‘My son was still innocent’
By Ginny Luedeman
For years I kept by my bathroom sink a sweet photo of our son Rob’s graduation from kindergarten. His innocent smile and the promise of a bright future reminded me over and over again that innocence and promise are from God and can never be lost. This little picture comforted me through some pretty dark hours.
My husband and I were married when Rob was five. I had begun to study religion when my son was almost three. My life up to that time was inconsistent with the moral and ethical values found in the Bible. Through the study and practice of religion, a transformation took place within a couple of years. I was freed from promiscuous living and from the use of drugs, alcohol and cigarettes. A wonderful stability began to emerge, and the life choices I made became moral and fulfilling.
The early years of Rob’s life, however, seemed affected by the mistakes and poor choices I had made before I began to wake up. In his early teens, Rob expressed unrest and impatience when he was working toward goals. His wonderful talents and his ability to figure out solutions to problems were being used to break, instead of to uphold, the law. Social adjustments didn’t come easily. Peer pressure began to have a great influence on his actions. No matter what our large extended family did to love and support him, it seemed that he was on a path to destruction.
In hindsight, I realize that many teens with wonderful parents have similar problems. Often these problems have nothing to do with the thoughts and actions of their parents. In my case, however, I felt that my poor parenting had damaged my son. Finding fault with myself or with some exterior influence, such as society, schools, or peer pressure, gave me things to pray about. But in the end, I realized that the solution to the problems would come as I learned more about what God knows concerning His creation and in this case about me and my son.
To understand Spirit means to understand the good that God knows and is doing, right where, to the five physical senses, it looks like things are messed up. For me, this means going to the bottom of the questions related to a material birth, heredity, and human existence in general, including all of its ugly-of beautiful-details. It means giving our lives back to God, along with our thoughts about our material histories and our memories of mistakes that we - or others -have made. It means getting figuratively, or literally, on our knees to listen to the divine voice. It means standing on the mountain of courage and steadfastness. Over and over again, the individuals in our family had to stand with God’s spiritual view of Rob and of us.
Gradually thought by thought, I forgave myself for the mistakes of my youth. My husband and I prayed to understand that at every moment of Rob’s being, God alone had been his Father and his Mother. I couldn’t “mess up” God’s love for Rob. We prayed about the disturbing events involving a son who was out of control, and turned to the Bible and Science and Health and other writings by Mary Baker Eddy for courage, inspiration, and support. The Christian Science periodicals and the promises of healing in the testimonies they include were like members of an extended family, reaching out and holding our hands.
When the headlines in the local paper told a sad story of our son’s illegal activities, and of his arrest, it was especially challenging for us not to be overcome with shame and doubt. My husband held a position in the community that involved working with government officials, and I’d made myself available to the public to meet and pray with anyone interested in spiritual healing. The report of the illegal activities seemed to mock our positions as responsible citizens. I sadly recalled a story that my mom had once told me. She said that she was not allowed to date a young man in high school because his brother was in prison, and my grandfather had felt that “a bad apple came from a bad tree.”
The evening of the same day the story hit the paper, there was a meeting at our church at which testimonies of healing would be shared. A number of friends gave us a hug or patted us on the back when they saw us, and only one person made reference to the headlines. We knew the church members were praying with us, but I cried during most of the meeting that night even thought I was praying and listening for healing thoughts. I knew God was with me in spite of the sorrow, and as the service progressed, I gained the courage I needed not to go along with this ugly picture of a son who could be out of God’s control. By the end of the meeting, I again felt comforted.
Rob was convicted of a non-violent felony and sent to prison. For six long years we prayed, knowing that, wherever he was, God was there with him. A psalm says: “Whither shall I go from thy spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.”(Psalm 139:8)
During Rob’s sentence, there were many challenges, but they all led to blessings. He was able to express much good to other prisoners. A gentle humbling took place, and we were able to see great transformation, both in ourselves and in him. I became less judgemental of my own and of others’ mistakes- especially of the mistakes those in prison had made. There are no throwaways in God’s creation.
A sense of humor emerged to help buoy us all during these tough times. At one point, a bumper sticker ahead of my car read, “Our Child is In the Honor Society.” I laughed out loud. My child had just been sent to the “Honor Farm”!
We sent our son photos of the family, wrote letters, and visited him. We continued to hold him in the love and care of God, rather than to think of him as being in prison. If there were lessons that Rob needed to learn, we knew we could trust that God was both strong and kind. God would know how to teach the lessons and still save the child.
Prison is a tough place to learn lessons, but some wonderful people in the Bible were in prison, and they found the needed care and love of God sufficient to protect them. I clung to those stories.
Because of the challenges our son faced, we became parents to two of our grandchildren. At first, this seemed a challenge we weren’t up to. Again, with the guidance and assurance of God’s love, it became a joyous adventure. Today, we cherish the opportunity we’ve been given to parent them. We’ve discovered the joy of getting involved, because we reflect God’s involved love. God’s love doesn’t tire. It is never too old or weak. It is close and practical. We can make great demands on it, and yet it is never depleted. It blesses all abundantly. It is a rich love.
By the time Rob was released from prison, he had become the child we had always known that God created. For over a year after his release, we had a family-day barbecue at our home every Sunday after church. Eighteen to 22 family members came. His brothers-in-law, sisters, nieces, nephews, grandparents, wife, and children all expressed to him the love and support that confirmed that God’s love had never left him.
Today, Rob is happy, honest, successful, and a respected member of society. After his release from prison, he took a humble but honest position selling light bulbs. And today, two years later, he is a director of operations for a branch office of a very successful business. He told me recently that he is exactly where he would have hoped to be if none of the prison time had taken place.
Of course, the beautiful child of God was there all the time. Our acknowledgment of this fact allowed the son that God had created to shine through. It dissolved any false concept that had masqueraded as the “real” Rob. The wonderful promise of the Master, Jesus Christ, was proved again - “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32)
To those struggling with similar situations, I’d like to say, Never give up! You can’t lose with God, and He is on your side - the only side there is.
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