When I was a teenager, my older cousin became an aunt. It hit me then, since I’m an only child, I'd never have a niece or nephew. My mom said I could be an aunt through marriage, but I said it wouldn't be the same.
Until I started dating Grant. He already had a four-year old nephew when I met him. I loved Jason from the beginning. He was a cute kid and the nephew I never thought I’d have. He became a Christian in his teens and grew into a fun young man with a great sense of humor.
Until ten years ago, in his late twenties, he became a different person. Unkempt, angry, and distant. He stopped working, moved in with a family member, and basically became a hermit. We were a bit slow to realize the change in him came from drug use. Determined not to enable him and with a young, impressionable son to think about, Grant and I took the tough love route, and basically cut Jason out of our lives.
We only saw him at the few family gatherings he was clean enough to attend over the years. It was painful to see the shadow of himself he’d become. Through those years, I prayed for him. But as time wore on, I gave up on him, wrote him off, decided he was too far gone and we’d never get him back. I still prayed, but I basically only went through the motions, expecting nothing to change, and that we’d eventually get a phone call that he was dead.
But I forgot how big God is. Jason got caught – not for the first time – but on a more serious charge than in the past. This time, no one bailed him out for three months. And while he sat in jail, God got a hold of him. We were skeptical. He went to court and got five years parole with weekly drug tests he can’t fake his way through. If he messes up once, he goes to prison.
Once he got out of jail, he came to church the next Wednesday night. He was clean, neat, well-groomed, and smelled good. I hugged him and told him how happy I was to see him there. That I expected him to come on Sunday morning and night too. He promised he would. He did and kept coming. I was still skeptical. He attended Celebrate Recovery at another church and the only time he missed ours was when he went to services with his CR friends.
As time passed, I saw a change. He got a job and got his own place. He went to the altar, prayed out loud, and started teaching our teens class. I stopped being skeptical, told him I was proud of him, and started enjoying him. At family gatherings, going to movies together, and eating out for lunch. I’d forgotten how much I missed him and routinely cry just from the joy of having him back.
This past year, we celebrated family birthdays, Thanksgiving, and Christmas with Jason. He’s thirty-nine now and he’s been clean for over a year. He's still in church, attends weekly chapel services at a local Christ-based drug rehab facility, has gotten involved in a jail ministry, and recently started a Bible study for ex-addicts.
Life lesson learned - If you have a family member on drugs, don’t give up on them. I don't regret the tough love route, but I do regret writing Jason off. God is bigger than drugs.
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Look for her next Love Inspired title, Winning over the Cowboy, available for preorder on March 21st!