Lord Keep Your Mansions, Just Save my Children, BY RICHARD W. O'FFILL
His 15 year old girlfriend is pregnant. He drops out of college. Your heart is breaking. You did what good families are supposed to do. Daily family worship. Uncle Arthur and Bible Stories. Where did you go wrong? Once your career was everything. A big house in the country was important. But now nothing else matters. Lord, keep your mansions just save my children, you pray, wondering what good it does. Then it gets worse. Divorce? My Children? No! In these pages Richard O'Ffill shares how he moved through guilt, frustration, anger, and grief to hope, forgiveness, trust, comfort, and love. Now with his son's permission (Dad, after all I put you and Mom through, this is the least I can do,) he tells the story...
It was New Year's Eve. I was sitting in the Florida room, our screened-in back porch. Although it was December 31, the weather was mild. While others were preparing to celebrate, I was hoping the year would hurry up and come to an end, because for me it had been the worst year of my life. Our youngest son was on drugs. We'd sought counsel and were told we should confront him and tell him we knew he was an addict. We did that. I also talked with anyone and everyone, and read several publications on the problem, but things weren't getting better. I had reached the end of my rope.
Now, sitting in the darkness, I began to cry. I couldn't stop. I felt all alone. As I wept, I suddenly thought of an organization called Al-Anon Family Groups. They're like Narcotics Anonymous but offer support for the families of addicts. In the phone book I located the telephone number of an Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) chapter. I called and told them I needed to attend an Al-Anon meeting. The voice at the other end of the line was kind and understanding. The person asked where I lived and gave me the address of a nearby meeting.
My wife, unlike me, suffers in silence; I suffer out loud! In a later chapter I share what effect the experiences of raising our children and grandchildren have had on our marriage, but suffice it to say here that she didn't see what good it would do to attend an Al-Anon meeting, although she agreed to go with me for my sake.
We found a local chapter that had convened in a church not far from where we lived, and we went that very New Year's Eve. When we located the room, we entered shyly. All sat around a table and introduced themselves. I said, "My name is Dick." Everyone else replied, "Hi, Dick." The meeting lasted an hour, and I didn't say anything more, because I cried the whole time. Although each Al-Anon chapter meets only once a week, I discovered that there were other meetings at locations all over the city, and I tried to go to one every night. Slowly but surely I began to feel better, because I realized I wasn't alone.
When you sit around a table with a dozen or more people who are suffering just as you are, it may not make the problem go away, but little by little it becomes more bearable. One person said, "When I attend this meeting, it's as though there's a giant battery in the middle of the table. When I come in the door, I plug in and sit down. When I leave, I feel I've been recharged."
There's always a special dynamic around the table. We don't sit there and tell what is going on at home. We don't need to hear more about that. We come to hear what each of us is doing about it, how we're coping with it, and how we're surviving in spite of it.
Someone has said that life is 10 percent what happens to us and 90 percent how we react. Often we exert all our energy and emotions trying to change what's happening to us, but that only makes the 90 percent more difficult. That was what had happened to me that New Year's Eve.
More than once people have come to me and said, "Pastor O'Ffill, we've heard what you're going through. You're such an encouragement to us." This is no credit to my wife or me, but it is a credit to the God we serve. When we get to heaven, if you were to ask me how life on earth had been, I'd have to say that at times it was a nightmare. But I'll thank Jesus forever, because through all our tears He's brought us closer to Him than we could ever have imagined.
Second Corinthians 1:3, 4 says it just right: " Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God."
When we were young we used to say, "It takes one to know one." This is especially true when you're a parent whose prayer is "Lord, keep Your mansions-just save my children." It takes a parent who has been through sorrow to comfort those who are going through it. The time has come for us to stand up and not be afraid to be counted. We are not in bad company. As long as we must hang, let's hang together!
Great men and women of God from the beginning of time have had prodigal sons and daughters. The reality is that the majority of God's children have children who have wandered away. Many have believed this couldn't happen to them, or that it shouldn't be happening, or that if it were happening it should be kept covered up. I'm glad it hasn't happened to everybody, but it has happened to most of us, and the question we now have to face is What are we going to do about it?
Those who work with contagious diseases must take precautions lest they contract such diseases and themselves become victims. We must not forget that though we are parents, we are also children-God's children. And as we work and pray for the salvation of the children He has given us, we must be careful that we honor our heavenly Father and don't allow ourselves to catch the very disease we're trying to correct in our loved ones, ending up bitter, resentful, angry, or discouraged. In the chapters that follow we'll discuss the feelings that arise when our children wander from the Lord, and what we can do about them.