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If our God is the Father to the fatherless, how can we, who are called to be imitators of him, be any less?
As I read Redeeming the Story, I couldn’t help but think of where my husband and I were seven months ago and where we’re at now. Mentoring looks different for a lot of people and for me, it started in a coffee shop with tables full of moleskins and composition notebooks. The stories I heard were heartbreaking and haunted me. But…stories can change. People and lives can be redeemed. I know this because of our son.
He calls me mom.
He asked with little fanfare….more of a statement, a wish:
“Elora, I want you to be my mom.”
I sat there, my eyebrows bent in confusion. “Your…mom?”
A smile played on his lips and he fidgeted with his phone, “…yeah. I don’t have a mom. She left me. I want you to be my mom.”
Something inside me shifted. I couldn’t ignore it. I stared at the side of his face – waiting to see if he’d turn to look at me, but his gaze stayed locked on his phone.
“I’ll be your mom, Devonte.”
His shoulders relaxed and he caught my gaze. Later in the evening he would jump on Russ’ back unexpectantly and with a matter of fact sarcasm say, “so, Elora just said she’d be my moms. You realize this means you’re my pops, right?”
I first met Devonte last spring. As part of the storytelling team at church, I went over to one of the Reagan to Kibera meetings to talk to Candice about mentoring some of her kids in storytelling. I remember watching him pull his journal out of his backpack, excited about something he wrote during school. It didn’t take long for him to pace the length of the living room, silently spitting words under his breath. Over the next few months, I would hear more of his story. And over the next few months, God would move in my heart to pray for him. After some family issues drew his attention elsewhere, we lost contact for a while.
But God never let me forget him.
This past summer, what was normally a simple burden became a little heavier than I was expecting. The closer we got to school starting, the more God would bring him to mind – so I did the only thing I knew to do – I prayed.
I prayed and left comments on his facebook – just to let him know I hadn’t forgotten. Just to let him know someone was still willing to listen.
And then the first week of school, it hit like a freight train. Students of mine who saw his spoken word video last year would ask about him during class. Last Sunday, driving to Firestone, we saw him walking down the street.
It was like I couldn’t get away.
I’m not saying we know how to parent teenagers. I’m not saying we’ll do everything perfectly or know the right words to say every time. But we do know how to love. And we know how to be there. And right now, while Devonte sits in our living room playing x-box and texting his friends, I know how to pray to be the mom he needs. God had me praying for him long before he ever became my “son” – there’s no stopping now.
And it all started with mentoring.
If you were to tell me a year ago I’d have a 19-year old boy living with us, I’d laugh. Some days we look more like guidance counselors than actual parents – tripping over our mom & dad legs as we attempt to figure out just what it is we’re doing. But when Devonte looked at me and asked me to be his mom – when he maneuvered himself under Russ’ arms and told him he was “trying to be under his wing” – something about logic and making sense and practicality shifted inside of me.
Saying no seemed like the exact opposite of what Christ would have us do.
Right after he moved in, we were walking around Home Depot and he stopped, turned my way and wrapped his arms around my shoulders.
“I just need to give you a hug…a big one.”
I laugh. “Well…that’s good, Devonte, because I love hugs.”
“Yeah. I’m sure someone may ask who I’m with – but it’s okay. I’ll just look at them and say, ‘I’m with my moms and pops.’”
And with that, right there, everything makes sense.