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Friday, August 9, 2013

Dear Parent of a Teenager or Adult Child who has “Gone off the Rails”


In all likelihood, over the course of weeks, months, and years, you've alternately felt, believed, and/or wondered one or more of the following:

·         I'm the crappiest parent on the face of the Universe.
·         It's my fault because I _____(fill in the blank).
·         It's my fault because I didn't _____(fill in the blank).
·         How could this happen? I (we), loved her; taught him from his earliest days to respect and honor others; saw her choose to believe in Jesus Christ; corrected & disciplined him when needed; lived out an authentic faith before her; prayed for him; prayed for her; etc., infinity. 
·         (And, if you are a Christian), Where is God?

If you're there; here's some truth from a “been there” parent (um, that’s me)…

·         You're not the crappiest parent on the face of the Universe. I mean, seriously, who among us has done it all right, all the time? The answer is: no one. NO one. So how ‘bout we all agree to stop nominating ourselves for said award? And while we’re at it, stop nominating others as well.

·         It's my fault because I... Oh. My. Word. Can we just give this a rest? Can YOU just give this a rest? See, you didn't do it all right (see, also, 'crappiest parent'); you did--I did--we ALL did wrong stuff--"less-than-what-was-best" stuff. Dumb stuff. Embarrassing stuff. I get it. Now, let’s move on.

·         I/You/We...yelled, lost our temper; shut-down emotionally; worked too many hours; missed Scholastic Bowl; failed at homeschooling; cussed; lost faith; bribed a toddler; fell asleep before their curfew; etc., and infinity.

·         I/You/We didn't...make our marriage work; earn enough income to send him/her to special camps or private school; read to them as little children; always, without fail, think before we spoke; make them go to youth group; always know what to do--what to say--how to best handle a difficult situation; etc., and infinity.

·         I/You/We nostalgically review a nefarious checklist which we somehow came to believe promised non-freak-out inducing teenager and/or adult children. Nefarious enough on its own but when coupled with ever-powerful "Christian" checklist details (i.e. praying for child before they're ever conceived; church; scripture teaching; faith; 'Christian' discipline; determining proper movie/television viewing; etc.) and a Child Going Off The Rails...well, it most often leads to the alternately agonizing, desperate, and (if we're being truly honest) "This seems like a  rip-off" parental query: Where is God?

If you're there; here's truth and “been there” parent (um, that’s me, remember?) hope to keep you going:

·         God hasn't gone AWOL on you or your child. He can’t. His character won’t allow it. God's love is perpetual, unending, and eternal. (Which, by the way, annoys the heck out of all ‘Going Off The Rails’ types.)

·         None of this surprises God. Not one arrest. Not one seemingly failed rehab. Not one hellacious verbal or physical altercation. Not one lie, nor the hundreds after it.

·         All of this moves the heart of God—even as you worry yours has been hardened past the point of ever again softening toward the child you have loved and warred for & with so desperately.

     All the words you spoke into his/her life. All the truth you instilled into his/her life. All the day-by-day teaching you taught (and weren’t even aware of)…it’s all there.

There in his heart.
Her memory.
His spirit.

Don’t despair, my friend, for I promise you this—as I’ve seen its truth again and again in the lives of my own three children: God, who hasn’t gone AWOL; who isn’t surprised; and whose heart moves always, always, and “thank-you, sweet Lord!” A.L.W.A.Y.S. toward your child, even now is at work compelling your Rail Jumper back to her senses and reminding him of his true identity apart from all the garbage and mess through the power of His spirit and YOUR spoken words and teachings.

It’s all there! A venerable “How to Live Life” treasure trove of parental direction, commands, prayers, and love which can and will make a difference in their life.


"My [child], keep your father's commandment, and forsake not your mother's teaching. Bind them on your heart always; tie them around your neck. When you walk, they will lead you; when you lie down, they will watch over you; and when you awake, they will talk with you."

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