15 December 2017

My ‘Prodigal’ Son

Last issue we featured the story of Scott McNamara. This issue we hear Scott’s mother, Sheila, tell her story about how she coped with Scott’s journey to faith. The nightmare began 4 years ago this month. Satan had found a way back into the mind of my precious son.

I asked myself, “How could this happen?” My son was saved, born again, a new creation, he had given his life to Jesus. I thought he was safe from the evil prey of the devil, I thought the power of the Holy Spirit would keep him from falling. I was wrong. I was devastated, I was heartbroken, I felt like I had lost my son and the grief overwhelmed me. My heart sank so low I couldn’t eat or sleep. My faith was seriously challenged. My son was an addict. It looked like the power that alcohol had over him was stronger than the power of God. How could I tell my daughter? Her love and prayers for her brother had played a huge part in him giving his life to Jesus and being set free from drugs 5 years previously. If I was struggling to come to terms with this, how would she cope? They are extremely close. I knew I had to protect her. If I prayed hard enough I believed my son would be set free again and she need never know.

When eventually I came to God in desperation for an answer it was only then I was able to rise above the seriousness of the situation. Prayer and fasting was all I could do. During those precious times spent with God, He gave me hope and my faith was strengthened. I wrote down the encouraging words that came to me: “No-one and nothing is too hard for God.” I knew in my spirit He would bring my son to the end of himself. I had to keep reminding myself that only God could see the finished result of my prayers and I knew His timing was perfect. But in my daily life, coping with the struggles and sadness, I honestly felt my timing was perfect; I wanted to see the answer now. All I could see was a selfish man getting away with causing pain and anguish to so many. UNFORGIVABLE, we would say, but again God brought me back to His word: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:31-32) “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” (Colossians 3:12-14) There were days when my faith was strong but there were also days when I pleaded with God and would question His promises and His timing. God would say: “Be still and know that I am God.” Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches.” God is in charge. He knows what He is doing, when He is going to do it and how He is going to carry it out. I must trust Him again and thank Him for the precious gift of FAITH He has given me.

One of the most difficult times, on this most challenging journey of my faith was when Scott responded in a church meeting, openly repenting. His face physically changed and his voice was different. I was elated, God had given me back my precious son and his sister need never know what he had been through. That was short lived as three weeks later he was drinking again. The doubts came flooding back; how much more God, what would he have to go through? I needed help and support in this battle for my son’s life.

Three very dear friends came alongside me, as we met every week to pray and fast for a life we knew belonged to God. That’s when circumstances in his life got much worse, even life threatening, because now he was separated from his wife and baby, and homeless. I knew it was time to break the news to my daughter.

I adopted my daughter from a Chinese orphanage. She has cerebral palsy, which affects her balance, the use of her right side and she has no speech. I spent two years working as a volunteer in China, with no desire to adopt a child, but God spoke very clearly to me, “Will you lay down your life for this child?” In obedience to His plan, I said yes. After seeing many miracles that needed to happen to secure her adoption, I brought her back to England when she was almost five years old.

When my son first met her, there was an instant connection. At that time he was not a Christian, so every day my daughter and I prayed for him. We didn’t know then that he was a cocaine addict. About a year later he gave his life to God and was miraculously healed of this addiction. He became like a daddy to my daughter helping with her care and bringing much joy into her life.

When I broke the news to her she was inconsolable. I had to keep her off school for a few days. She said, “My family is falling apart.” Then she decided to write him a letter. She told him she would pray everyday for God to give her back her loving brother. She told him that sometimes we let go of God but He is still holding our hand, and she told him to remember all the miracles He had done in our family. The letter was very long, very bold, yet extremely loving. Her courage and hope for her brother helped me in those dark days that followed. Every night she wept and prayed for one hour pleading with God to give her back the brother she loved so much.

Many people began to pray and fast for my son and I know those prayers kept him alive. I wanted to help him practically by giving him a place to live but God said, NO! I was to sacrifice my daily life to prayer and fasting and God would do the rest. God reminded me of the story of the prodigal son who was closest to repentance when he was homeless and sleeping with the pigs. How did I cope? Only by continual prayer, the support of my friends and family and the abundant grace of God. God gave me the faith to believe He would bring my son to a pure and full redemption that would be permanent and surpass everything that had gone before. Active prayer and patience were the key, a lesson I had learnt well while living in China.

The turning point for me came on Christmas Day 2008. My son spent two weeks with my daughter and me. She showed him unconditional love, but I failed miserably and got angry and frustrated with him. Some close friends had invited us for Christmas dinner but I was too ill to get out of bed so they went without me. For the first time in two weeks I had uninterrupted time with my Lord, that was more precious than gold. I knew in my spirit this nightmare was coming to an end, even though nothing had changed outwardly. God said to me, “All is well. I will complete the work I have begun.”

A few days later my son left and the miracles began to happen. He let God take his hand and lead him to the right places. God did it His way in His timing and it was perfect. The following Christmas was spent rejoicing as a complete family and my son and daughter-in-law renewed their wedding vows on New Years Day 2010.

One lesson I have learnt through all of this is that God’s love is always the same, even though my faith may waver and my love may be sadly lacking at times!

Sheila McNamara