I caught a glimpse of a police car as I approached the door that Saturday afternoon several years ago. Upon opening it, the policeman asked for my husband, Randy, while reading the legal document he clutched.
Randy took the document, not understanding why he was being served custody papers for his 14-year-old son, Payton. As he closed the door, Payton, who had come to visit for the week-end, slowly walked toward him. He knew what the papers stood for and began to talk to his dad of his desire to continue living with his stepfather, older sister, and 4-year-old half brother, more than 300 miles away.
Payton’s mother had passed away a few months prior, after a year-long illness, and Randy had granted his son’s wishes to finish out the school year before moving to our home. But living there permanently was not in the plan.
We knew it would be hard for Payton to leave his siblings there but firmly believed he needed to be part of a stable home environment. His sister would be moving out soon to finish college and his stepfather was not around much. What we didn’t know was that his mother, before passing, asked her two older children to stay together to help raise their younger brother.
I followed Randy to our bedroom after hearing the devastating news. He cradled his head in his hands and stared at the floor. “Why?” he asked.
The following months held a blur of lawyer appointments, court hearings, and disappointing conversations with Payton. We didn’t understand why he insisted upon staying with his stepfather.
But during that period, Randy never gave up on his son. Even when it appeared Payton was choosing his stepfather over his father, Randy showed unconditional love and mercy toward him.
Several months into the proceedings, the courts began dragging our other children into the custody process. The stress seemed unbearable and we finally opted to quit the fight. We told Payton he would always be welcome in our home, and we would be praying for him and his siblings, but we wouldn’t continue to subject our family to the grueling custody process.
The next year proved difficult as we watched the lack of supervision and guidance Payton received. We knew it was not a healthy home but couldn’t change the circumstances without going back to court. We relied on our faith with each step, praying for wisdom and perseverance.
Eighteen months after his mother’s passing, Payton called his dad with some disturbing news. He needed our help because his step dad was tangled up with drugs and alcohol. His sister had driven the kids to a nearby relatives’ home to figure out what to do next. Randy knew what needed to be done. He gave his son only one choice: come live with us immediately. Payton agreed without hesitation.
The transition to our home went smoothly. Payton knew we still loved him, despite his hurtful words and disappointing choices from months’ past. We made ongoing efforts to allow him to continue his relationships with his sister and brother. Eventually, he lost complete contact with his step dad.
Payton witnessed his dad live out his faith through a difficult season. He eventually latched on to what he saw. And although it wasn’t an easy period to endure, the rewards of faithfulness far outweighed the efforts extended.
How do you live out your faith with your family? Are they catching it?