You know those old Turner movies that show time advancing by the fast-flipping pages of a day calendar? No parent of a struggling child sees time that way – ever. You won’t hear them say, “I can hardly believe a month has flown by since we last heard from her!” You’ll hear, “No communication since July 26th. It’s been 29 days.”
At a breakfast date I listened to a friend be sad that things were not better or back to normal after seven tumultuous months. I pray with a mom whose son is still out there using drugs year after year, not yet ready to get help. A couple other mother friends of mine have children in half-way houses who seem to have bought into recovery only half-way. They are waiting. Every long day on their calendar gets x-ed out when they want so desperately to circle it. “For years when Ryan was addicted, my first thought before I got out of bed,” said one mom whose son is over a year in recovery and doing well, “was, ‘Maybe today will be the day.'” The day the nightmare ends, the sadness ends, the waiting ends.
In my book, Just Keep Going: Spiritual Encouragement from the Mom of a Troubled Teen, I reference something Bryan Loritts said at a conference our son John attended. God is working in the burden of waiting. “I can trust you with this weight,” Loritts believes God assures us, “I’m building something.”
“I’m building something.” What could be worth building in exchange for pain? Maybe compassion, faith, endurance, gratitude, experience, humility? Resilience and the inability to be shocked are two of my favorites from my personal God construction job. I love it when a parent tells me what they think will horrify me and I can calmly look them in the eye and say, “Yeah, it happens.” That’s huge for a sheltered suburban Christian princess. Our son in long-term recovery told me that the fact that he’s seen a lot and heard it all has helped him tremendously. In his job on a college campus dealing with the oft-occurring crisis and in his work with others in recovery he says he’s grateful for the less-than lovely of his past. No freak-out time required. That’s huge for the son of a sheltered suburban Christian princess.
We want more faith. We want resiliency and strength, compassion and humility. Well, each x-ed out day on the calendar is brick and mortar. Each stab in the heart and sickness in the gut is a support beam in the building process of you, and of me. It matters, it counts and it’s going up if we motor through and let it shape us for good. What God builds, lasts. Other people will see it in you and find shelter from their storm. It’s your edifice and apparently it needed to be built — this way, taking this long. I don’t know if that helps you, but it helped me in the waiting.