About 5 years ago I met a young lady who would challenge me more than I’ve ever been challenged in my life. After having survived the loss of my sister and watching the slow and painful demise of my mother, that’s saying something. And, yet, I love this young lady and her brother with all my heart.
If anyone tells you that being the step-parent of a teenager is easy, run. Don’t just run, run and hide. It is one of the most difficult and thankless jobs anyone will ever take on, especially if said teenager has emotional and intellectual challenges that had gone unaddressed for most of the teenager’s life.
I have done all that in my human strength I felt I could do to guide and love this young lady and yet, she stubbornly decides to go her own way to her own demise and all I can do sometimes is watch and pray and hope and pray and cry and pray. I have tried to show her by word and example what good decisions look like. I have tried to help her make choices that would lead to a happy and healthy life. Sometimes I think she’s not listening and surprise – she was! Sometimes I think she is listening and she truly is not. Only time will tell what she has both heard and taken to heart.
Enter just this morning, an ordinary overcast April morning in New England. I sat in my kitchen, coffee at my elbow, pen in my hand, and free will on my mind. This young lady of mine has taught me more about free will and God’s grace and unconditional love than a lifetime of Bible study could have ever taught me.
It has been a tumultuous couple of years. But this morning, God told me, in all His subtlety, that I am just like this young lady sometimes. He tells me go right and I go left. He tells me to walk beside Him and I go sprinting ahead. Inevitably, after various wrong turns, I hang my head, turn back and say I’m sorry, I’ll try harder. Every time, God has taken me back. I know there is much pain in my life that could have been spared had I but listened. Such is the curse of free will. Such is the blessing of unconditional love.
I found myself pondering this dynamic this morning and it’s very real reflection of my relationship with this young lady and wrote the following in my journal:
“Yesterday I was trying to have a talk with L___ and she was texting through the whole thing. It was rude and I was annoyed, so I took the phone from her hand. I see my journal somewhat as a conversation with God and I just wander in and out of the conversation – even when God might be talking to me. [Note: I kept setting my pen down during my journalling time to text or check Facebook.] ‘Damn you, free will!’ I feel like shouting. And, yet, what is the difference here if God removes the phone from my hand and holds my chin while he talks to me versus me setting the phone down and turning my face and eyes toward him and listening on my own. In which scenario am I loving Him?”
I want this young lady to love me and pay attention to me on her own terms and in her own free will and God wants the same from me. Even though it tests my patience again and again to see her wander and stumble, I love her and care for her beyond words, and despite any frustration I may have, if she but uttered one word, “help” I’d be there in an instant. And so it is with God.
Matthew 7:9-13 “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”