From The Journal Of James Hartline: "The Many Mothers In My Life"
From The Journal Of James Hartline
December 23, 2005
"The Many Mothers In My Life"
When Jesus therefore saw His mother,
and the disciple standing by, whom He loved,
He said unto His mother,
"Woman, behold thy son!"
Then said Jesus to the disciple,
"Behold thy mother!"
And from that hour,
that disciple took her into his own home.
A piercing howl could be heard in the dark night. Some must have thought it was a wounded animal, crying out from some recently inflicted injury. Screeching, deep from within the inner soul of that lame creature, came a repeated yelp of pain. Lights came on, doors swung open, faces peered out into the black night. Concerned neighbors, walking out into the frigid December cold, perked their ears in the prayerful hope that they could better gauge where the cry had come from. And then, as if on cue, there it was again. Almost in unison, all of the neighbors recognizing the cry's source, let out a collective sigh of resolved air. As usual, it was just the little boy on Crestmore Street, crying as he always did at that time of the year.
If they could see into that little boy's home, they would see the same scene played out every year: a little boy, alone, rejected, abandoned. All lights had been turned off. This was not the type of manifestated environment others would imagine during the Christmas season. Yet, every Christmas season, the same bleak and painful scenario was played out for him. There weren't many social events in Bakersfield, California in the 1960's. A bland, rural town, mostly smelly oil rigs and refineries, combined with endless fields of cotton and alfalfa, stood in stark contrast to the big cities of San Francisco to the north and Los Angeles to the south. The Bakersfield Christmas Parade was one of the few city events that brought out the hopes and dreams of the area's families, all united under one festive December banner each year. Thus, it was something that an abused child would look forward to each year as a reprieve from a life that was scorched with daily beatings and emotional deprival.
This always made the wound even more grevious, when the boy's mother would find an excuse the day of the parade, for punishing him, and denying his going with the rest of his family. This was a demented scenario played out every Christmas. His angry and abusive mother would always find a way to punish her little son, before he could receive his gifts. It was, in a twisted way, her way of reminding her son, that there was always a painful price to pay if one was to receive any good thing in this life.
Frozen with fear, facing a kitchen corner wall in the pure blackness of the lightless house, a cry of isolation and rejection gurgled up from his little, hungry belly. Finally, out of the pure agony of being abandoned by his family, he released another screech into the cold atmosphere of his silent house. Also on cue, a car drove up the driveway to the frontdoor of the house, where the boy stood huddled inside. Keys jingling, a door unlocking, and then a voice that terrorized the whimpering boy pierced the lightless house, "Shut up! You got what you deserved. Now get up and get in the car!" Once again, that damnable scenario had played out its festering climax. Punishment than reward, his mother had it down to a wicked art. At the parade, as Santa sat atop his passing sleigh, children cooed and shouted excited chants of exhultation. One little boy, lucky to be at the parade at all, just stared coldly at the passing red suited giver of gifts and wondered if Santa could let him get on his sleigh and drive him as far away from Bakersfied, California as the reindeer could fly him. At the time, that little boy had no idea just how far away from Bakersfield he would some day fly.
That was forty years ago, and I have indeed flown a long way since those cold Bakersfield winters and abusive holiday seasons. My poor old mother, now nearly 68 years of age, still lives in Bakersfield. Not much has changed with her. I occasionally hear from her, but she really never has come around to mending the broken places within herself, much less the breach between herself and her son. God has mended me, however one day I had to come to that place of surrendered realization that my mom will probably never be a mom for me. I have learned in my walk with the Lord to release my mom from her responsibility for my upbringing. I have forgiven her but it never lessens the pain or hope of having that good mother-son relationship.
I have often pondered that same aspect in considering how Mary must have felt in that dark day when she saw one of her sons hanging on that executioner's wood, rusting steel nails impaled into his hands and feet, the groaning from Jesus' throat intermingled with her own agonized wimpers combining to form an atmosphere of familial dispair. Where does the son go as his image of a mother not to be, descends into that valley of lost hope? Where does the mother go, when her son wanders far from the path of that mother's great aspiration for her offspring? What message is there for all us, when we do not realize in our family relationships, that classic mirage of the Brady Bunch fantasy?
Three months ago, I had gone with my friend George Kerr to the Donovan State Prison to fill out the application to become a volunteer with the Chaplain's Program. I had in my past been a prisoner at that prison, the penalty for my many years of being a convicted thief. That was years ago, and I had finally gotten to that place in my life of wanting to go back and help the other inmates find a better way through Jesus Christ just like I had. I have found in my walk with the Lord that the best Christmas present one can give is to give one's self in service to those who are beaten down by the very circumstances that we, ourselves, had once been held captive. Thus, with continuous expectation of being approved I waited for the envelope that would contain my volunteer application approval.
Finally, two weeks ago during this Christmas seaso, the envelope arrived. I was so excited as I opened the letter, expecting to read the date when I go into the prison to minister to those still incarcerated. Expectancy soon turned to gloom as I read the denial. My applications had been disapproved. The reason was made clear: I had not been discharged from prison for the minimum ten years. I just sat there, very disappointed.
And then I heard the voice of the Lord say to me, "Why are you so sad?"
"Because I can't go visit the prisoners," I retorted.
"So, you are upset, because you can't go back to prison...." the Lord inquired.
With that realization, my spirits perked up. Oh yeah, I shouldn't be sad, I should be glad. For nineteen long years, I could not get out of prison, no matter how much I wanted. And now, in a twisted way, I was upset, because I couldn't get back into prison....no matter how much I wanted. It was one of the shining moments, when I realized that the Lord, and His word, had truly brought me full circle back to the place of restoration. A knock on my front door, also brought me back to the reality of my current circumstances. "What is it?" I said through the closed front door. "James, you have a big package up front, a really big package," my neighbor replied.
Now full of curiosity at who would be sending me a big package, I forgot about my prison volunteer application and raced for the front of my property. There it was, a gigantic brown box. "What on earth?" I wondered what this was.
As I ripped open the very tough tape and clawed opened the top with my hungry little fingers my eyes stared in disbelief. I had never seen so many wrapped gifts in one box. In my nineteen years in prison, I had never once received a Christmas present. Christmas had become just another day for me. It had never been a real pleasant experience for me in the first place, much less in the dark, grey confines of a concrete and steel prison.
I just stared in wonderment as to who would have sent me all these gifts in one box. Each one of the wrapped gifts had a card so I opened a card to read who it was from. It read:
"May The Peace And Joy Of Christmas Be With You Always,"
Love All Of Your MOM'S
Your CWA Mom's, We Love You, James!
I tell you I was just overwhelmed. All of the dear, sweet ladies of Concerned Women for America had taken the time from their busy holiday times with their husbands and children to put together a gigantic Christmas box full of goodies, and special wrapped presents, just for me. I have been a servant of the Most High God crying out in the wilderness for many years and it was as if the widow woman had arisen all over again to feed Elijah in the midst of the drought.
I have learned one of heaven's greatest revelations. When our earthly family assignments don't go according to our most earnest desires God will mend the broken places and send us a replacement family. My earthly mom may never come around but God has brought me many, many mom's in her stead. It is the glory of the living God to bring healing to our soul in this way.
Jesus conveyed that important principle as He was dying on the cross. He said to His mother Mary, "Your son," referring to the Apostle John. And to the Apostle John, "John, your mother." From that day on, Mary and John would become a new family, each looking after each other. Jesus knew that they would need mending after His terrible execution. He knew these two souls would need healing from seeing the trauma inflicted upon Christ's battered body. It is His way. It is heaven's way, to fill in the void, repairing the breaches created by broken family relationships. God will bring that person to you to repair the family void and mend the broken places inflicted upon us by failed family obligations. In turn, He will also bring us to those who need healing in the same way. There are many lonely mothers and widows that need "new" sons. And there are many sons that need "new" mothers.
In turn, there are many Godly moms in our society who are crying out for the Sons of God to rise up and help them. I have been given a mandate from the Hand of the Lord to rise up and help defend all of the moms of my generation. The Lord has said to me, "Son, rise up, go fight for all of your moms. Fight for them, as a good son would do. Defend them and drive out from the doorsteps, every evil that has besought them, and every devil that has sought to destroy their families."
This Christmas, my CWA moms, my VIP moms and my other church moms, have made me walk down the streets, singing just a little louder, and a whole lot stronger.