When I Lay My Isaac Down: Unshakable Faith in Unthinkable CircumstancesWhen I Lay My Isaac Down: Unshakable Faith in Unthinkable Circumstances
Carol Kent
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When God calls us to lay down the place, ministry or even the person we love most on the sacrificial altar, how will we respond? When her only son committed murder Carol Kent was forced to lay the person she valued most, or her "Isaac," in the hands of God. Fortunately, like Abraham before her, in the midst of her terrible sacrifice Carol encountered the God who loves her more than she loves her Isaac and she learned, little by little, to trust her Isaac to His caring hands. If you or someone you love is in the process of laying down an "Isaac," you will find Carol's heart-wrenching story and godly guidance absolutely indispensable.
     

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Christianbook.com: Carol, can you begin by telling us about the unexpected journey that helped give birth to this book?

Carol Kent: We were a family that had a lot of good things happen to us over the years. We have an only child named Jason, we also call him J.P., who brought a lot of pride to our lives. He was the president of National Honor Society in high school and he was a compassionate young man who cared a lot about living for the Lord. Between his sophomore and junior years of high school, he went to a Christian camp and when he came home he said, "I want to do something that matters with my life. I think the best place I can get an education to do that would be at the U.S. Naval academy." He applied, received an appointment, and graduated with a degree in political science.

After graduation the Navy puts their graduates through many different schools. He was in the nuclear engineering school in Orlando. While there, he started going to a large church and met a young woman named April in the singles program. In August of that year he left us a voice message: "Mom and Dad, some things are coming down; we have to talk!" When we were able to talk to him, he said, "My orders have changed. I have to be in Newport, Rhode Island, for surface warfare officer's school on September 8th. April and I are in love and we want to get married next Friday!" Well, our son was asking to marry a woman we had never met next Friday. Not only was that true, but he was asking to marry a previously married woman with two children. That was not on our agenda for our son's life. I remember dialoging with God while my husband was talking on the phone. "Hello?! Lord, I know you're really busy in the Middle East today, but I've been praying for my son's future spouse for a long time. Do you remember that I prayed for a virgin? This woman doesn't qualify!" By the end of that phone call we realized we could get on board, or we could cause a rift that would last a lifetime. We talked our son into being married three weeks later with the accountability of family and friends around him. And that's exactly what happened.

A week and a half later April came into our lives. Well, Jeff it did not take me long to love April. She had been married at the age of sixteen to a man who was ten years her senior and she had been through more of the tough stuff of life than anyone deserves. Behind them, in walked six year old Chelsea and three year old Hannah. Within a half hour little Chelsea came up and kissed all over my hand and said, "You're my new favorite Grammy!" And little Hannah would eat her cereal at my kitchen counter every morning and she sing in between her bites, "I love Jesus, He loves me!" These girls were so precious. I loved them almost instantly. April and J.P. were married and we had a glorious time celebrating this new marriage and these two precious grandchildren who entered our lives at the same time. And I remember thinking God did answer my prayer for a godly wife for my son; she just came wrapped a different package than I was expecting.

As the next few months went by, we knew there were custody issues. The biological father of Chelsea and Hannah was seeking unsupervised visitation and there had been allegations of abuse. We knew this was very upsetting to our son and that he was extremely focused on his fear for the girls should this happen. April and J.P. put together paperwork on everything they knew concerning the alleged abuse and they took it to an attorney. They were told on a scale of 1-10 they had about an 8 on provable abuse and the attorney said that probably wasn't enough to keep supervision intact. My son started to unravel, mentally, spiritually and emotionally. It was now the fall, October of 1999 and today is the five-year anniversary. I work full-time as a Christian public speaker and my husband Gene and I had been out of state where I was speaking at a women’s conference. We got home late that evening, went to bed, and we were in a deep sleep when the phone rang. No parent likes middle of the night phone calls. I remember looking at the clock. It said 12:35 a.m. and that time is forever engraved in my mind . It was five years ago, today when I saw my husband pick up the phone. I could tell it was terrible news. He had started weeping and he looked at me and choked out, "Jason has just been arrested for the murder of Douglas Miller Jr. and he is in the jail in Orlando, Florida."

I had never been in shock before. In fact, I had enjoyed a very happy life. I remembered two weeks before, walking along the St. Clair River with my husband and saying, "Does life get any better than this?" We were looking forward to seeing this young family thrive. I tried to get out of bed, but my legs would not hold up my weight; nausea swept over me, and I crawled toward the bathroom. When I was able to get a grip on what was taking place, I called the Orlando jail. A rude voice on the other end said, "Lady, your son ain't here. We ain't got nobody by that name in here." So for a moment, hope returned. But by morning, all of the facts had been confirmed. Our son had pulled a trigger in a public parking lot, and a man died.

The next few days are a blur in my mind. It was like I had to tell myself, "Breathe. Do the next thing. Breathe. Do the next thing." Jason was the first-born grandchild on both sides of the family, dearly loved by his aunts, uncles and cousins. He had been a young man of such stellar character people could not believe this could be true about him. It would take about an hour to explain this to family and friends by telephone and it was emotionally wrenching. Gene and I pulled together everything out of our savings account and cashed in our retirement funds because paying for an attorney for this level of defense is like buying another house in terms of the amount. It's a huge undertaking. Gene left for Florida to move April and the girls from Panama City, where Jason had been attending the most intensive dive school the Navy offers, to Orlando, where he had been arrested, so that they could see him and be with him. I was taking care of last financial details so we could take care of paying the attorney.

I am not proud to tell you that I had never been in a jail or a prison in my lifetime. It wasn't that I didn't care about prison ministry, it had just never been a part of my world. The phone rang, I was at home alone and it was a digital message from the jail asking me if I would accept a collect call. On the other end of the line was my son. In between sobs he said, "Mom, I've just been beaten by ten guys. They jumped me and they've been kicking me in the head. My two front teeth have been broken off, my ear has been slit open, and I've been kicked in the eyes. I'm a mess." Then he said, "They stole all my stuff, but after the beating the corrections officers took me to the faith based area of the jail and those men were like Jesus to me. They washed my wounds; they brought me soap and deodorant. They were just like Jesus." I realized how broken my son was, and after the call ended abruptly after fifteen minutes, I sat at my desk and heard a guttural wail come out of my being. I said, "God, I can't walk this path! I can't watch my son suffer like this. I can't do this. Would you just take me home to be with you? This is too big for me."

Then the mama part of me kicked in and I realized if my son did not have mom and dad to be his advocates, it would really be bad news. I flew to Florida and was granted a fifteen-minute visit with my son through glass in the visitation area. I heard his shuffle coming down the hall. I was used to seeing my son in a Naval uniform; he was a young Lieutenant, but now he was in jailhouse blues. He was also fresh from the beating, so he was really a mess. There was a corrections officer standing behind him listening to every word we said. When our eyes met, we both wept. I looked at my boy, with those broken front teeth and I said, "Jason, there is nothing you could ever do that would stop my unconditional love for you son. Your dad and I are here for you. We don't understand what has taken place, but we are here for you." As I explain in the book, one of the first things Gene and I came to understand is that there is a hidden power in unthinkable circumstances." You realize the world is in a mess. We live in this fallen, miserable world and you know that bad things happen to good people, including good Christian people. For the first time in our lives we were flat out needy. I'm the first born of six preacher's kids. I'm a “can-do” kind of girl! If there was a way to fix this, I would have fixed this. But suddenly I was in a situation I could not change. After that visit, I went out to the parking lot and I couldn't drive because I was crying too hard. So I opened up my hands, palms up, and I started to pray saying: "God I relinquish what I cannot control to you. I relinquish my son's future and my expectations for his future. I relinquish what happens in the trial to you. And God, right now I can only do that for one minute, because I think I'm going to try and grab that control back. But maybe one day I'll make it five minutes and then maybe, one day, an hour. I slowly began to learn the power of relinquishment.
God brought to mind that incredible scripture from Genesis 22 where Abraham is asked to sacrifice his only son Isaac and that became the biblical foundation of the book. I marveled at Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son because I couldn't do that. There's this strange verse. It says, "Abraham got up early" when they were going to make their trip to Mount Moriah. I thought, I would have procrastinated at least until noon thinking God would change his mind. I mean, puh-leeze, this was a dumb thing to do! Then it came to me that Abraham had history with God. He had such history that he believed if he was obedient, and even if that meant sacrificing his son, that God could bring him back to life. That's an amazing confidence in God! He knew God loved Isaac more than he did and that he could trust him. When I started to study that passage, as I was beginning to write on what had happened to us, it said that Abraham "laid his Isaac on the altar." In the original language the Bible was penned in, the verb form for "laying him down" literally means "a lifting up." So it was actually a form of worship for Abraham to lay his Isaac down. I started to see principles that wound up in this book—namely, that there is a power in relinquishing what we cannot control to the God who loves our son more than we do. We came to understand we could entrust an unknown future to a God who knew how He could salvage the wretched brokenness of this situation. We knew there was a family suffering terribly because they lost their son and we grieved for them. We also knew that what are son did was against the laws of God and man and that God never goes against his Word, even though we knew our son's motives, in his distorted mental state was to save two little girls from potential abuse.
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