And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming.
Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.
~ Luke 15:20b NLT
For as long as I can remember, I’ve butchered song lyrics.
In Manfred Mann’s Earth Band’s Blinded by the Light, I thought it was “wrapped up like a douche another runner in the night” instead of “revved up like a Deuce…” (which still didn’t make much sense to me); in 10cc’s I’m Not In Love, I heard “requesting quiet” for “big boys don’t cry.”
Sweet and innocent, these days of my youth. Blissful ignorance.
In every generation, there are performers who press buttons and drop jaws; those who make both young fans and their parents roar (but for opposing reasons). What one loves, the other hates.
For my parents, it was Elvis, who, when he finally appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, was filmed mostly above the waist; apparently, his hips couldn’t lie.
For me, it was Madonna. Like a Virgin and Papa Don’t Preach–she pushed the edge as far as you could go.
Until I realized the edge is boundless.
A new Queen of Shock was recently crowned; whether or not you saw her performance on the VMAs, you’ve likely heard about it. Wagging her tongue and her tail, Miley Cyrus has everyone talking.
Just five years ago the former Hannah Montana star declared “There’s only three guys that I love right now, and that’s Jesus, my brothers, and my dad.” The young woman I wrote about then is tucked inside a train wreck.
First instinct is to judge her. I’ve seen accusing fingers pointing at her parents, too. But the loveliest written response I’ve seen is courtesy of Annie Downs in her post How do we help Miley?
Speaking love is powerful; it’s how Antoinette Tuff, an elementary school bookkeeper, talked a man who entered her school with 500 rounds of ammunition into peacefully giving up.
An ordinary mama diffusing a human time bomb with patience and kind words.
* * *
Thanks to wise counsel from others I respected, I avoided a “One Size Fits All” approach in parenting, learning that each of my children would require something different of me. Of course we set standards in our home, but to approach very different personalities without consideration of our children’s differences would be an exercise in frustration, a set-up for failure.
One of motherhood’s secrets, something I hadn’t anticipated in advance, was that the convictions I held at one point in time wouldn’t apply in all seasons, for all time.
Early on, it never occurred to me that the choices I made when my children were in grade school didn’t make as much sense when they were in middle school, and definitely not by high school. To have remained rigid and resolute would have chipped away at my credibility. It would have made me seem out of touch and inflexible.
I chose my mountains carefully and prayerfully.
* * *
If you haven’t learned this yet, you will: Good kids “do.”
Good kids will make bad choices. Cheating on tests, lying, shoplifting, drinking, sexual activity, gossip, drugs–a thousand ways to disrespect themselves or others.
When this happens, everyone is best served if you can find a way to the heart of your child.
Which is much harder than it sounds.
I recently suspected something was up with one of my children. While it wasn’t as public or disturbing as Miley’s behavior, what I didn’t want – what could have easily happened – was a) for my child to shut down; b) for a great wall to be built between us; c) to set up being lied to.
No matter what it might feel like sometimes, your children do not want to disappoint you.
Do you realize they would rather tell you want you want to hear than disappoint you? Sometimes it’s to avoid punishment, but mostly they’d rather lie than hurt you.
Sometimes the consequence (to you) of imposing stiff consequences (to your children) yields an even costlier consequence to both….
I begged God for favor and truth to be revealed in our situation. With humility, love and grace, I explained my concerns and that I feared a, b and c above. With all sincerity I extended the assurance I could better live with the ugly truth than pretty lies.
What resulted was a beautiful, honest conversation, and as it turned out, the truth wasn’t nearly as bad as the conjurings of my wild imagination. Still, had this occurred when my child was younger, there would have been a punishment (at least for the deception); but wisdom and experience informed my conviction and I realized the better choice was to listen, love and allow freedom of discussion. Only in that freedom was the way paved for truth to be shared.
* * *
Our culture fights the way of Christ; I’m sure you’ve encountered countless ways you have to battle this within your home. Choices and decisions exist today that were unheard of when we were younger (regardless of when you were younger). And it’s why I’m especially thankful for this well-known encouragement ~
Train up a child in the way he should go,
Even when he is old he will not depart from it.
~ Proverbs 22:6 NASB
If you have a child who’s wandering, whose heart concerns you, whose state of soul terrifies you, don’t despair. As long as there’s breath, there’s life and reason to hope.
Let go of your hurt, your right to be right. Let it go. It doesn’t change your child and it certainly doesn’t help you.
- While his/her choices have disappointed you, he/she is not a disappointment.
- While he/she might have repeatedly failed at meeting your expectations or honoring your wishes, he/she is not a failure.
Come to terms with the above in your own mind so everything in you communicates these things to your child.
Make a refuge for your prodigal to return, a space where love thrives without condition.
Resist the urge to condemn and pass judgement, whether it be toward your children, other parents and their children…or even pop stars.
Instead, meditate on 1 Corinthians 13 to remember love’s breadth and depth; then speak it with your words and actions.
Would you take a minute to share specifically what this means to you?
Shared in love by Robin Dance, who, when most of you read this will be cheering her beloved Clemson Tigers on to
hopeful VICTORY over the Georgia Bulldogs (in other words, please forgive me if I don’t respond quickly–college football will be holding me hostage!). 38-35