s I sat in that cold,
I looked straight ahead at my adopted teen son. He had chains on his feet. He was dressed in that dreaded orange jumpsuit. His otherwise handsome face was grimaced, especially as he shot shamed glances at his mother and me when he saw us entering the courtroom. Guards stood on either side of him.
He was being sentenced for a crime he did not commit. He would end up in a federal prison for several years. Two other youths framed him, naming him in order to let a third youth go free.
However, his mother and I both knew that Jay was on a course of self-destruction. He had run away from home several times, was unruly when
he was in that surly mood, and regarded no final authority other than his own. Not good for making it through life.
Nevertheless, as my striking multi-racial boy stood before the judge, I could not help but see not a grown teen but a little baby only two and a half months old. That was his age when we adopted him, gave him my name, and hugged him to our hearts. I saw in front of me not a man before the law but a little baby, a tiny tot, cuddly and warm, smelling of fresh powder and looking endearingly into my face. He was wrapped in that first blue blanket we bought him. He was smiling and cooing. How we delighted in showing him off to everyone we met!
Then I recalled visiting him at the state youth center after
J. Grant Swank, Jr
Pastor Swank ministers in Windham, Maine. He enjoys spending time with his wife and three children. He also enjoys watercolor painting, walking, and taking in as much Maine scenery as possible!
one of his earlier escapades. My wife and I dreaded that crude waiting room. We had to sign in, and behave ourselves as if we were under some sort of investigation. If we were accorded this “cordiality,” what were the youth enduring?
As Jay would come into the room to visit with us each Sunday afternoon, I did not see my misbehaving son; rather, I saw a squirming baby boy in my arms, held tightly to my heart. Then I saw him as a toddler, off to the waiting bus on his first day at school, then a pre-teen all dressed up for some event.
During one visit, a mother from the northern part of our state introduced herself to us. I could tell she was distraught. She too was waiting to see her troubled teen son. Soon her boy came through the door,
dragging his chained feet behind him.
In an instant the anguished mother jumped to her feet to embrace her son. Many tears flowed from the two of them. Not much in the way of words, but much in the language of the soul.
It was then that I could feel in her the wretched piercing of that sword, just as it had pierced my heart on too many occasions. Here was a mother seeing not her 16-year-old son, but her six-day-old newborn, her six-week-old baby, her sixmonth-old growing child.
When my son was in prison, I wrote him a letter in which I related to him that when a child goes wayward, the parents are cut through and through with the memories of childhood. I then attempted to get him to understand the slippery, twisting sword that cuts right through every one of life’s muscles. I am not sure if he got the message, but one of these days, if he has children of his own, he will. Nevertheless, I do know that our prayers were
eventually answered. While in prison, Jay gave his life to Jesus Christ. That, of course, made all our sorrowing worthwhile.
So it is that once again this Christmas, I think of another parent. Her name was Mary. She had in her womb the Son of all sons, Jesus. In the jubilation of that pregnancy, however, there was a sword promised her. Luke tells of it in his account. It was a dagger which would cut very close to her heart.
Mary! Mary! I will never fathom how you ever lived through all of that utter brokenness! It is simply beyond my imagination. When I compare the pain my wife and I have endured, I wonder how you ever survived all the anguish inflicted upon your holy Offspring. He too wore chains. He too was scoffed at and derided, led before authorities for harsh scowls and snickers. He then was crucified between heaven and earth for a crime that He never committed, but for crimes which we have done. Yet through it all, you stayed
there beneath His bleeding body—patiently praying, wrestling with the shame.
Surely, as you looked from Calvary into the face of your grown Son, you too held in your arms the precious Bethlehem Baby. Cuddling Him. Kissing His cheeks. Spreading your kind fingers across His brow, wanting to rub out those fears and injustices.
Yet when He was but a tiny One, as you held Him in your arms beneath the starry night, you knew in your heart of hearts that someday you would hold Him in your arms when He lay limp from the Cross. How could it be?
I give praise to God for Mary, a parent who endured the sword, who stayed true to her Son because of that sword, and now receives the just honor given her. May every parent who likewise endures the sword find such courage as came from Mary. Thank you, God, for providing the strength to endure to the very end, for Mary and for us.