More than a few books have caught my attention lately on the importance of the holiness and righteousness of worshipping God, but the book, “The Reason for God” by Timothy Keller, in particular really stood out. I can totally relate to what the author says concerning the waywardness of young people who have been raised in church. In fact, I have two adult children who have left the nest to explore the world and to, as my second oldest puts it, “be young and free and enjoy life.” I know that Christ keeps all those who have been given to him but leaving or choosing something else over the church was not something I thought my kids would ever do, and then I wonder if they ever belonged. That latter part is the hardest to consider.
Admittedly, I bare some fault for their rebellion. After eleven years of being with my husband, I decided to take our five small daughters and leave. My marriage felt like a big mistake and a tragedy. There was a lot of fighting. I wanted love and he wanted to hate me. My husband took out his anger on me because he felt trapped. He had said as much on a consistent basis and treated me as if that was what he felt. I was confused and felt betrayed. I didn’t know then what I know now–you cannot make right from wrong. It’s better to just stop the wrong but I was young. Marriage doesn’t fix anything and it certainly doesn’t cover the sin of engaging in premarital sex. He was angry to have been basically forced into marrying someone he didn’t respect and I was so devastated to have gotten married only to find out that marriage, this marriage was not what I had hoped it would be. And I was saved. Wasn’t Jesus supposed to lead me around by the nose, I thought, making my life better than it was?
Depressed enough to attempt suicide, I told myself that our children were the only things salvageable from this pit and moved to my mother’s. I was lost but I had a new hope and a purpose. Love was on my mind. I wanted it but I still had no clue as to how that business was done. My mom had no clue either and so I fell back into what I had been doing before I got married, man-pleasing and trying to earn love. No young bride wants to hear her husband say that he doesn’t know why he married her because he never loved her. How was I going to make sense of this love thing? No man had ever loved me. The only value of myself that I could come up with was superficial. So I started to really work on my mind while I wandered around in the dark, looking for validation. I wanted to stop myself from falling.
The scariest thing as a mother, I’m learning, is having your children run out into the world, imagining it to be something to enjoy rather than something to be observed from a considerable distance and with a great amount of caution. My oldest daughters were the ones to doubt whatever I had said when it came to real life. They figured all I knew was the Bible and church and living a sheltered life as a stay-at-home wife and mother, as if I was born that way, but as for living in the world as an independent woman, I knew basically nothing and had nothing to offer, so when they left home, they thought they would do better to find out for themselves what life was all about without any input from the mother in whom they had trusted for all their lives.
I dropped the ball and my precious little ones stopped trusting in me and then turned to friends who knew no more than they did. I had a part in that worldly life they were desiring but it damaged me and left me wounded. Before I gave my life to Christ, I suffered in darkness and after I was saved, I still suffered. I hadn’t realized that my struggles were with giving up on something I thought I had to have in order to be valuable. Whether you think you’re in control or someone else is controlling, raping, molesting or abusing you, feeding the flesh will always end badly. I thought my age would make a difference but no, I was still dumb. I wasn’t going to understand love and respect through experience. I broke off a 9 year relationship and forced myself to relied on God’s character and what he said. There was a reason for the advice I gave for them– to develop a heart and mind that was submitted to the Savior. That commitment to obey would be far better than learning from experiencing life by the world’s standards.
Experience is confusing and not a reliable tool for discernment. Anyone can feel bad about something that’s right and godly, and feel good about something that’s deadly. I did. We’re human and sinful and even when we’re Christian, we can slip and fall over into darkness and even roll around and wallow in it. Our flesh is untrustworthy and living the worldly life is living by lies and deceit. Personal experience is isolating. Even though it promises all kinds of unity, it lies. It depends on an individual pursuit of satisfying the flesh and not on God at all. Our God is a Triune God united in an eternal relationship and his desire is for us to unite in relationship with him and with each other. Agreement in the essentials causes a natural unity. When parents model their own trust in the flesh, children learn to do the same but that experience doesn’t come with a guide to understanding our human nature. It’s not customary for children to stop and consider that their parents make mistakes. Monkey see, monkey do and thus the little sinners find excuses to behave badly just like their parents did when they were small. Continually, I learn from my painful lessons and the consequences of those choices never go away and now I wait with the porch light on, anxiously for my children return from all theirs heavy baggage in hand.
Discernment isn’t some special ability which super Christians work up through personal experience. It is a gift of the Holy Spirit and not of any man or woman. There are no super Christians. We all on level ground under the only God and Creator. Weighing and measuring everything against the word of God and listening to that small still voice of God who reminds us of what we’ve heard in God’s word, for God does not contradict himself, and faithful obedience to that conviction within every believer who trusts only in God is what produces discernment and spiritual growth. Disobedience doesn’t build faith, it destroys it. Learn to hear His voice over the others. And stay in a safe place until you can do this. It’s a smart choice. It’s the choice that my other children have made, thank God.