It never dawned on me a baby was the answer. A son to save our son. I can’t write this without crying.
A year ago, I was praying for God to do something, anything, to rescue Luke.
At 19, our oldest son was in college. He had a job washing dishes after school in a posh restaurant. And came home every Sunday with his laundry, hugged his mama, and ate dinner with the family. But sometimes tears of sadness would streak my cheeks while I washed Luke’s clothes. The smell of marijuana was always there. I knew Luke was smoking pot every day and I worried about his health. More than that, I worried about his heart. He just seemed kind of numb. Like he was getting by. Just surviving life. The shine was gone from his eyes and I ached for him. So many times I knelt in front of the washing machine, holding Luke’s clothes in my hands, pleading with God to save our son.
Along with his drug use, Luke was a reckless driver. He spent most of his 16th year grounded for wrecking two cars. By 17, he had to leave his Christian high school because of drinking and drugs. At 18, Luke moved out of our home and was carrying his own car insurance.
“If you can afford to smoke weed, you can afford to pay your own way in the world,” Scott told Luke after high school. “And don’t come around if you’re stoned. I don’t want your little brothers seeing you that way.” I walked down the hall, closed the door, and cried in our bedroom during this conversation between Luke and his dad. I just couldn’t believe this was happening to our family.
Where was our happy, blond boy who liked to hug people? The smiling kid who never stopped kicking a soccer ball. The boy who completely enjoyed church and youth group. At 8th grade graduation, Luke won the award for godly character at his Christian school. He went on several mission trips and truly seemed to love Jesus in junior high. Then high school hit.
What happened? I asked myself numerous times when Luke was a teenager. It took Scott and me about a year to realize our son had gone sideways. And another year to admit it wasn’t some minor rebellion that would soon pass. Luke wasn’t getting back to his old self no matter how much I prayed, or how many restrictions Scott placed on him. Our son had changed. And it broke our hearts.
Early one Saturday morning, a highway patrolman came to our door. We’d already had highway patrolmen come to our house twice with Luke after he’d been in accidents, but this highway patrolman was alone, carrying papers in his hand. Luke lived an hour away in Chico and all I could think was, this man is here to tell us Luke is dead. I was the only one up that morning, reading my Bible by the light of the lamp before dawn. The hills were rosy with sunrise now and I began to shake all over. Our front door is mostly glass. I watched the highway patrolman walk from his patrol car to our front porch. It seemed to take forever. By the time he said, “Mam,” I could hardly breathe. “I found your mail all over the road.” The young highway patrolman, he looked somewhere in his late twenties, handed me a pile of envelopes.
At first, I couldn’t reach out to receive the mail. Finally, it hit me, the highway patrolman wasn’t here about Luke. I stepped towards him, falling into sobbing relief as I took the mail from him. Tears streaming down my face, I reached out, and kind of hugged him with the mail in my hand. Thanking him that our son, Luke, away at college I explained, wasn’t dead. The poor highway patrolman stiffened in surprise. He put his hand on his weapon, not like he was about to use it, like I had scared him too. He patted me awkwardly. Apologized for frightening me. And then left as fast as he could.
That’s when I realized, I was living on the edge of terror all the time, wondering when Luke would die. Would he kill someone in a car accident along with himself? Would he accidentally overdose on drugs like Scott’s youngest brother? Would he die in a Marijuana-induced motorcycle accident at 21 years old like Scott’s oldest brother?
My iPhone rang around this time. I didn’t recognize the number, so almost didn’t answer it. But I finally clicked on the phone. I was always worried about Luke. “Are you Luke’s mom?” said a sweet little old lady on the line. “I am,” I said. The lady introduced herself and then went on to tell me about the auto accident she and Luke had the day before. “It was my fault,” she assured me. “Luke was such a nice boy. He was so worried about me. He kept asking if I was okay. I invited him to Bible study at our church. I hope he will come.”
I knew about the accident. Luke had called us after it happened. He was driving our old Suburban because his car had been totaled in another accident a few months prior. We’d only let Luke use the Suburban because the previous accident hadn’t been his fault. A lot of Luke’s accidents were his fault, but he also had several accidents in which the other driver was cited as causing the crash.
“I’m praying Luke will return to the Lord,” the little old lady told me. “My husband and I run a prodigal program at our church. We pray for children who’ve left the church to return. I know the Lord has his hand on your Luke. I was listening to the song How Great Thou Art when I crashed into him.”
We had a lovely conversation about Jesus after laughing about this. Actually, I laughed, the little old lady was sincere as they come. I assured her we weren’t going to turn the accident into our insurance. We would just live with the big dent in the side of the Suburban. “That is so nice of you,” she said. “My husband will be so happy. I’ve had a lot of little accidents now that I’m getting older. It’s hard on our insurance. Luke told me he’s had a lot of little accidents too. I’m praying for God to do something special in Luke’s life so he knows how much God loves him.”
Most of Luke’s accidents weren’t “little” but I didn’t correct her. She was such a sweet thing, and she promised to pray for Luke. By now I had everyone praying for Luke. I was thankful the sweet, little old lady was praying too.
A few months later, Luke came home early one morning from college to tell us his girlfriend, Alex, was pregnant. Things are going to get really hard for Luke now, I thought with my heart breaking, but I didn’t say this out loud. Instead, I said, “Children are a blessing from the Lord, no matter how they come.” Then I cried with Luke.
Over the next two months, I watched Luke struggle to stop using marijuana. He lost even more weight and couldn’t sit still for a minute. When I hugged him, he felt like a live wire. All bones and nerves and trembling. I knew he was in a terrible battle and I intensified my prayers for him. I was so grateful for the Army recruiter who helped Luke get clean and encouraged him to find his future in the military.
Luke left for boot camp right around Mother’s Day. It was the best Mother’s Day present I’ve ever received, even though saying goodbye when Luke left was really hard. But then the letters began arriving in the mailbox, handwritten notes asking for forgiveness, Luke apologizing for “being a punk in high school” he wrote. “And thank you for unconditionally loving me, and for Dad’s discipline. I didn’t know how much I needed that,” he said in his letters. “I’m better for it here. I’m doing really good at basic training because of the way you raised me,” he wrote. “A lot of the kids here have no discipline. I know what discipline is. And I know you love me. I’m doing my best now.”
When his boot camp picture arrived in the mail with one of his letters, I held it in my hands and cried happy tears. The light was back in Luke’s eyes, and it was the first boot camp picture I’d ever seen where a soldier was smiling.
Now that Luke’s son has arrived, he’s always smiling. Luke’s life isn’t easy. He gets up at 5 a.m. to get to work down in Sacramento and he’s in the National Guard until he finishes college and then goes active duty. He’s tired, and worries about his baby, but loves his son so much. At barely 20, Luke’s adulting, and it’s hard. But it’s good. So good. I’m proud of him and Alex.
I can’t believe a baby saved Luke from destruction. Just like God used his own Son, Jesus, to save the world. What mercy to give us such love when we don’t deserve it. What wonder to use a baby to save sinners such as us.