Tetherball & the Prodigal

“The game ends when one player manages to wind the ball all the way around the pole so that it is stopped by the rope.” (Wikepedia)

Years ago, I played this game and enjoyed it. The problem though is that I still play it from time to time on a relational level with both God and with my Prodigal. Instead of  playing ‘Catch’, the ball bounces back and forth until it ties itself around a pole and essentially stops. I don’t really like ending the game this way.

Many of us who have lost a child to death will fear losing another. Before we buried our  child, we felt like most do who have not…that such a tragedy only happens to ‘the other guy’. Once we have experienced this trauma, we now know that such things don’t always happen to someone else and we are very much aware that it can happen again. In fact, there are many in the Grief Community that have tragically lost more than one child.

When we have a ‘Prodigal’, the pain is very real and very heartbreaking. It’s difficult to share our heartache even among the grieving because there is still Hope that the Prodigal may return for they still live and breathe. This is true. However, it can still be extremely heart-wrenching when our child has cut off all communication with us. To some degree, they are dead to us even though they live (Luke 15:24). We grieve for them, for the loss of our relationship with them, for their complete absence from our lives. We love them deeply and miss them horribly. We worry, we pray, we wait. At least when we can still play ‘catch’, there still exists a back and forth. But when all communication has been cut off, it’s the end of everything as in Tetherball.

I have played Tetherball with my God, too. There are times when He has tried to show me something in advance to prepare me for what’s coming and instead of me ‘catching’ it, I have allowed it to wrap around a pole and walked away from it as in ‘game over’. About one month before my Prodigal cut off all communication and I was kicked out of her life, there was a Scripture that seemed to be popping up everywhere. I’d receive it in some article in my email, I would happen to read it in my Bible, someone else would post it on line. I’d see it, it got my attention each time, but I refused to ‘catch’ it. I didn’t like it and so I made a conscious effort to walk away from it. God was doing His part by throwing it at me, but I’d let it wrap itself around a pole and ignore it. The Scripture was:

Matthew 10:37 (NKJV)

37 He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.

I don’t like that Scripture. My life has revolved around my children. After having been barren for seven years, having endured four pregnancy losses, my children that survived became my treasure in life. They became first in my life and in my heart. There were times when Jesus said things in the Scriptures that caused folks to turn away and stop following Him (John 6:66). (As a side note, yes, I just took note of the ‘666’ in that verse…but I digress). How could God possibly say to me: ‘he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me’ after all I had endured to simply have my children? Then my twenty year old son was killed on top of everything else. Was I now to place God before those I still had left? But we can’t cherry pick with the Word of God. We can’t embrace only the verses that we like and that make us feel good, while ignoring the rest. And turning away from my Lord was/is not an option for me, no matter what.

So, He was trying to prepare me for what was to come, and I walked away each time pretending not to hear. Then it happened. My Prodigal shut the door…no…SLAMMED the door shut. Within five days the stress overtook me. The first week I was unable to raise or lower my head without using my hands to do so. It was as if my head had become a bowling ball attached to a string of spaghetti called my neck. The pain was excruciating. I could not find relief. I couldn’t turn my head even while lying in bed. No pain pills even made a dent in the pain. Though after the initial week I was able to move somewhat, this continued on for three months. The following three months were a bit better and I no longer had to use my hands, but I still had to hold my head straight for the slightest wrong move would have me again reeling in agonizing pain. After six months, it finally let up. For a few days, I had complete relief. Then, my ear began hurting. After two weeks, the pain of that became so severe that I went to the ER. They gave me anti-biotics and flushed my ear until the ceiling was spinning. After one week, I returned to the ER because the pain had only increased. They placed me on a stronger anti-biotic along with ear drops. Within another five days, the pain increased even more. I called the ER because at this point all I could do is lay in bed and cry. In addition, Vertigo set in. The slightest wrong move and the room was spinning out of control to the point that I was clutching my mattress to hold on for fear of flying off my bed. The ER said there was nothing more they could do for me and referred me to a specialist.

The specialist discovered three things: 1- I had an outer ear infection; 2- I had an inner ear infection in the same ear which I was told was quite uncommon; 3- I was allergic to the ear drops I was prescribed. She first addressed the vertigo by performing the Epley Maneuver. It took two strong women to hold me down and everyone out in the waiting room heard my screams as I pleaded with the women to not let go of me. I was certain I was going to spin like a ‘top’ right out into space as they gently turned my head from one side to the other. I did finally recover over the following couple of weeks though it took about a month for my hearing to return for I had lost that, too, in the process.

Yes, having a Prodigal can cause us great pain on many levels. I finally caught the ball the Lord was wanting me to catch. I said ‘Yes, Lord’ and placed Him first. I received some texts and calls from my Prodigal finally, but they were beyond mean, they were quite cruel. As a result of being told that I was going to have another dead child and it would be all my fault, I emailed my Prodigal and said: “I love you and always will, but good-bye…please do not contact me again”. OMG! What had I done??? Another Momma who had buried two and was also dealing with a Prodigal encouraged me and called it: ‘Tough Love”. Yes…tough on me. But it was done; I had drawn the line in the sand after being told I would have another dead child. I stopped playing catch with my Prodigal and started playing catch with my Lord.

That was three months ago.

Just a couple of days ago, I received a text from my Prodigal…the first contact in three months. It said: ‘I love you, Mom’. I received others, as well. She is now facing possible skin cancer as moles on her front and back have become deformed. Reconciliation is in process and we shall face whatever lies ahead… together… allowing God to be first in both of our hearts. All prayers are gratefully welcomed.

Image result for mother daughter playing catch photo

(((HUGS)))  Jude Gibbs, Author of ‘Gifts from the Ashes’ available at:
Articles on WordPress.com: https://wordpress.com/posts/bereavedparentsblog.wordpress.com.

Also, a Contributor on ‘The Mighty’: https://themighty.com/author/jude-gibbs/

Please help spread the Word. TY! (((HUGS)))



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