Guest post - parent pain

I am a parent with a grown child that is breaking my heart.  I asked Suzanne if I could write something about that for her blog.  We have been good friends for a long time so she said that would be fine.  I think she is going to get other friends to write about some things they have gone through, too.  I don't live near her anymore but I enjoy her blog and her encouragement.

I am not a good writer but I hope that I can say some things that might help somebody else.  That is what I pray.

I have several grown children and they are all blessings to me.  All of them but one have good relationships with God.  I love them all, even the one that does not have a good relationship with Him.  She has been in rebellion for a few years and that is why I am writing.  If you want one of those happy ever after endings, don't read this because that is not what I have to share.  Suzanne knows that and she still wants me to share my story because it is the truth.  And she says because God is still faithful, the story isn't over yet.

Many times I have heard Suzanne say that there is no pain like parent-pain and I would agree 1000% with that.  When my children were young, it hurt for them to be left out or not make the team or something like that.  That hurts but it is nothing like the pain you feel when they turn their back on what you have taught them and tried to live out for them.  That is what happened in our family.

We tried to do all the things that are supposed to make children turn out right.  I will be honest and tell you that, before this happened to us, I used to hear parents say that and in my heart I doubted it.  I really thought that if you did all the right things, then children would turn out good.  So, if their children didn't turn out right, I thought they must have failed in some way as parents.  Maybe that really is the truth but I hope and pray with all my heart that it is not true.  Suzanne says that we all have the perfect parent (God) and we still rebel so the actions of our children are not our fault.  There is a verse in Ezekiel that she bases that on.  Maybe she shared it already.  Anyway, I know we are still supposed to try to be good parents and do the things that will help our children and that's what my husband and I did.  We were (are) very active in church.  In fact, we are in ministry.  When our children were at home, we had devotions with them, prayed with them and for them, memorized Bible verses together. We really do love God and it is our heart's desire to obey Him and honor Him.  We love Him and His people and His Word.  My husband spent a very great amount of time with every one of our children while they were growing up and he was always kind and loving and teaching them. We had fun times and  have some great memories.  I do not know of any major problems in our home.  I have tried to be a good Mother but sometimes I failed.  I would lose my temper and not be patient with them sometimes.  But I always apologized and tried to make it right.  Maybe I am the cause of our child's rebellion but I don't know.  We really did do the best we could - we even homeschooled them for a time- and all of our other children are strong Christians.  Just this one has broken our hearts.  As we think back on their childhood, we think we probably spent more time and energy on this one because she seemed to need it more.  That is very interesting.

When the rebellion first started, I was very afraid.  My husband was very calm and optimistic that it would not last long and would not get any worse.  Sometimes we would see things that gave us hope but once she moved out, things got really bad.  In those weeks, I cried a lot.  And of course I prayed.  Sometimes the sorrow would just overtake me in the midst of other things.  It was strange, though, that even in the deep sorrow, I would have joy.  That doesn't even make sense I know.  But it is the truth.  It was like God was reminding me that all the world can fall away but I still have Him and that is enough.  So I was very sad and my husband was "numb".  That was the word he used.  It caused some tension between us, I will be honest.  I wanted him to take some kind of drastic action and he felt I was being dramatic.  We both felt very helpless.  We had to just sit back and watch her be destructive.  Of course we prayed but we didn't share what was happening with other people.  Our other children knew of course - at least some of the information.  But we didn't feel that we should confess HER sins to other people.  I don't know if that is right or not but I am just telling you what we did.  Maybe it's because we were so ashamed.  Gradually a few people found out some of the things that were happening.  Some of them seemed condemning and self-righteous to me but maybe I was just overly sensitive.  Probably that's how I seemed to other people when it happened to them.

One of the things you might be wondering is did we see this coming.  Yes and no.  I can be sort of a worrier so when I saw certain things in my children, I would take it to the extreme and worry that this is the beginning of something really bad.  My husband does not worry and always sees the good.  When she was in high school, there were problems with her wanting to dress a certain way or watch certain movies or date certain boys. We didn't want to be over-strict so we let her make some decisions that we didn't agree with.  I worried a lot about that but we decided it was not a big deal.  I don't know if that was where things all started or not. I didn't know what to do. One thing that bothers me so very much is that once (when we didn't know how bad things really were) I felt led to fast for her.  And I didn't do it.  Then we received some news that was very encouraging.  We were so happy!  I really forgot about the fast then.  Soon after that, we found out that the news we had received was a bunch of lies and that things were much worse than we had ever imagined.  Of course I wonder if things would have been different if I had fasted.

I will tell you that it is so very very hard not to blame yourself.  Or your spouse.  I don't really have any advice for you except to tell you some things that helped us.  I needed to talk about it but my husband wanted to pretend it wasn't true.  This was his daughter and he wanted to have her still be his little princess.  It tore my heart out to see him hurt like it did.  That made me mad at her.  I know that sounds so awful but I want to be honest with you.  By God's grace, I never have expressed anger towards her for all of this.  That is a miracle, I promise you!  So I had to work with the Lord to get rid of my anger and to truly forgive her.  We have told her that we forgive her and that we love her.  She says she knows that.  Anyway, my husband knew I needed to talk about it, especially when things first got so bad, and he let me.  I know he would rather have not but he did that for me and it helped me cope.

Another thing - we have tried to be conscious of the needs of our other children.  When one demands so much of your time, etc, it can be easy to overlook the others.  And they are the ones that really deserve our energy!  So we have been careful to focus on them, not just on the rebel.

Also, we try to not neglect our own relationship with the Lord or with each other.  It's sad that those can take a back seat when you experience something like this but those are the very things that need to be strengthened.  That is what keeps you going.

We are still waiting for her to come to repentance.  We worry about her and we worry about the effect this could have on the rest of our family.  We pray constantly for wisdom - there are so many complicated decisions that come up.  For instance, we have considered getting out of the ministry.  We have been counseled that the verse about being disqualified for ministry because of unruly children does not apply to adult children.  I don't know if that is right but we have followed that counsel.  Also, do we have her in our home for holidays?  Whether it's right or not, we do.  We welcome her home and try to make things wonderful while she is there. But her values and standards are not ours. Many times, she has ruined things for all of us by being selfish and demanding and exploding and saying unkind things to all of us. That leaves us all upset  but I don't want to exclude her.  I love her and all my children.  I don't know if the others resent her or not. 

If she comes to repentance - Suzanne says to say "when" and not "if" - I know there will be consequences.  Forgiveness (God's and ours) doesn't remove those.  I do not know what those will be and probably those consequences will be hard, too.  But I am willing to bear anything - I just want to know that all my children will be in Heaven with me one day.

This is getting really long.  I have not really offered much advice.  I pray for other parents that have to go though something like this.  It is very hard.  Like Suzanne says, there is no pain like parent pain.  I have to hold on tight to God and pray that He will bring her back.  It really is true that He is faithful and that He can give you joy even when your heart breaks.  Pray a lot.  Read the Bible a lot.  And find one or maybe two friends that you trust and will pray with you.