“Mother?” My 22-year-old daughter asks, “May I come home for three months? I’ve applied to a top-notch firm in Richmond to do my internship for grad school and they’ve accepted me!”
Inside I’m turning cartwheels, singing, ---“Hallelujah, Praise God!”---but restrain myself, knowing how Emily always snorts, “Please, Mother, don’t preach.” We enjoy a special bond in just about everything. Everything…..that is……except matters of the soul.
“Why of course, honey!” I assure her, catching my breath. “It’s been almost five long years since we’ve all lived together under one roof. We’ll be a family, again!”
Hanging up the phone, I hum praise songs as I clear out my sewing room, converting it into Emily’s new room. Carefully hanging her college diploma, I beam.
She’s such a bright young woman….Just needs to get her soul right with God.”
Since my husband’s job had transferred us east almost five years ago, I’d felt anxious about leaving our 18-year-old daughter behind in Arizona. But she’d always been responsible and had convinced us she’d be fine back home in the southwest, attending college.
Emily arrives. At first it’s a joy to have her home. She even joins our church, but often sneaks out the back door (sometimes before the sermon ends), never mingling with the other young people.
Then, as the days grow into weeks, and weeks into months, we see how our daughter has changed since she’s lived away from us. She starts hanging out at nightclubs and staying out all night with her new boyfriend. I soon stop saving her a seat at church as she transfers her new church membership from St. Matthew’s to “St. Mattress”.
While she’s gone, I cry as I repeatedly find empty wine bottles, birth control pills, and unpaid traffic tickets crammed underneath her unmade bed. When I empty her trash can, I usually find other junk that brings tears.
What’s happened to our high school valedictorian? She really needs Jesus, I sigh. But whenever I hint about her soul, she snaps, “Mother, please don’t preach.”
As her 23rd birthday nears, I can’t bypass the occasion to give her what she needs most. Wrapping a woman’s devotional bible, I pen a mother-to-daughter letter which I prayerfully fold inside her birthday card. Using the “sandwich” approach, I first praise her for her academic achievements. Then layer on the “meat”, highlighting the scripture,” What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul?”* I close with another “slice of bread”, affirming, “I love you.”
At her birthday dinner she politely thanks us for her gifts. Then she rolls her chocolate brown eyes at the new bible. Probably suspecting a sermon inside her card, she mumbles, “Thanks, I’ll read it later.”
Weeks pass, but she never mentions the letter. I continue to pray for my prodigal daughter; but don’t preach. The situation grows worse as I catch her in continuous lies. I almost faint when I see her newly-pierced tongue. The cellophane wrapper covering her bible remains unbroken.
God needs my help…… Emily needs a good sermon right now….. She’s in more trouble than we know.
I’m ready to blast her….
Sobbing, I throw up my hands, screaming, “I give up!”
I hear that still small voice inside of me.
Been waiting for that. Now go into her room and anoint it with oil as you pray the 91st Psalm over her, trusting Me to work in her life. I care about her soul even more than you do.
I continue doing this daily. Then one day, just when I’m tempted to stop, convinced, Nothing’s happening, I spot trash on her dresser.
“Slob!” I fume, wondering, Now what’s this? Probably more bad news….
Trembling, I ask myself, “Do I really wanna know?”
Someone’s handed her a salvation track? And she took it?
I do a hallelujah jig as my eyes well up with joyful tears. The tract reads, “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul?”*
A prayer for salvation follows.
Right there….lying wide open on her dresser and not in her trash can….as if….as if…. she’d been pondering over it….?
Just maybe…..Just maybe? A seed’s been planted, or maybe watered?. I dare to hope, again…..
Handing over my “Junior God” badge, I dig out a spot on her carpet and kneel.
Thank you, Father…Seems You’re working after all…..
And without my preaching.
*Matthew 16:26 (NIV)
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