Today was April 18th, and Marcie Baldwin had that ‘melancholy feeling’ once more. It happened every year at this time, although, with the passing of the seasons, the pain was not as acute as it once had been. Eighteen April 18ths had come and gone, and still, Marcie wondered. She wondered what had ever become of Billy Wheeler. Today would be his twenty-first birthday. Where was he now? What was he doing? He probably would have graduated from high school a few years ago, maybe he had gone to college? Perhaps he was pursuing a career by now? One hundred and one questions had gone through her mind countless times, and still she had no answers. Lost in her thoughts, she was drawn back to reality when she felt a pair of arms gently surround her, and a light kiss on the back of her neck. She turned and allowed herself to melt into the embrace of her husband, Ed Baldwin. Ed was the only one who knew what today meant to her, and she thanked God for his understanding and support.
Eighteen years ago, after a short, turbulent relationship with Billy’s father, the prospect of raising a child on her own efforts had seemed impossible – not only to herself, but also in the judgement of the social services case worker. Confused and alone, and ‘for the sake of the child’, heeding the counsel of the caseworker, she had placed Billy on the list for adoption. Certain family members and ‘friends’ had been openly critical of her actions, but, for the most part, her newly found church-family had given her the love and support that she so desperately needed. She recalled her struggles with regret over the foolishness of her youth, and the blatant condemnation of some of the more ‘mature’ members of the Body of Christ. She had found some release in the truth that God no longer remembered the sins of her youth – that they had been cast into the sea of His forgetfulness – but still she wondered...
Marcie became aware of the fact that Ed still had his arms around her, but now he was whispering in her ear. As she listened, she realized that he was praying that God would give her strength, that He would grant the ‘desires of her heart’, and that He would ‘cause all things to work together for good, because of Marcie’s love for Him’. When Ed’s voice fell silent, they spent a few moments just drinking-in the Father’s love and comfort.
The ringing of the telephone intruded on their quiet time, and Marcie felt Ed’s embrace tighten in an unspoken admonition to ‘let it ring’. For a moment she considered that line of action, but her curiosity got the better of her, and she squirmed free of his embrace. After a short dash across the living-room, she snatched the telephone receiver from the cradle, and managed a breathless “Hello?”
“Hello,” a professional-sounding female voice greeted her, “is this Marcella Baldwin?”
Having confirmed her identity, the woman proceeded to introduce herself as Joan Montgomery, a case worker with the Department of Social Services. She went on to explain that the Department had recently received an inquiry from a young man whose birth-name was William Wheeler, and was interested in making contact with his natural mother. Following through various government records, they had traced her to this telephone number, and needed to confirm that such a meeting would be agreeable to her. Joan Montgomery assured Marcie that none of the information acquired in the process of contacting her would be passed on to the young man without her express permission.
Marcie was stunned, and remained speechless for several moments. When she finally recovered her voice, she vaguely remembered giving her assent to the procedure. Joan assured her that she would be in contact with her to arrange the details of such an encounter. In a daze she hung up the telephone and turned to face Ed once more. “Are you alright?” Ed queried as he again enveloped her in a loving embrace. Marcie burst into uncontrollable sobbing. For the next several minutes, between floods of emotion, Ed was able to piece together the general purpose of the phone call.
When the initial shock of the telephone call subsided, Marcie found herself questioning the wisdom of her initial response. Still, she couldn’t deny the emotional ache that she had so often experienced. Were her wildest dreams now going to become a reality? Her spirit cried out to God for His wisdom and the emotional strength that she would need to face the young man. What would he think of her? How should she respond to him? Her mind was racing a mile a minute, flooded with one thousand and one questions. Into her turmoil the quiet voice of the Holy Spirit seemed to echo the words that Ed had used in his prayer – "And we know that all things work together for good..."
Tuesday morning dawned just the same as any other day, but Marcie felt a strange sense of foreboding as she opened her eyes. With her awakening came the awareness that ‘this was the day’! She became conscious that the excitement and anticipation had kept her awake until after 1:00 am this morning. She would have to meet Joan Montgomery at her office at 10:00 am. Ed was awakening beside her now, and feeling her tension, he gently took her hand and continued to speak soothing words of comfort to her. Vaguely, Marcie remembered arising and preparing for the day. The excitement prevented her from having too much for breakfast – a bran muffin and a cup of coffee was all that her stomach could handle.
A young man sat in the chair next to the coffee table as Marcie entered Joan Montgomery’s office. His hair fell, unkempt, around his shoulders. He wore faded blue jeans, and a white fleece sweater that unashamedly proclaimed to the world in red lettering –Jesus – He’s the real thing! His brown eyes were shining as he stood to acknowledge her entry. “B-Billy?” Marcie heard herself stammer as she recognized her own facial features reflected in the image of her son.
“Hello Mom,” he returned with ease, as he stepped forward to encircle her lightly with his arms in a short, but heartfelt embrace. It wasn’t the way she had rehearsed it in her mind, but in that moment Marcie realized that it was everything she had ever dreamed. This was her son - healthy, personable, and obviously ‘not ashamed of the gospel of Christ’. Once more the emotional floodgates burst as she felt her son’s embrace tighten around her shoulders. Then came the words that she had so often longed to hear, but had resigned herself to the fact that such a pleasure would never be hers. “ I love you, Mom,” she heard him whisper unashamedly, as she became aware that he, too, was overcome with the emotion of the moment.
“I’ll leave you two to get acquainted,” Joan Montgomery advised as she exited the room, feeling a wonderful release that the encounter had gone so smoothly.
The next week was, what Marcie thought must have been, just a taste of what Heaven would be like. As the drama unfolded, Marcie learned that at the age of seven years, a family with the name Cantrell had adopted Billy, and raised him in a Christian environment. Since his high-school graduation, he had pursued a career in education, and had recently started working with a youth organization that ministered to troubled teens. Everyday, Mother and Son were amazed at the ‘unsearchable ways’ of their Heavenly Father in directing their lives to this moment of satisfaction.
Marcie sat on the sofa with her Bible open on her lap. Tears of joy once more washed her cheeks as she thought on the meaning of the words she had just read. “I was in prison, and you came to Me...”
From where he sat beside her, she felt Billy’s incredulous look, as he stammered – “Prison..?” Why would those words cause such an emotional response in his mother?
“Yes, Billy,” she managed through her rising emotions, “I was in prison. High walls of remorse, steel bars of bitterness, and a lifetime of hopes and dreams locked securely behind doors of disappointment. But then you came with God’s love and your forgiveness...”.
Once again, Son took Mother into his comforting embrace as he repeated those words that had brought so much healing to Marcie’s spirit in the past few weeks. “I love you, Mom!” That was all she had ever wanted to hear.
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