Those boys! Her foot pressed ever harder on the accelerator while her brow furrowed in anger and frustration. Tears ran down her cheeks while her mouth was set in a firm grimace. How could they? She had worked so hard to make everything perfect! The leg of lamb, garlic smashed potatoes, asparagus garden salad would have been perfect. They were her favorite dish; dessert was homemade lemon meringue pie; perfectly browned. She set the table as beautifully as her mother had taught her and planned everything for a quick and easy clean-up so she could enjoy the day with her family. It was to have been, should have been HER DAY! Mother’s Day!
She stood on the brakes and pulled off the road as she realized her rage could make a bad situation worse. “Get ahold of yourself, Kathy.” She scolded, and then allowed herself to collapse into the steering wheel in a cascade of tears.
She was furious, scared, angry, disappointed, horrified, and hurt and so much more all at once. She did not know how to react first. Her son, her youngest, got himself arrested Saturday night. ARRESTED! Thrown in jail on a marijuana charge! His brother had come over to tell his parents.
She and Frank had been sitting in the living room, watching their favorite Saturday night show when their older son had burst in and sat down on the couch, clearly upset.
“Mom, Dad, I have to tell you something.” JR started.
“What’s wrong, Bud?” Dad sat up straight in his recliner. “What’s happened?”
“It’s Jackson. Jack has a problem. Well, more than a problem, um, he’s in trouble.” J.R. managed to get out.
He had Mom’s full attention. “What is the matter with Jackson? Is he hurt?”
“No, Mom, he’s, he’s, Jackson was arrested and is in jail! But if we go down we can bail him out, I called and checked. We can make it all right. He had a roach, oh sorry, marijuana…”
“I know what a ‘roach’ is, J.R.” Mom said tersely. “I thought he was at work.”
“Well, yeah, he was, he was delivering a pizza and lit one for the drive, but then he ran a red light and got pulled over,” Frank explained. “We just need to pay his bail, and he can get out. His bond is six hundred dollars so we can bail him out for sixty dollars and get him home!”
She had sat there in disbelief. Drugs. Jail. Bond.
Mom reached out her hand as only she could. “Give me the phone.” She commanded. She dialed the non-emergency number for the sheriff’s department and asked for the jail, gave the man her son’s name and asked if he was there.
“Yes ma’am, “responded a bored jailer. “If you come down to the jail you can bail him out….”
She cut the jailer off, “Can you give him a message for me? Can you tell him to enjoy his night and he can figure out how to get home because no one will come? He buttered his bread, and now he can sleep in it. It is his mess.” Her voice was tight the fury barely under control.
“Yes Ma’am, I’ll be happy to give him the message!”
She thanked the jailer, got off the phone and pointed at J.R. “Don’t you dare bail him out! He can figure his way home, do you hear me?”
“Now, Babe, don’t you think that is a bit harsh?” Frank, Sr. suggested. “After all, it’s not like he robbed a bank or killed someone. J.R. and I can go down to the jail in the morning…..”
“I’m going to bed.” She said and walked out of the room, took her shower, her sleeping pill and climbed into bed in a fury of motion. She had suspected both sons were smoking pot, and it angered and terrified her. She said one simple prayer that in its own strange way would be answered the next day. “God, get me through this!”
Mother’s Day dawned, she got up, went to church, left through the back door so no one would have the chance to talk to her, ask where Jackson was, wish her Happy Mother’s Day. At home, she went through the motions of preparing the Mother’s Day meal, but her heart was no longer in it. About noon, J.R. walked in and behind him was an exhausted and chastened Jackson with a bouquet of flowers.
“Now Mom, I didn’t bail him out, he was released on his own recognizance. I just couldn’t leave him to out there; the jail is in the middle of nowhere. Look, he has flowers for you; you know how you love flowers.”
Mom looked over at Jackson; ice and pain were in her eyes. “I don’t want those. I don’t care what you do with them. “
Jackson reacted as if his mom had struck him. Never had he expected this type of response from his mother. She was always the one who had fought for him in high school, always the one who spent the extra time to get him to do the homework he tried to hide from her; she had championed him from his earliest memories. She had always seemed to understand. Other kids had wanted a Mom like he had. He got his answer quickly.
“How could you? Everything I have done for you and you repay me with, with this? Arrested? Drugs? You were brought up in the church! You were taught right from wrong! Now you do this? Get out of my sight!” Mom was sobbing.
Jackson tripped over a chair as he backed up, struck a second time by the physical blow of her words. “Mom, I’m sorry,” was all he could say.
Almost hysterical, she grabbed her keys, stormed out of the house, jumped into the car, and taken off. We join her as she drove maniacally into an undeveloped area where she knew she would not have to watch for people or dogs.
As she sat, sobbing into her steering wheel, beating it with her fist there was a knock on her window. She looked up, and a sheriff’s deputy parked behind her, light’s flashing. Oh great, they always show up when you don’t need them. She wiped her face with her hands and lowered the window. “Am I doing something wrong, Officer?” she asked. She had pulled over in a deserted area, so she knew she was not disturbing anyone.
“No ma’am.” He answered carefully. “May I see your driver’s license and registration?”
“Oh sure, sure,” she answered; wishing she had not quit smoking as now would be a very good time for a cigarette.
He studied them for a moment and made some notes, then handed them back. “We got a call from a very concerned family about you, ma’am. I am glad I found you in one piece. I need to call this in that you are okay. Can your family come out and talk to you? They are pretty upset.”
“THEY are upset? THEY!”
“Your son told me about what he did. You know, he isn’t the first kid to get into trouble. As bad as you feel right now, I can guarantee you he is in worse shape.”
“Oh yeah, I bet.” She answered, bitterly.
“Jackson said you go to church, over at Freedom, right? My wife and I just started going there. Good Pastor.”
“Yes, I go to Freedom. Not that it did my family any good. What did I do wrong? What didn’t I do right?”
“You were fine, I am sure. Kids are kids, Kathy; may I call you Kathy?”
“Sure, that’s my name.” she answered with a ghost of a smile.
“I don’t want to preach, I’m a cop, not a preacher, but something that struck me was something that Jesus said. He said in Matthew that we should forgive those who sin against us seventy times seven times. I think that means every time. What do you think, Kathy? Did Jackson sin against God or you? “
“You are right there, but his sin against God is between him, and God and his sin against the State of Florida is between him and the State of Florida, right? So that leaves just him and you.”
Kathy had no words; she just stared at the deputy wondering at the wisdom he had shared.
“Now I don’t mean to overstep here, but my guess is you have had to say you were sorry a few times. Now your son wants to tell you in the worst way how sorry he is. Jesus said seventy times seven…. Looks to me like you have a pretty simple decision to make, whether or not to show him, Jesus.”
Kathy stared at the officer as the truth entered her heart. It was true. Jesus had already forgiven Jackson. She knew she had to, not only because of Jesus teaching but because of her love of all of her family. She needed to forgive all of them as badly as they; especially Jackson needed to hear her forgive him.
Kathy looked over at the Sheriff’s Deputy; “Deputy … D’Angelo? Are you a deputy sheriff or an angel here from God? I want to thank you. You helped me to realize something I needed to remember. Thank you, and God Bless you.”
“Yes, Ma’am,” Deputy D’Angelo smiled. “Now I really have to go, seems there’s a problem that needs handling. You be safe now.” He climbed into his patrol car, turned around, and well, where did he go? Kathy shook her head, wondered if she had just had a conversation with an angel, there was no trace a police car had ever been there.
Kathy put her car in gear, turned around, and drove home. She walked in the door and Frank Sr. and Jr. and Jackson looked up at her.
“Mom…” Jackson started. That “Mom” hand stopped him.
“I need to say something to all of you. I let this get out of perspective and punished all of you for Jackson’s mistake. Dear, I should have let you finish what you were trying to tell me last night, but I was too angry. J.R., you did the right thing by getting your brother when he was released this morning. Jackson, thank you for bringing me flowers, it was very thoughtful. I know you never meant to spoil Mother’s Day, I know you made a bad choice that you will have to deal with. I am sorry I was so harsh to you, and I need to ask that you forgive me, that all of you forgive me for behaving so badly.”
Jackson was up and had his mother in a bear hug. “I am so sorry Mom, so sorry, forgive you? Please forgive me, I was so stupid….”
J.R. was there to giving his lop-sided grin. “It’s okay Mom, no harm done.”
Frank Sr. sighed with relief. “Jackson, where are those flowers you got for your mother, let’s get them in some water. J.R.; let’s get the water on for the asparagus. I don’t know about the rest of you but I am hungry!”
“Oh, one other thing, I was surprised the police were out looking for me, I didn’t think they did stuff like that.” Mom commented.
The three men looked at each other confused.
“Babe, we never called the police, why would you think we did?” Frank asked.
“J.R., you know the deputies around here,” Mom said. “Do you know of Deputy D’Angelo?”
“Uh, no, or he’s new, but there is no D’Angelo that I know of,” J.R. answered. “Why?”
Mom smiled, she remembered that angry statement she had made as an excuse for her evening prayer. “My prayer last night was answered in an unusual way. Now let’s get this meal going so I can love on my family. Where are Joe and Irene? Jackson, will you say blessing today with a special thank you for blessings received?”
Jackson gave his huge smile and gave Mom another hug.
The doorbell rang, and Joe, Mom’s eldest son, and his wife, Irene were there.
“Come in! You’re just in time for dinner!” Frank said as they came in. “We have had quite a time here.”
“Talk later, food now!” Jackson said.
Everyone sat down, Jackson prayed, and Mom watched her family and realized what a perfect day it was, because of God’s answer to prayer.
Part of this story is autobiographical. Jackson (not his real name) continued to have problems with drugs and ‘graduated’ into cocaine. I only wish I had had that angel when “Jackson” was arrested for possession of under 20 grams of pot and possession of paraphernalia. The next ten years were to be the most challenging and frustrating Frank and I had ever faced as we struggled to get our son out of the drug scene.
The following year, on Mother’s Day Eve, sheriff’s deputies showed up at the house to arrest Jackson on a violation of probation from that original drug charge. I asked them if they knew what Sunday was. They had forgotten and were somewhat sheepish as they confessed they had forgotten to get cards and flowers for their own moms and wives. I asked if I guaranteed Jackson would be waiting for them Monday morning, would they let me have him for Mother’s Day. They agreed. Jackson was taken into custody that Monday morning. He called me at work to tell me they were there. I warned him to be cooperative; his voice shook with nerves and shame. That will be another story.
What I can tell you is this. Love your children where they are. Don’t sugar coat, don’t try to protect them from consequences of their actions, but don’t turn them out. Tough love is not kicking them to the curb. Tough love is loving them through earned consequences and being there to try to provide guidance, reassurance, and most importantly, unconditional love. They need you, more than you know and more than they will admit. It was love that brought Jackson back. Love from God and from his family who never gave up on him.
Verses referred to:
Matthew 18:21-23 (NIV)
21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
Hebrews 13:1-3 (NIV)
13 Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. 2 Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. 3 Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.