Jeff and Sara had lived in Stonebridge just a short while. Each day they drove by the big building at the corner of Circle Drive and Preston Avenue. One day as they drove by their pre-school aged son spoke up from the backseat.
“Look at those pretty lights. Can we go to that castle?”
Jeff and Sara laughed and tried to explain to him that the “castle” was a church. And then they tried to explain what happened in a church, about praying and worshipping God.
As a youngster Jeff had been brought up in the Roman Catholic church and Sara’s family were Sikh. They had a reasonable idea what “church” was, but not a recent personal experience. They didn’t have a real need for what they thought took place in that building. They were self reliant, independent, in charge of life, or so they thought.
Jeff was a radiation therapist turned pharmaceutical rep. Shortly after they first got together Sara had transitioned from pharmaceutical rep to running her own daycare. Sara says that she was a controller. When her children would challenge her she would tell them “ I’m the one who is in charge! As far as you’re concerned I am God here.”
They were a blended family. Each of them had two children from previous relationships. Jeff’s two were staying with their mother. Sara’s two, a 21 year old daughter and a 17 year old son, were living with them. Also in the mix at home was Jeff and Sara’s pre-school son. They would drive by a church and see all the vehicles and think “ How can these people give up so much time just to go to church? We don’t have time for that too.”
At the same time as they felt they could conquer anything, life began an about face for them in a dramatic way. Sara’s 21 year old daughter decided it was time to move out on her own. Being supportive parents they tried to help her stretch her wings. It was a small change for them, but this was only the start. Sara and Jeff’s relationship with her son began to change and became difficult. He went to live with his father.
Shortly after, Sara’s teenage son ran into major trouble. Jeff’s son from a previous relationship was about the same age as Sara’s son. However, because of stress between Jeff and his ex-wife, Jeff’s son no longer stayed overnight during his weekends of visitation. This all but eliminated a relationship for Sara’s son that he valued.
Within a short period of time Jeff, Sara and the 17 year old son stood before a judge. The young man’s life had tumbled dangerously out of control. The judge told them that part of the son’s conditions were to attend the Calder Centre Youth Stabilization Unit. The centre is dedicated to substance abuse rehabilitation.
Jeff and Sara’s carefully structured life had jumped the rails and was careening dangerously out of control and off track. They were each dealing with fallout of previously failed relationships, lives of children were changing and crumbling, and their own relationship began to show dangerous signs of coming apart.
Shortly before these events, their youngest had brought their attention to God once again. He had been curious about the nativity scene and the story of Christmas. How did that all work? A short time after explaining the Christmas Story they realized they needed support in this time of uncertainty. They decided to go to the “castle” and see if they could get some badly needed help to get life back under control.
They were moved by the singing and the life stories that the speaker shared, practical ways to deal with life issues, things to take home to deal with an out of our control life. One of the practical messages that Jeff heard one Sunday morning was on forgiveness. He realized that he needed to approach Sara’s son while he was in the Calder Centre and try to reconcile their relationship. By the time he left the Calder Centre that day a new beginning had been forged which continues on today.
Jeff wasn’t the only one changing. Sara had participated in The Journey. It is a powerful group that invites people to examine painful their life experiences in an emotionally safe environment. Issues like neglect, betrayal, abuse in all of its forms, issues that have impacted their emotional and spiritual health. Sara had life issues she knew she needed to move on from and release the “my way or the highway” control she practised. She wanted change, she wanted God to be in control. One part of Sara’s healing journey from abuse was to share her story with her children. This has resulted in a powerful change in the way her children have begun to view her.
Is Jeff and Sara’s story over? Not on your life!
It is amazing what changes a year can make. It’s more amazing how they view the changes in the last year. For the first time in three years all of the 5 children were home for Christmas. They enjoyed a great Christmas Eve service with Jeff’s parents and their troubled, but recovering, son who was in church for the first time! Jeff and Sara saw God’s grace in a very personal way.
Jeff has taken the SHAPE class to discover his serving fit at Circle. Jeff’s word for this year (a challenge from Pastor Eldon) is Believe, and he is, in a huge way. Sara says, “If Jeff could he would spend everyday at church. When we didn’t have a service for almost 3 weeks over Christmas holidays he was complaining!” That’s an immense journey from wondering how people could give up a couple of hours to go to church!
Sara is continuing with the second part of The Journey. She is still healing. Interesting how God has taken someone who once dealt with pharmaceuticals to heal the body to a healing journey of the heart.
And Jeff, Sara, and their children are seeing a change in the way they parent. There is more confidence, more reliance on God’s teaching and less of their own ‘control’. You can see it in their youngest. Confident, well mannered, joyful and full of excitement, looking forward to working with his older siblings on a favourite past time. In grade one, he already wants to be an archeologist or geologist. Although these are professions that study God’s work over immense periods of time, his mom and dad can share the amazing story of the difference a year can make.