We had an amazing experience in our house a couple of nights ago and I want to share the story. It's long, but I encourage you to read it and I pray that your own faith will be increased as you learn what God did for us...by faith.
A couple of months ago, Taylor stole money from his stepfather, Stephen. I found it while in Taylor's room collecting dirty clothes. It was lying on his bed, peeking out from his wallet...right there in plain view (so I'm assuming he got distracted and forgot about it). I won't go into how much it was or how I knew where it came from...all you need to know is that it was obvious how he obtained it. I took the entire wallet and put it in a safe place, thinking I would hand it back over to Taylor to present to Stephen when he confessed.
When he got home from school that day, I sat him down and told him what I had found. I told him, of course, how disappointed I was. I told him he needed to admit to Stephen what he did and ask for forgiveness. He let me know real quick he had ZERO desire to do that. He felt very little, if any, remorse. I talked to a few friends and family members to get advice because I was so torn about what to do. I mean, there was the temptation to just put it back where he got it from and never mention it. But, I have hurt Stephen in the past by keeping secrets, and I really did not want to do that again. On the other hand, Stephen and Taylor have always struggled in their relationship. I began to worry what Stephen would say and do when/if he found out. On the other hand, what kind of message am I sending to Taylor to just "let it go"? Can you understand why I was so torn? All I wanted to do was what God wanted me to do. But instead of really seeking Him, I talked to every person I could think of. I got very mixed reactions so I ended up being even more confused. My wise younger sister suggested I stop talking to everyone and talk to God. She told me to pray hard and listen for Him.
I spent probably 2-3 days seeking God's will. The message I finally got from Him was to wait. He let me know that it definitely needed to be confessed, but that it was not the right time. He laid on my heart to pray for Stephen's heart to be prepared to receive Taylor's confession with love and mercy and to pray for Taylor to feel genuine remorse that would move him to a sincere confession. For several weeks, I felt peace about it. I knew that God was working, and quite honestly felt relief that I did not have to deal with it yet!
But over last weekend, God started nudging me. Out of the blue, God brought the entire situation back to my mind. Was it time to confess? Were Taylor's and Stephen's hearts prepared? I knew that's exactly what it was. I recalled the events and the atmosphere in our home over the last few weeks. I could definitely see progress being made in the relationship between Stephen and Taylor. Taylor had gotten into trouble for different things, and Stephen was fair and just. Without me even saying a word, Stephen would reward Taylor for his positive attitude and for him helping around the house by giving Taylor some of his privileges back for a period of time. It worked great. Stephen was not being as harsh or strict with Taylor as he used to be and Taylor was definitely demonstrating a more respectful and obedient attitude toward Stephen. They seemed to have reached a compromise of sorts in their relationship and I knew God was behind it. It was not a result of my nagging or preaching! (although I do think this is a good time to mention that during that time I had prayed daily--and still do--for their relationship to be strengthened and for the two of them to EACH demonstrate love and respect for the other. I also have good friends and family praying for that as well, so bottom line: yes, God was working, and although my mouth stayed shut, the situation was covered in prayer).
I went to Taylor's room late Tuesday afternoon and told him that it was time to confess. I told him that I had a peace about it for awhile because I knew God was working, but I also told Taylor that God was bringing back to mind for a reason. Taylor seemed uncertain and I'm sure he was a little scared. I told Taylor that two verses kept coming to mind:
"Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe." Proverbs 29:25 and "He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress and for his children it will be a refuge." Proverbs 14:26
I told Taylor he needed to spend some time in prayer, seeking God's will. I told him that I would prefer that he confess, but if he didn't speak up soon, I was going to have to do it myself. After all, God was telling me NOW was the time. I know from experience that when you choose not to obey God, you step out from under His "umbrella of protection". The verses above that I kept thinking about reminded me that we were to fear God and not Stephen. And as long as we trust God and walk in obedience to Him, He will keep us safe. I went into my closet for some reason and just told God, "Let YOUR will be done. If you want Taylor to be the one to speak up first, then prompt him to do so. If you want me to speak first, prompt me to speak up. Whatever Your will is."
I had no idea that Taylor went out to meet Stephen at his car when he pulled up from work. He confessed. Again, I had no knowledge of this. We sat down to dinner and when we were through, Stephen said "What are we going to do about this?" And I said "do about what?" He said "About the money Taylor stole." And I looked at Taylor. He nodded his head that he had confessed. I was SO thrilled, not only because this huge secret we had been carrying around was finally exposed, but also because Stephen was completely calm and even GRINNING!! I kept thinking "God, you are SO good!!" Then it hit me that I had something that needed to be confessed. I told Stephen and he asked Taylor to take Mac and Sarah upstairs so we could talk in private.
I tearfully admitted to Stephen that I had used some of the money Taylor had taken to cover some bills. (Stephen had asked me to give him the total of our credit card bills so we could pay them off. I gave him the figure, but when I got ready to pay the last bill, I was short. And because of similar money mistakes I had made in the past--and his not so great reaction to them--I thought it would be much easier just to use some of that money Taylor had taken. After all, Stephen hadn't missed it. It was still sitting in the spot where I had hidden it. And it wasn't like I was spending it on myself, I was just applying some of it to our bills. But when I did it, I felt so sick. Here I was, using some of this stolen money to cover a mistake I did not want to admit to Stephen. I started feeling like what I had done was no different than what Taylor did. I was being dishonest and sneaky. I was seriously sick at my stomach). I told Stephen all these things. I told Stephen that I felt like I had been living in bondage to this secret we were carrying around. I told him about my talk with Taylor earlier in the day where I had told Taylor "Now is the time."
Stephen was no longer grinning. He called Taylor to come back and join us. To make an already long story just a little bit shorter, Taylor had LIED about some of the facts of the story in his confession. Stephen realized it when he listened to my version. (for instance, I found the wallet and then hid it...but Taylor had told Stephen that HE had put the money back after a few days...Taylor also told Stephen that God had put on his heart to confess, but I had told Stephen that I basically went to Taylor and told him we had to do this.) So, Stephen got angry. He called Taylor a thief and a liar. He told Taylor he would not be allowed to play basketball this year. I looked at Taylor and could see the steam coming out of his ears. He looked ready to explode at that point. I immediately began praying....for Taylor to remain calm and self-controlled and for Stephen to change his mind about basketball. I kept praying that over and over, that Stephen would change his mind. Even when nothing seemed to be happening as far as my prayers were concerned, I did not waiver. I just kept praying....expectantly. I knew that God was working and that what seemed like a hopeless situation was about to turn around. I slid Taylor an index card with a note on it that said "Hold fast...help is on the way."
In what seemed like an instant to me, Stephen changed. He told Taylor to look at him and he said "I...LOVE...YOU!" He told Taylor he did not want to take basketball away from him. He told him he wanted him to enjoy his Senior year to the fullest. And the icing on the cake was when he got up from the table and said "Taylor, this is over. There's no reason for this subject to ever be brought up again." I started bawling. I opened up my prayer journal and motioned for Stephen. I read aloud from the prayer I had prayed just that morning, "God, please prepare Stephen's heart to receive Taylor's confession with love and mercy." And Stephen hugged me. I was in awe. Folks, LITERALLY in the same breath, Stephen went from calling Taylor names and threatening severe punishment to saying "I love you" and "there's no reason to talk about this anymore."
Taylor and I headed to the store for some school supplies and I noticed he was silent. I felt like I was floating, I was so excited about what God had done through prayer, so I looked at him and said "Why aren't you happy?" He looked at me with tears streaming and said "Mommy, I can hardly speak...When we were sitting at the table and Stephen was calling me names, I wanted to stand up and put my fist through the kitchen window." I told him I knew he was very angry and that was when I really stepped up my praying! He said, "Mommy, it felt like a HAND WAS RESTING ON TOP OF MY HAND AND I COULD NOT LIFT IT, no matter how hard I tried." We both cried hard, thanking God for hearing our prayers and keeping us safe as we stepped out in faith and trusted in Him.
For those of you who don't know me personally, I don't know if you can fully appreciate the power of this testimony. You would have to understand how dificult the relationship has been between my son and my husband. You would have to understand the tempers they are BOTH capable of losing. When close friends and family first heard that I wanted Taylor to go to Stephen and admit what he did, they were naturally scared of what would happen....how Stephen would respond, and then how Taylor might respond. I don't know when I have prayed so hard about something or when I have listened so close to God's very still, gentle voice. It's hard to do sometimes. Especially when you're busy getting everyone's advice EXCEPT God's. I had faith all along that God would take care of everything, but it got a little weak when I started listening to other people's concerns and opinions. And I want to tell you real quick, I deeply respect each person I talked to. And each person I talked to are Christians. I don't want to come off sounding like I was right and they were all wrong. Here's the deal: GOD DOESN'T SPEAK TO EVERYONE IN THE SAME WAY. There is no way my best friend or my mom or dad could understand exactly how I hear God speak to me. Just like I would not be able to understand how they hear the voice of God in their hearts. I think it's probably different for everyone...you know, personalized, if that makes sense. That's why it is so important to do as Joyce Meyer says and "Go to the Throne, not the phone"! God obviously sees the much bigger picture. And since He is the One in control anyway, He's the best person to go to! People that love you naturally don't want you to put yourself in a scary situation, so their own fear might cause you to second guess yourself. I learned that it is God's instruction that you can always trust. The best thing you can ask your friends is to pray that you would be able to clearly hear the voice of God when you are trying to make a decision!
I once heard Charles Stanley say that one of the most important things you can teach your child is how to hear the voice of God and I am thoroughly convinced he is right. And again, it's hard sometimes. Sometimes it comes through loud and clear, but there are other times I don't get quiet enough and I have to strain to hear Him. But He clearly told me in the beginning to wait and not say anything and to let Him work in Taylor and Stephen's hearts. And I saw Him do that over a period of 2 months. He told me exactly when it was time to confess and I believe that God kept us all calm and safe that night because we had been obedient to Him. One other thing...CLAIM SCRIPTURE!! When I saw how angry Stephen and Taylor both were becoming and felt like things might take a turn for the worst, I immediately prayed "God, Your Word says that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my father in heaven. (Matthew 18:19) And God, I have many others who are in agreement about the things I am praying for tonight. I am claiming this promise right here, right now." And I prayed that in total faith that He would keep His promise. (that's another thing that's hard to do sometimes!)
I pray that you are encouraged by this story. Every word of it is true and I am so thankful that I was one of the main characters. I am so thankful that God gave me the courage to put my money where my mouth was to step out in faith. It was scary at first, but I promise you after I took that very first step, God blessed me. He gave me peace and strength and faith and best of all, I got a front row seat to see Him work a miracle at my kitchen table! And now the faith of my husband and son has been increased as well. I pray that yours is too. We serve an awesome God. He will never ask you to do something and then fail to protect you when you do. That wouldn't make a lot of sense, now, would it?
***edited 8/17 to add...I feel like I should say that Taylor has been given consequences. I didn't mean to come across like we just dismissed it! The point is, God calmed everyone down so we could respond in an appropriate way...both firm AND loving.