If you've been following this series of posts about dealing with a wayward child, I hope something here has helped you or inspired you to help someone else you know who is going through this.
Today, I want to talk about something that perhaps not all parents face, but if I did, surely others do too.
My husband and I are committed to honoring the Lord Jesus Christ in our personal lives as well as in our family. We have a calm, Christ-centered home where our other three children grew into vibrant, Godly young men and women who make us very proud and thankful.
But when our eldest daughter turned her back on everything we'd raised her to believe, the guilt I felt was overpowering. She was homeschooled, raised in a great church with good friends, happy home, everything she needed. Yet, with her eyes wide open, she set her course in the exact opposite direction. Had I failed God?
It took years, but God's truth finally began to penetrate my panicked fog. The first thing I had to accept was:
1) I am not the Holy Spirit. No matter how profound or deep my words or message, I cannot change a heart. My words had no power to change her unless she wanted to change and she clearly did not. God does not hold me accountable for doing His work.
2) Second, I cannot be Jesus for her. During the time of my deepest grief, when I learned a devastating fact about her slide into evil, I was so overwhelmed with remorse I tried to pray for her forgiveness. If I could have, I would have taken that sin upon myself and paid for it, but I couldn't. I'm a flawed sacrifice. Only Jesus can pay that price and I cannot bear her sin on the cross for her. Only Jesus can do that and only she can repent of it. To this day, I still bear the scar of knowing what she has done. It's a wound upon my conscience because she is my daughter. But only she can bear the guilt of it and find forgiveness in Christ's sacrifice for it.
3) I had to set her free. This was a long process and not done right away. If your wayward child is still underage, you don't have the option of kicking them out. Even though our daughter was 19 when it all came crashing down, in my heart she was still my little girl. It took long weeks and months after she left to pry my mother-fingers off her life. She had been completely dependent upon us until that day, living at home while we paid for everything because she never seemed to have any money, despite having 2-3 jobs (Another clue, but it's too late now).
In order to sleep at night, you have to let go. Make it an official act with your spouse of releasing them into God's hands. We prayed that God would do whatever necessary to save her soul, with no holds barred. We knew what we were asking. I don't pretend that it was easy, or that we didn't have to do it several times a day, but there is a release to your spirit when you can let go and move on.
Peace comes back to your house. One friend who was going through something similar with her son remarked, "I had forgotten what our home was supposed to be like until he left. It's back. We all like each other again."
Your family closes ranks, like a scab closing a wound. The wound is still there and it still hurts, but you can breathe again. The intense pain that clutched at you every waking moment and followed you to bed at night is gone. You remember how to laugh and enjoy the rest of your family, realizing how much you neglected them when it was always about the errant child.
Once you let go, it won't ever be the same. You stop thinking of them as your child. The photos in the family album are bittersweet memories, but unrelated to the shrieking creature who taunts you from afar. There is a separation that must happen in order to move on. You cannot live in a perpetual state of shocked horror. The child you thought you raised does not exist and parting with that beloved idea is tantamount to mourning a death.
I'm not far enough in my journey to know if the wound ever heals completely. If it does, I'll let you know. But there's another, very crucial step to surviving a wayward child that I'll talk about it next post. Be sure to come back tomorrow.