I sat quietly at the "Dinner for Eight” social, hoping no one would ask.
Then, when our hostess suggested we go ‘round the table introducing ourselves, I felt a knot in my stomach.
“You can keep it simple,” she said. “You know---tell us where you grew up, how you met your spouse, the basics…."
Non-threatening questions I can handle, I thought, sighing a prayer of relief. Simple and safe for now.
Pastor and his wife, who sat to the right of me, started the introductions. We hadn’t attended their church long, but knew they had grown children and grandchildren, but didn’t mention them.
Whew! Please let me go next and get this over with before it gets out of hand.
I groaned inside as our hostess motioned for the couple to the right of them to go next. Thankfully, they continued to pave the way, keeping it safe, not mentioning their families. However, as the introductions continued around the dinner table, the couples started crowing about their amazing grown children and exceptional grandchildren.
"Our son is a top CEO,” a newly retired man said, beaming. “And we're blessed with six beautiful grandchildren we see regularly...."
My mind drifted to what I would say as the proud father jabbered on about his family. I sat, crying inside, pretending to be interested. Trying to hide my grief, trying hard to keep tears from escaping. It was our younger son’s 26th birthday, but we didn’t even know where he was. He told us months ago, when he got out of prison, he wanted nothing more to do with his past. He’d also opted to leave our family, stating he was changing his name, moving to an undisclosed state. To make a long story short, he’d acquired multiple DUIs and criminal impersonation charges, as well as lied to us about everything in his life.
At our old church up north, just about everyone knew of our heartache, as I couldn’t stop the tears. True, they gave us both emotional and prayer support, as well as truly cared. However, we wanted to start over in our new community, not hide in the back pews because we “just knew everyone knew.”
I’d promised myself, and my husband, that tonight would be different. I won’t cry!
As it came to our turns to share, my husband and I exchanged anxious looks. His side glance at me said, remember your promise. As he started to talk, he managed to cover about everything, except our children.
Then, as I opened my mouth to speak, our hostess asked the dreaded questions---"What about your kids? How many do you have? Any grandchildren? Where are they?"
I swallowed hard, holding back tears, standing in my eyes.
"We have two grown sons.” I paused, thinking what to say next. ”The older one is married with five kids and lives in Florida...”
I took another deep breath, bit my lip, stared at my dinner plate, and then continued….
”The younger one is somewhere (hopefully alive) on this planet, but we do not know where. He has numerous problems, another story for another time. I’m trying hard not to cry right now. Today's his 26th birthday and we haven’t seen him for over a year. It's a long, sad story... Please pray,” I rattled off, nervously, trying not to rehash our entire tear-jerking saga.
I blinked back tears, glanced quickly up, and scanned their faces, recognizing the familiar looks of pity. The "I'm-so-sorry” looks.
How can these people with such wonderful families understand our dysfunctional family? I could also write a best-selling novel on some roller-coaster “adventures” with our older son.
Then I felt strangely relieved, that I had shared, if only a fragment, of our sorrow.
After an awkward silence, Pastor said, "It's okay if you do cry. What's his name? We’ll be praying. There’s always hope in Christ. We love you.”
Although I was thankful I hadn’t hung out alll our dirty laundry, I felt okay about allowing a few soiled linens dangle on the line.
Then I heard my Lord whisper, Thank you, child, for sharing. You’ve assured others here they are not alone in their journey of sorrow. Thanks for giving the gift of transparency.
Sadness still wrapped around me, as dark as my black-knitted shawl, Yet, I felt better, knowing possibly, I’d touched other hurting souls with our story, assuring them they are not alone.
As Pastor said, “there’s hope in Christ.”
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