the plans I have for you, saith the Lord....." Believe it. Embrace it. Live it.
Mother and son ended their conversation with a gigantic hug, and then rustled up some vittles to eat for breakfast before everyone else in the house awoke. They sunk together onto the big leather couch in the great room and watched a rerun of "I Love Lucy" laughing out loud together as Lucy found herself locked in the big freezer she and Ethel had bought to house the half of a cow they had ordered. No worries in that moment. Just joy and relationship. Tomorrow would be a new day with its own challenges, but for this day, there would be laughter.