Joy in the Morning

February 2, 2024 by  
Filed under For Her

By Jacqueline Dodson 

“Gone,” she whispered into the stuffed bear’s ear.  “How can he be gone?” she asked her fuzzy companion.  The bear, like her, didn’t have an answer.

Ben usually came home from school at 3:30.  He played hoops with the neighbor kids and then watched cartoons.  At 12 years old, he bounced from being a child to accepting responsibility.  But the table would always be set for dinner when she arrived home.  Homework happened at the dinning room table.  Evenings were much the same through the week – except this one.  

Her eyes moved to the clock on the mantle.  Its hands registered midnight.  She sat in the over-sized chair, hugged her son’s big, fluffy bear and waited.
What happened to him?  Where could he be?  Why doesn’t he call?  There were too many questions without answers.  Ben, where are you?

The phone rang.  She jumped out of the chair, raced to the kitchen and grabbed the instrument off the counter.  

“Hello?”

“It’s Jay.”  

She tightened her fingers around the phone and hoped her brother had a positive answer yet feared the worst.  “What did you find?”  
“He’s not at the bus station and the police haven’t seen him.  They’ll put out a bulletin. Tomorrow you need to go to the school, first thing, and talk to the counselors.  If you can, go to bed and get some sleep.”
    
“I can’t.  Thanks for your help.  I’ll call if he comes home.”

She returned to the over-stuffed chair, held the bear close and allowed memories from yesterday to crowd in.  “He’s such an entertainer,” she spoke to her soft companion. Only a short time ago they had been talking and laughing together.
Yesterday morning’s memory focused her thoughts on his actions just before he left for school.  He had hugged her tightly and said, “I love you, Mom.”

That was a little strange. He usually wasn’t so serious.

The precious moment pooled water in her eyes that spilled over, moistening her t-shirt.  Sobs pulled at her chest. Fear took hold, dark and overwhelming.

The jerked motion brought her to attention.  She must have dozed.  The clock registered 3:00 a.m.  Her arms encircled the bear in a death lock.  She snuggled her nose in his fuzzy ear and planted a kiss on his eye.  The apartment remained quiet.  The street lamp shining into the window provided the only light.

“It’s time for bed, buddy.”  The bear had become her link to reality.  She hauled both of them up from the chair and made her way toward the back room.  She flopped onto the bed, hugged her friend close, and pulled the quilt over both.  “Go to sleep.”  She encouraged herself since the bear’s eyes remained wide open.

“Heavenly Father, keep Ben safe tonight – wherever he is.”

The alarm’s buzz drew her from a troubled sleep.  Confused, she pushed away the quilt and sat up.  Why was it so difficult to focus her mind?  She pushed her hair away from her face and saw the stuffed bear peaking at her from his wedged position between wall and bed.  She grabbed him and hugged him tight.

“Ben.”

The dark room said night time.  The clock’s digital readout stated 5:00 a.m.  A large sigh escaped as she shuffled down the hall toward the kitchen.  Coffee would help until school began.    

Daylight brought a phone call that revealed Ben’s whereabouts – safe and warm.  Thank you, Lord.  His goal for running away consisted of a desire to live with his father.  Her brother made the arrangements for Ben to fulfill his wishes.

From that moment on, responsibilities as his mom no longer existed.  She no longer cooked his meals, reminded him of chores or helped with homework.  The perfectly made bed remained undisturbed inside a totally clean room.  The quiet apartment spoke volumes.  All that remained of Ben was the bear.

Dedicated time each morning found her in the over-sized chair with the large, fluffy bear.  “Father, please place positive input into Ben’s life. Open his eyes to your truth. I’m no longer there.  Please step into the gap with someone who knows you.”

Four years later she watched her son receive his diploma with honors.  He graduated within the top five of his class and received an appointment to West Point Academy.

The keynote speaker challenged the audience with words taken from his favorite book.  He told his former students, “lean not on their own understanding but acknowledge God in all their endeavors.”  The professor promised that “God would direct their path through a life of murky and unsure circumstances.”

At Ben’s celebration party, he approached her, placed an arm around her shoulder and bent to whisper, “What did you think of the keynote speaker?”  Her nod and smile encouraged him to continue.  
“He’s a good friend.  We spent hours together debating God and the bible.”

Her gasp escaped before she could cover the sound.  Tears spilled down her cheeks as she thought of the verse, “Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning” (Proverbs 30:5 NIV).  

Take heart, dear child of God, your “night” and the darkness it brings to your life may last longer than you would like.  But take courage, joy does come to those who trust God for the outcome.

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