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It’s ten days before Christmas, coldness has settled its haunches in our valley again, and things are breaking: the gas line that comes into the house, the lavatory in the bathroom, something that filters water in the refrigerator. Leaks and breaks. (Nothing as bad as the tree breakage seven years ago.) Arkansas grandchildren are coming. They will do the decorating.

Two nights ago my son two states away and I talked on the phone. It quickly turned sour. I thought it went that direction because of something I teasingly said. When he fell silent, I was sure I had wounded him with my tongue as surely as if I’d cut him with a knife.

Lord Jesus, help me. The thing I do not want to do is what I did. I wounded my son. I know I am broken like pipes, plumbing, limbs. He is, too. What a holy mess.

I’m not willing to act like everything is fine when it is not fine, so I had a sleepless night, but that’s what it takes sometimes to face the brokenness in me, the brokenness in my son. Actually, the brokenness in everyone, but I don’t walk around with that awareness all the time. I usually shove it into the closet until I can’t sleep, then I face it.

Love has never been in question between my first-born and me, but because of that love, we can hurt each other. No way to get through this life without suffering, without ice storms, without darkness.

Tonight that son calls and tells me I was sensing a wall he’d built to protect himself from us, that my husband and I were like an enemy, that he was growing more and more hard-hearted toward us. He says it started with the election: he voted for one candidate, we voted for another. Now I struggled to breathe. He concluded that we have different values. He went on to say our granddaughter could have contact with us anytime and that he would share information, but he would no longer be sharing his heart. A slam to the gut. When I asked him to get help, he said this hardness is not there for anyone else, just us. He saw no need for counsel.

There is no one to blame here. My heart is breaking, and there is no one to blame. Brokenness. I see it everywhere, and now it is inside me. How did the prodigal father live on?

I cry. I tremble. What holds us together when it looks like everything is falling apart, when my values, my life, my thoughts offend my son? All I know to do is ask for forgiveness from him and from God if I’ve offended them, to pray for him and me. How hard it must have been on God when He sent Jesus into this wicked world. God had to have had a broken heart.

This stuff would happen at Christmas. Of course. Didn’t the Christ child come in the darkest hour of history? He came as a baby in a manger (unexpected) to be wounded and die on a cross for our sins. Oh yes, the heart of God knows brokenness. I am asking God to not abandon me and to watch over my son.

Photo by Zach Jimerson, in woods off Push Mountain Road, near Norfork, Arkansas. December 2016.

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