The weekly cleaning is in full swing. I’m in fine fettle, swishing here, swooshing there; the dust is flying. Returning from the basement on a mission, I crest the top of the stairs, and I pause. For there, just before me on the rug, sits a pair of slippers. And like that, their owner comes to mind…
Over the recent Thanksgiving holiday, I sat down with my friend James Golden (aka Bo Snerdley) for an interview on his radio show, The Rush Hour. At his request, I told the story of our oldest son. I told him that for years, we watched him descend into the world of drug addiction, which culminated in homelessness. It was a hellish journey that went on and on, and it broke our hearts in two.
I told James that in the midst of it, God began to do a great work in my husband and me. Even though our son continued to slide, we surrendered him fully into the hands of God, and we said to Him, “Now us. Work in us.” If you listen to the interview (I’ll link it below), you will hear how my husband was miraculously delivered from his lifelong anger one day as he wept face down on the floor. That anger had hurt our son deeply, and now his father had come to repentance.
Meanwhile, God put His finger on my (dis)eased place–my lifelong fear. It was fear that had fueled my efforts to control, and it was that duo that hurt my own relationship with our son. (“Control and anger,” as I said to James, “are antithetical to relationship.”)
Anyway. By the summer of 2020, our child had gone missing, lost in the homeless encampments of Texas. We had no proof that he was alive; only my faith assured me that he was still alive, that he was not dead, and that God had it all in His hands. Then one day my stalwart husband said to me, “I have to go looking for him.”
“Babe,” I said. “Are you prepared for the worst?”
“As much as I can be,” he replied. Then this, “I have to know that I tried to find him. I just want him to know how valuable he is to me.”
As I recounted in the interview, my husband and a close friend dropped everything. They walked away from their jobs and spent six days in the searing Texas heat. Carrying his last known photograph, a mug shot, they scoured the mouth of hell, stepping over used drug needles. Stepping around feces. Watching other people’s children shooting up, passed out, folded in half, living in squalor, knowing, all the time, that somewhere in that misery was our child.
Here is the part that I did not tell James on the show. There were two significant encounters that they had on their mission, and they both came to me today as I looked at those worn-down slippers and thought of the man on whose feet they belong.
One day as they were searching, they encountered a gentleman who had brought his pickup truck to the camp. He was busy unloading mattresses for the homeless to use, and so they approached him. They showed him the flyer, told him the story, and asked if he had seen our son anywhere. No, he said, he hadn’t seen him. But he looked at my husband that day and said five words that ring in my ears even now.
“You’re a bad-ass dad.”
During our nightly phone call to debrief, my warrior husband relayed the stranger’s words. Not before or since have I come up with any better words to describe my blue-eyed man. “Absolutely,” I said with conviction. “You ARE a bad-ass dad.”
On their last night on the ground, they found a homeless man whose vice was alcohol. Squinting at the flyer, he thought perhaps he had seen him and could take them to his last known location. As they drove through the black Texas night on their mission, these were the words that came to them over and over in the dark.
“I wish my dad was looking for me. I wish my dad was looking for me.”
Isn’t this the Christmas story in a nutshell? A child estranged, gone missing. A father, desperate to find him. A trip into the the pit of human misery. The restoration of relationship, and redemption.
This, my friend, is exactly what God has done for us. He did not send His Son into the pit of our misery because He could barely stand us. No! He sent Him because of His breaking heart and His longing to have us restored, made whole, returned to the family fold.
The worst earthly father is a terrible perversion of the Heavenly Father. The best earthly dad is but a dim reflection of Him. Regardless of which kind we’ve received, the desire of every heart is to know the love of a father; to know that we are safe and secure, that we belong.
Christmas is the answer to our cries. The arrival of the Christ Child is the proof that we do have a Father. That He has come looking. That His love is too great to be measured. That He wants us each for His own.
That’s the story the slippers tell today.
From my family to yours, Merry Christmas!