December 18th, 2016

Josh’s Christmas Story

Every year around this time I write a Christmas post. Some reflection of the season, a realization of the meaning of Jesus’ birth, God’s gift to man. This year as I’ve been pondering it, one story continues to come to mind. A story I wrote years ago. A story of the unconditional, sacrificial love a boy shows his mother. Maybe because that is the point of Christmas. Giving without expectation. Acting out of love. Loving even when it hurts. Maybe that’s the lesson I need to learn this Christmas and live out in 2017. Perhaps you do as well.

So, let me set this scene which is found in Running in Such a Way: Josh’s Story. Josh has watched his mother slip further into alcoholism for thirteen years when he finally starts believing God for her healing. Instead of enabling her, he begins praying for her. Instead of hating her, he attempts to love her. When they make plans for Christmas, he is shocked when his mother offers to meet him at his church on Christmas Eve. We pick up our story there—

Disappointment set in as the pastor began speaking at the realization that she wasn’t coming. He followed along in the book of Luke, fighting the tears. Loving her seemed to include constant disappointment. It had been for his own survival that he distanced himself from her through the years.

“God has given us the perfect gift of love and salvation in His Son, Jesus Christ,” Pastor Derrick concluded. “He wants you to accept that gift and offer love to others in return.”

The hardness that had begun to build in Josh’s heart melted. As Pastor closed in prayer, Josh made a commitment to love his mother, regardless of the cost.

**

The minute Josh let himself into his mother’s house, he gagged from the horrific smell. Covering his nose and mouth with his arm, he hurried into the kitchen. Opening the window above the sink he realized it wasn’t his mother’s decomposing body that reeked, but curdled milk from a dozen cereal bowls stacked in the sink. The buzzing of flies caused him to turn to the left. Three trash bags filled to the top leaned against the wall next to the overflowing trashcan. The sight of maggots at the top of the bags mixed with the stench had him running to the bathroom to vomit.

Once he composed himself, he entered the family room. After silencing the blaring TV, he glanced toward her seemingly lifeless form in the easy chair. The snoring alerted him that she wasn’t dead. Still wearing her work clothes, her feet were up and head back, mouth wide open–her familiar passed out position. A bottle of gin, almost empty, sat in between a glass with half melted ice cubes and a small plate with a quarter of a sandwich. One day without drinking, that’s all he wanted. He couldn’t understand how that could be too much to ask.

Josh knew he had two choices–leave and she’d never know he came or stay and show her love.

Three empty bottles of gin sat among a dozen used coffee cups on the kitchen counter. Was she keeping them as trophies now or just too lazy to throw them out?

Thirty minutes to clean up the trash pile, an hour to clean the bathrooms and vacuum, and another hour and a half to scrub the dishes, kitchen floors, and counters. She never flinched, only snored louder. Josh prayed for healing from her addiction as he threw the bottles in the recycle can. He prayed for her health as he scrubbed the floors and counters. Remembering the story of the bleeding woman, he professed to God that he believed his mother could be healed, if only she would seek Him.

The one room he didn’t go in was her bedroom. The door ajar, the smell that lingered into the hallway caused his stomach to turn again.

“Lord, I can’t conquer that one tonight,” he said, passing by as he vacuumed.

Right before he left Josh sorted through the mound of mail on the dining room table, throwing away ads and junk mail and making a neat stack of the bills. There were new credit card bills and thin envelopes from the bank which were probably overdraw notices. He wanted to save her from herself, but he knew the time had come. She needed to hit rock bottom.

It was after 10 p.m. when he placed the Christmas card to her on the clean kitchen counter. 

Hi Mom, he wrote on a sticky note. Sorry you missed church tonight. Call me tomorrow if you still want to go to a movie.

He placed the note on the card. Looking at her one more time, tears came to his eyes. Maybe he needed to be hurt by her to remind him he still cared. And he needed to care.

“I lift her up to You,” he silently prayed. “Please save her…somehow.”

Who is God calling you to love in such a way this Christmas? What are you waiting for, my friend? I pray God will give us both the courage and strength to show His unconditional, sacrificial love this season. After all, that’s what Christmas is all about.

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