2/2 Blessed Be the Name of the Lord

with | March 22, 2013

Parenting a prodigal isn’t easy. Dennis Mansfield knows. His son, Nate, started experimenting with marijuana as a teen and eventually became addicted to heroin in his twenties. Dennis talks about his hopes and love for his son, despite his rebellion and eventual incarceration. Praying jail time would turn him around, Dennis continued to encourage his son after his release, and is thankful for the time he spent with Nate before he was found dead from an adverse drug reaction that killed him in his sleep at the age of 27.

Parenting a prodigal isn’t easy. Dennis Mansfield knows. His son, Nate, started experimenting with marijuana as a teen and eventually became addicted to heroin in his twenties. Dennis talks about his hopes and love for his son, despite his rebellion and eventual incarceration. Praying jail time would turn him around, Dennis continued to encourage his son after his release, and is thankful for the time he spent with Nate before he was found dead from an adverse drug reaction that killed him in his sleep at the age of 27.

2/2 Blessed Be the Name of the Lord

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March 22, 2013
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Bob: Wow.

Dennis M: She said, “How would you like to have four days with him?” because we were only supposed to be there, down and back. Flew me into Kansas City—did a road trip with Nate, down to Branson—did our event with the Smalleys. Then, I had these glorious days that only God could have orchestrated, through an ex-addict, ex-inmate. Nate and I had the time of our lives. He was fantastic.

Bob: And you’re calling him, at this point, an ex-addict. He’s—as far as you know, he’s clean and has been clean for—

Dennis M: Limited period of time in the drug world being clean—six months is a forever. I don’t know how long he had been clean. So, to the best of my—and this may shock a lot of the followers of your ministry—but the truth is this—my son loved Jesus. He did, and he loved heroin. My son loved the Lord God Almighty, and he loved OxyContin. I don’t know how it all works. It had him. He hated loving it. Yet, he did. He knew what was right, and he was torn in the valley of indecision. It was brutal, and it was painful.

Ironically, after that, we only had one other time. We talked by phone. It was a good conversation, tough conversation. The last thing that was said by Nate to me—and by me to Nate—was, “I love you.” When I think about it, that, in itself, was the period that I needed to have and that Nate needed to have—at the end of the sentence of his life, which said: “You’re valuable. You’re worthy. God loves you.” I thought that, as a result of that, that if that were ever the last experience I would have—it would be one of the biggest blessings. Turned out—it was.

Dennis: Then, came March 11th?

Dennis M: March 11, 2009. That was the date.

Dennis: What happened?

Dennis M: I’m a businessman. I love starting companies. I love developing them. I’ve been involved in ministry, obviously, with Focus on the Family. So, we had this business. We worked with ex-addicts and ex-inmates, helping house them. Susan, my bride, would always have a lunch on Wednesdays with ex-addict women, who would come together for Bible study. I was at home with my son, who was a homeschooled junior in high school—through a co-op program. I got a phone call, and it was my daughter. “Dad, come now, back to the office. It’s about Nate.” “Okay.”

I set the phone down. I looked at Colin and I said, “Colin, something is wrong with Nate. Do you want to go with me?” He nodded his head. We got in our car. It was only about a four/five minute drive to my office—said nothing, highly unusual for the two of us. I got out of the car. As I reached the handle of my front door for my business, I heard God say to me, “When you walk in that door, your life will change; but it will alright.”

I opened the door. I walked in, and there was my bride, with all of the ladies around her, sobbing. And she turned to me, looked up at me. She said, “He’s gone. Nate’s dead.” It was like—[emotion in voice] it was like I was hit and fell on a chair. I knew, at that moment in time, it was true and that I had to claim Christ.

So, I stood up. I got my family—my son was there, my daughter was there, my wife. I brought them together, and I went back to thinking about Job’s quote—I said, “Come together.” I said, “This is not going to test our faith. This is going to prove our faith.” So, we held together. I said, “The Lord gives; the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” And we sobbed, and we were anchored to the Rock. It was Christ in us, the hope of Glory. It was Christ in us, the Holy Spirit speaking out. And my son was dead.

Dennis: At that point, you’ve either got to turn to your God or turn against your God. There really is no middle ground. You turned to Him. As a result, you were able to endure the storm—I mean, beyond imagination. I’ve never received those words. What had happened to Nate? What did you find out later?

Dennis M: He had what was called an adverse drug reaction—that two drugs—that he was self-medicating with to help his back, in very small trace amounts—ended up going against each other. They killed him in his sleep. The toxicological report—when it came back to us, we anticipated an overdose—we anticipated; but it wasn’t. It was the rarity of these two small drugs that killed him in his sleep. My beautiful, beautiful Nate was 27 years old; and he was gone.

Dennis: And in the midst of him being gone, you and Susan experienced joy.

Dennis M: We did. It’s hard to say it. It’s probably hard for your listeners to hear it; but we realized that John 3:16—about God so loving the world that He gave His only begotten Son—was something that I couldn’t do with my first begotten son. But because He did it with Christ, I could face—Susan could face—the loss of our first-born and know that God loved Nate passionately.

I believe that it was anchoring ourselves to the Scripture, at the moment, that proved our faith was what accelerated the healing of our hearts. We were able to stand on God’s Word, knowing His character and that what John Lennon wrote, oddly enough, in his song Beautiful Boy was that, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” We realized that our other plans weren’t God’s other plans. His plans were better than our plans.

Dennis: Earlier you quoted Job. I think it’s interesting that, at the end of the Book of Job, in Chapter 42—I’ve always taken great heart in Job’s words, where he declares: “I had heard of You by the hearing of the ear; but now, my eyes see You. Therefore, I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”

Dennis M: Amen.

Dennis: When you see God for Who He is, you ultimately put yourself in the right and proper perspective and position. In the valley that you went through—I’ve not been in that valley, but I have been in some dark valleys—you do see God with your eyes—the eyes of faith.

And if you don’t, you’re left to live a life of cynicism—that this life is a random group of molecules and that there is no purpose—but that there was a purpose to Nate’s life. It was a tragedy that he died—but that you, and your wife, and your family have chosen to trust God, rather than to choose to disbelieve Him and to turn against Him.

Dennis M: Amen, Dennis. Amen. So, in the last analysis, my prodigal son did come home. He came home to the Father—Who was a better father than me. And that Father ran to him, and embraced him, and loved him, and kissed him, and said, “Nate, you’re so beautiful.” 

Dennis: Dennis, thanks for writing this book, and for allowing us to peer into your hearts, and hear the story of your love for your son and of the Father’s love for your son. Thanks for being with us.

Dennis M: Great to be with both of you.

Bob: You know, I would think that many of the folks who have listened to our conversation this week would be interested in getting a copy of your book, Beautiful Nate—either for themselves because they’ve experienced a similar kind of journey with a son or a daughter—maybe, they are in the middle of that right now—or maybe, they know somebody who is—and they want to get a copy of this book to share with them, as a gift—as a way to encourage them and to open up the door for spiritual conversation.

Go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com. You can order a copy of the book, Beautiful Nate, when you get in touch with us. Again, our website is FamilyLifeToday.com. You can order online; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY—1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY”. Ask for a copy of Beautiful Nate, and we’ll make sure we get one sent to you. 

You know, earlier this year, Dennis was at the Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway that we hosted up in the Washington, DC, area. A week later, I was at the conference in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Both of us had the opportunity, while we were up there, to meet with listeners, who tune in regularly to hear FamilyLife Today. Some of you who came up to introduce yourselves also mentioned that you were Legacy Partners.

I always smile when I meet a Legacy Partner—first of all, we are grateful for anybody who listens to FamilyLife Today—but when you meet a Legacy Partner, you know you’re meeting somebody who understands what FamilyLife Today is all about and wants to make sure that this ministry is able to continue—that we’re able to expand our broadcast opportunities—that we’re on the air and online, throughout the world, with our programs, our resources, the articles we have. It’s just good to meet folks who share a common vision with you—who want to see marriages and families strengthened.

I just wanted to encourage those of you who have been long-time listeners to FamilyLife Today, “Would you consider joining with us as a Legacy Partner—agreeing to make a donation to the ministry each month and to pray for us?” That’s all it takes. When you sign on, as a new Legacy Partner, we’ll send you a welcome kit that includes some great resources for your marriage and your family. We’ll also keep you posted, each month, with what’s happening here—keep you up-to-date with the impact that FamilyLife Today is having in people’s lives, all around the world. And we’d love to have you be a part of the team.

You can sign on as a Legacy Partner by going to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the button that says, “I CARE”. You can sign on from there; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY and say, “I’m interested in becoming a Legacy Partner.” We’ll get it all taken care of for you.

We appreciate your partnership with us, and we do look forward to hearing from you. Thanks for even considering being a part of the team. We appreciate it.

And we hope you have a great weekend. Hope you and your family are able to worship together this weekend, and I hope you can join us back on Monday when we’re going to introduce you to Christopher Yuan and his mother Angela. You’ll hear a powerful story about Christopher’s descent into darkness and his journey back to the light—that all comes up Monday. I hope you can join us.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today

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