Monday, March 29, 2010

The Prodigal Mother With An Alabaster Jar

Unable to sleep, I cried and shook in the night, filling up God's jar, (Psalm 56) the one with my name on it, the one He surely must have to replace each year because the previous jar has overflowed. My strong husband reached over with his mighty arm and held me until the shaking stopped, until the sobbing dissipated and sleep finally overcame its battle with my exhausted restlessness.

Morning came, and I vowed that I would rise strong, stay strong. I asked God to take my jar of tears and turn it to fragrant oil that would become a gift to others around me.

Little did I know that a storm was brewing inside my teenage son. He wouldn't rest until he left me crippled with his wind-strong words. Angry with me on the drive to church and school because I denied him a privilege and sometimes the word "no" is hard to hear, he tore into me determined to cause damage.

"I am not going to Mass," he said. "Why should I participate in something that is meaningless for me?" and he rebelliously turned his back on me at the church steps and walked over to school. I remember words flying out of my mouth, words that shook with anger and frustration, words I didn't mean as surely as he could not have meant the words he hurled in my direction. "Then don't ever come to Mass again!" I stood at the steps, flooded with anger, and watched my baby, my thirteen year old baby, walk away.

I entered the church and of course, the tears came back. My two littlest babies, each wrapped an arm around me as I uselessly tried to dry the tears that wouldn't stop. I could feel the eyes of my elderly friends looking toward me. That just brought more tears for the shame I felt in my condition.

I cried as Father placed Jesus into my outstretched hands and I choked my Lord down with my sobs. I cried for myself and I cried for my Savior. Didn't He already die on the cross? Must we keep killing Him again and again with our temper tantrums and lack of grace? Does He have to continue to take the fall when the world doesn't meet our expectations or bring us immediate satisfaction?

I thought about calling in sick to work, and going back home to sleep the pain away, but I didn't. Instead, I let the tears fall behind my sunglasses as I drove to work and stumbled into my office hoping my co-workers wouldn't notice that I was beginning another day with a tear stained face, eyes red, wet and puffy, dark circles growing larger beneath the blues.

Somehow, the Lord carried me through the workday and led me back home to my son. I was afraid to face him again, afraid of another confrontation. My husband began by scolding him for giving me a hard time in the morning and for skipping Mass. Why was it that my son looked astonished, as if he thought he had done nothing wrong? Finally, my tongue released my words of pain. I confessed the tearful night I spent and the tearful day that had preceded that night. I confessed that his words brought those tears back on again, strong. I told him that I knew he didn't mean what he had said, that he was mad because he couldn't get his way, so he had simply intended to hurt me to share the pain he was feeling, and he had succeeded in not only hurting his mother, but in hurting God as well.

He scraped his dinner plate and began to wash the dishes without being told. Later, he came to me and apologized. I wanted to reach out to him; like the prodigal father, I wanted to lavish extravagant love on him. I wanted to act like Mary (John 12:1-11) and pour an alabaster jar of scented oil upon his brow and throw myself at his feet, crying "You're my baby and I am so sorry that our love has to change as you grow." I wanted to transfer all of the emotions that I held within my heart into his own heart so that he would understand how much I love him; how much I will always love him and how afraid I am of his growing up and growing away from me. But instead, I mumbled a half-hearted "I forgive you," and went to bed. Then, after a night of rest, morning broke with the sun of a new day dawning, my son and I embraced with a love beyond words and we could breath a sigh of relief that the storm was finally over.

The next day, while walking towards the church together, we noticed to our horror, that someone had vandalized the front door of our beloved House of God with spray paint graffiti! Always easily upset, I felt myself beginning to shake as I struggled to control my emotions. My son leaned over and whispered in my ear, "Don't think on it all day, Mom. It'll be alright. It was just some dumb kids." Then he put his arm around me for the remainder of Mass and enthusiastically participated in the liturgy. By the time we left the church, the graffiti was thankfully gone, someone had cleaned it away and my heart was stronger from the kind words and gentle touch of my beautiful son.

So who was really the prodigal here? I think in the end, it was me. My son gave me the love and care I so desperately needed, but it took a storm to bring the calm my heart was craving. Like the prodigal son, I had to be brought low before I could realize how incredibly blessed I am. I realize that like the wonderful story of the prodigal son in the gospel of Luke (15:11-32), I re-live that story so often in my own life, in so many ways and as every one of the characters. But the lavish, extravagant love that comes at the end, makes all of the trials and difficulties so worth it! And in my soul, I carry the fragrance of exotic oil from an alabaster jar and I pray that God will help me to release it and share with the world whenever it's needed. I don't want to hold anything back!


  1. Who was the prodigal in this story? I think you both were, each seeking forgiveness and reconciliation by way of somewhat different paths. And both of you helped to mend the rift and heal each other.

    Thank you for sharing this story. I know it will strike a chord in the hearts of others who read it as well.

  2. Why is it that we are the hardest on the ones we love the most. We say and we do things that we regret so deeply to the ones dearest to our hearts. I believe that God in his infinite wisdom knows that we are like this and in his fatherly way gently corrrects us, making us aware of our actions, then forgives us allowing us to move forward.

    God bless you and your loving son. Thank you for sharing this story, NC Sue is so right when she wrote "I know it will strike a chord in the hearts of others who read it as well".

  3. this is a beautiful post. and what i needed to read today, as we walk through holy Week. thank you for that. I was brought here today becuase of your wonderful poast last week when we participated in the Mystical Rose blog hop. I could tell from your post then that you had wonderful things to say, and I confirmed it today reading your post. you have a wonderful way of writing of God's love.

  4. Dear Anne,

    What a beautiful story! It probably didn't seem that way to you at the time, but given the ending, trust me, it was! Just like our sweet little infants have to go through the tantrums of the "two's", children have to go through a stage of rejecting us and our values in order to forge their own. Raised in the faith and knowing what is right doesn't mean there won't be days we wonder as they wander.

    Your son sounds like a fine young man! And why not, with you for his mom?! ☺

    God bless you both and thank you for this beautiful and encouraging post!

  5. It is hard to remember that when our kids say angry things, the anger usually blows quickly away. It is also hard to remember to hold my tongue when they are lashing out with theirs. This is a good reminder. Thanks.

  6. Anne, you write so beautifully about God and love and about your own feelings. This brought tears to my eyes as I remember times like this with my own two sons. And I remember the healing moments, the times we forgave each other, the times we hugged. God bless you all.