“Mom, I’m headed to the woods for the day.”
Jeanie smiled. Three weeks ago she had thought, “It won’t be long now until Tommy will think it’s warm enough to spend the day in the woods without coming home after a few hours to warm up.” And he didn’t miss a day. Today was the first warm Saturday of spring.
“OK, baby. Do you need a lunch?”
“Already got it, Mom. See ya!”
Jeanie followed Tommy out the front door and watched him bolt across the street to the end of the court and into the woods. She felt blessed to live in this development that had never been built out. Thank you, Lord, for this neighborhood, for those woods, and most of all for twelve wonderful years with Tommy.
Jeanie woke with a sense of anticipation. It was the first day of spring—her favorite season. Something good is going to happen today. But as the day wore on, Jeanie began to wonder whether something bad might not happen. She prayed throughout the day, but nothing happened, good or bad.
Then the phone rang. What kind of news would it be?
Larry gently rubbed Jeanie’s back as she sat hunched over, head-in-hands. Larry was so angry he wanted to throw things, but he knew his wife needed comfort right now.
“How can this be?” Jeanie sobbed. “Not our precious little boy.”
Despite wanting to comfort Jeanie, Larry’s hurt blurted out: “He’s not little anymore—and apparently he’s not precious either.”
Sorrow, shame, self-recrimination. These had been Jeanie and Larry’s companions these long, five years now.
And spring never seemed the same. Not after the awful news on that first day of spring—the news of Tommy’s arrest on drug charges. Not after hearing his explanation of his fall into drugs.
Lord, I used to thank you for those woods. Was I a bad mother to let him go there alone? I’m sorry, Lord. Jeanie had done the math. It happened the spring Tommy was twelve.
That first warm day, Tommy had stumbled across a tree house used by older kids. When he was convinced no one was around, he ventured in. There, he found a six-pack of beer.
Tears slid down Jeanie’s cheeks. She thought for the thousandth time of the price Tommy—and she and Larry—had paid for that one failure to resist temptation. Tommy drank the whole six-pack. He roamed around in woods drunk. But by dusk, he came home sober.
Still, he had tasted sin and liked it. He discovered who had built the tree house and talked them into sharing their beer on a routine basis. When they started doing drugs, so did Tommy.
How could we have been so blind? Did we give him too much freedom? God, he was in church every Sunday even after we let him drop out of the youth group. I’m so sorry, Lord. You gave him to us, and we’ve messed up so badly.
Jeanie reflected on the past five hellish years. After Tommy’s arrest, his secret rebellion became open rebellion: Several charges had been dismissed and several more had been reduced. His lawyer arranged a plea bargain. In exchange for a guilty plea and on condition of three years’ good behavior, Tommy’s sentence was suspended. But Tommy had spurned God’s goodness. He constantly did things that, had he been caught, would have threatened his good behavior condition. Then he would have had to serve his sentence. He didn’t care how that tore Jeanie and Larry up. They lived in constant fear that he would get arrested on new drug charges or for driving drunk or … or … who knew what else he’d fall into. Plus, he talked to them like they were trash. He stopped going to church. He moved in with his girlfriend.
Jenny and Larry agonized over what they had done wrong. Friends told them not to think that way. Sometimes they listened; sometimes they didn’t. Some days, one of them would think it was their fault and the other wouldn’t, and they’d fight. Sometimes they cried together. They wrestled with whether they should resign their positions in the church
Eventually, Jeanie pulled herself out of it. “Lord, it’s the first day of spring again. Please bring my Tommy back to me this spring. And Lord, if you don’t, please give me hope this year. And if need be, next spring. And the next … as long as it takes.”
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