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“This is 911. What’s your emergency?” inquired the operator responding to the call. “My child is missing!” his mother frantically explained. The operator was concerned and asked, “How long has he been gone?” “I found his backpack inside the door,” Lauren replied with panic in her voice, “so he must’ve come home from school, but he’s not here, and I don’t know what happened to him. He’s never left before without telling me where he was going!” Tears began to course down Lauren’s face as she provided her address so they could begin the arduous search for seven-year-old Caleb.
The dispatcher swiftly relayed the critical information to the available officers who arrived at her residence and began to question Lauren about the disappearance of her son. They took in her disheveled appearance and the disarray in her small apartment. There were bottles on the table near the couch and dishes left over from previous meals. Lauren knew her speech was slurred as she responded with the information they requested, but was unsuccessful in her attempt to hide it. She did not want to divulge that she had blacked out before Caleb returned from school and had not awakened until after he was gone. If only I’d been sober, she agonized, my child might not have vanished.
Lauren was alarmed when an officer asked her for a recent picture of Caleb to aid in the search. Guilt and shame enveloped her as she admitted she couldn’t even find a photo that might help save her son’s life. She felt desperate to pour a drink or do some drugs to try to drown out her feelings of worthlessness and self-hate, knowing she would despise herself even more if she did.
Lauren felt numb as she prepared to join the search party but was encouraged to stay at her apartment with an officer, in case Caleb tried to contact her. The tension in the room was palpable, as they waited for any news on her child.
“Where are you, Caleb?” Lauren cried, fearful it would be dark out soon. She always left a light on when he went to sleep at night and couldn’t bear to think of him out there frightened and alone calling out for her but not getting a response. She could envision him lying injured somewhere, and she was helpless to do anything about it! She was overcome with feelings of fear and self-loathing and rushed to her room, dropping to the floor beside her bed, crying inconsolably.
“This is all my fault,” Lauren sobbed, “if I’d been awake when Caleb came home from school this afternoon, he might be here with me now. How could I have allowed my life to spiral so out of control!” She had married Eric right after high school and thought they would always be together. After he died, though, her world became dark, and she didn’t care if she even survived. Lauren had lost her best friend and didn’t know how she’d go on, but at times she failed to acknowledge her son had lost his father too. It had been devastating for Caleb when his Dad died, and she hadn’t realized how sad and quiet he had become until now.
When her husband passed away, her friends would call or visit to offer her comfort and support. After a while, though, they expected her to move on, not recognizing she was paralyzed by her grief. Lauren couldn’t seem to communicate that her depression was so all-consuming it was a struggle just to get through the day. She had tried several times to take her life, but God had intervened. Instead of getting help for her depression, she attempted to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol to try to numb the pain. The depression only worsened, though, and made it more difficult for her to work through her grief. Then Lauren developed a tolerance to these substances and required more drugs and greater amounts of alcohol to achieve the same high until she couldn’t even function anymore. She had tried many times to stop drinking and doing drugs, but she knew she didn’t have the power within herself to make that happen. She had grown up in a home with an alcoholic father and had sworn she would never follow the same path.
Lauren was shocked when she thought of how far she had fallen to acquire these substances. She would lie and steal, even betraying her loved ones, to obtain them by any means possible. Lauren knew her behavior was ruining her life, but she cared more about getting high than she did about her family and friends. It’s the first thing she thought about when she woke up in the morning until she went to sleep at night. There was no longer any doubt in her mind she was addicted to drugs and alcohol and was sure her husband would be sad to see what had happened to her and their son. Lauren realized if she didn’t change these behaviors, she could lose Caleb and pleaded with God to give her another chance to make it up to him.
She wondered why she’d refused to surrender to God, who was waiting to heal her wounded heart and help her win over her addictions. Why did she insist on doing things her way when she was making such a mess of everything? Hadn’t she already lost enough? Lauren recognized there were consequences to the things she’d done in the past and could never recover the time she had squandered with her son, but the thought of a fresh start, a new beginning, was almost too amazing to imagine. She knew God’s love was so great He sent His Son to be crucified for her sin. She had made many bad choices, though, and didn’t know how He could ever forgive her.
She recalled a pastor on TV saying, if we believe our sin cannot be forgiven, we are saying Jesus’ death on the cross was not enough to pay for our sin. Also, if we think we can’t overcome our addictions, we don’t believe the Holy Spirit is powerful enough to give us victory over them. Eric’s mother Rose had shared with her daughter-in-law Bible verses which said, “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us,” Ephesians 3:20 and in Romans 8:37, “...in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”
Lauren wanted to be free from all her sin and live in Heaven with Jesus someday, so she bowed her head and began to pray, “Dear Jesus, I am sorry I have sinned against You and refused to let You be the Lord of my life. I’ve allowed drugs and alcohol to control me, instead of letting You help me work through my pain. I surrender myself to You and ask You to deliver me from the substances that have kept me in bondage for so long. Thank you, Lord, now I can conquer my addictions through the power of the Holy Spirit and live in a way that is pleasing to You. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”
Peace and joy filled Lauren’s heart, unlike anything she’d ever experienced. She’d been waking up every morning feeling defeated and overwhelmed by regrets from her past, but she had become a child of God and would encourage herself with verses which said she was righteous in His sight, deeply loved and precious to Him. Instead of continuing to live with discouragement and despair, she now had hope for the future. Lauren knew her problems had not disappeared, and she desperately needed God’s help to find Caleb, but He had promised to lead and guide her and never leave her alone. The Lord had a plan for her and things He wanted her to accomplish, so she’d have to stay clean and sober to fulfill His will for her life.
Recently she’d heard a recovering addict say whenever he felt compelled to drink or take drugs, he would read a passage of Scripture, and it worked to refocus his mind. She would pray for clear thinking and God’s infinite wisdom as they continued the search for her lost little boy. Fear began to rise within her as she wondered what could’ve happened to Caleb. She recalled a verse in Jeremiah 33:3, which said, “Call to Me, and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know.” She believed God was omniscient, so she knelt by her bed fervently praying He would reveal Caleb’s location. Lauren quietly waited on Him, then praised the Lord when she heard Him speak. She rushed to the front door startling the policewoman who was sitting by the phone and shared with her the exciting news as they hurried to her car.
They sped down the road about a mile, then came to an abrupt halt in front of a local park. Lauren bolted out of the car, running down a path, calling Caleb’s name. She quickly scanned the area searching for any sign of her child, when she noticed a small figure lying on a bench across the field wearing clothes that were identical to Caleb’s. Lauren raced towards the park bench, terrified of what she might discover when suddenly a calming peace washed over her, and she realized God would be with her no matter what she may encounter.
As Lauren neared the motionless figure, she knew it was her son, and with tears in her eyes reached down to gather him up in her arms. “Oh, Caleb,” she cried, “are you all right?” The park seemed deathly quiet, then her child gently stirred, and turning towards her said, “Mom, you’re here. I’m so glad to see you! I prayed Jesus would send you to take me home!” Lauren was thrilled to know her son was alive, and after all she had done, Caleb had asked the Lord to use her to rescue him. She hugged her child tight, saying, “Caleb, I love you. Are you okay? Can you tell me what happened to you?”
“I was hungry when I got home from school,” he explained, “and I couldn’t find anything to eat. I kept calling your name, but you wouldn’t wake up, so I started walking to Grandma’s house because I knew she’d take care of me.” When Lauren heard this, it broke her heart, and she vowed to do whatever it took to become the mother her child deserved. Caleb continued, “I walked to the end of our street, and I became confused. I didn’t know which way to go, and there was no one around to help me. I was tired and hungry, and all alone, and I began to cry. Then I saw the park up ahead where you and Dad used to take me to play. I walked through some bushes to get to a bench and turned to look as a police car drove past. I yelled and waved as I ran towards the road, but they didn’t see me and just drove away. It was getting dark, and I was afraid until I remembered Grandma saying I could call on Jesus, and He would hear my prayer. I closed my eyes and talked to God, then laid down on the bench while I waited for you.” She was amazed at Caleb’s faith, grateful the Lord had protected him.
Lauren didn’t want to interrupt this reunion, but there was something she needed to ask her son. She looked lovingly into the eyes of her child and said, “Caleb, I’m sorry for the way I’ve been acting, and I asked God to forgive me for neglecting you. Grandma Rose has agreed to stay with us for a while, so I can get the help I need to be a good parent to you. Can you forgive me, Caleb, for not taking better care of you?” He nodded and smiled and told her he loved her, and she thanked the Lord for a second chance. Lauren knew that through the power of God, she would be victorious over her addictions and become the woman He wanted her to be. She’d keep her eyes fixed on Jesus and not on her problems, and then she’d live her life to glorify Him.
Jeremiah 29:11 “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”
by Bev Yellowley