My life has been lived with a sensitivity to responsibility. I learned responsibility in the home of my mother, where the lived ethos was "if you start it, you will finish it" (I was in band, which I was in from the time I was in fifth grade until I graduated as a senior, though not always that willing, because of that rule). My vocation as a pastor is one that demands a great deal of responsible action, as well. (For example, and these are just a couple of examples from the myriad details that comprise my vocation life: I know that every Sunday morning -- except for vacations -- that I will be in worship most of the morning, and I know that I need to be ready at a minute's notice for an emergency call in cases of death or other tragedy, and that when someone expects me to be there to officiate at a wedding, I cannot back out). So, I am really quite a responsible human being, and not always because I want to be. I have had to learn to be.
This orientation is in such contrast to the expectations a number of my children have about theirs and others' lives. I become frustrated sometimes with the selfish preoccupation they have in seeing that theirs is the only "world" that matters. I know, I know. Really I do. I understand that teenagers are simply that way, and I understand all the development theories about this stage of life. I know mentally that this is the case. But it is still hard for me to live it. Perhaps it's because I resent the relative freedom they have. They are young enough that they can make and change friends three times a month if they want to (and our fourteen-year-old daughter does that pretty well). They can decide whether or not they want to have a part-time job (even if that means they have less money to spend as they wish). They are in a place where they have more freedom than I do, in many ways, but they don't recognize that.
After all, parents can't simply decide they are tired of their job. Or that they want to suddenly change their circle of friends. Or that they don't want to pay the utility bills for the month. You know what I'm talking about.
So, it is difficult for me today not to attend the sentencing hearing of our eighteen-year-old son Mike who will face the State of Minnesota and hear what the consequences are for his past year of illegal activities. Sadly, it appears that his activity level has not decreased, but only become less obvious, as we continue to receive at our address legal paperwork addressing new illegalities.
He called Claudia last night to find out the date and time of his court appearance (even though he hasn't called us in three weeks, he did remember to call home to find out when he's supposed to be in court), and she mentioned to him that she doubted either she or I would be there today. He seemed a bit confused by that, but here's the reason why. Both Claudia and I have talked about this, and we don't want to be in a position to hear him lie, nor do we want to be asked to verify anything that would place us in a difficult situation either. If Mike were still a juvenile, we would certainly be there with him (as we have for years prior to this).
The fact is that Mike has followed nearly none of the terms he was given when he was placed on probation. He is supposd to have resided at our home (which at first he would not, and then when he wanted to discovered that we were unwilling to let his illegal activities into our home). He has not refrained from using substances. He has not refrained from further illegal activity. He has not been in regular contact with his probation officer. He has not found a job. He has not begun to pay back his thousands of dollars of restitution. I'm not sure, exactly, if he has followed any of the criteria. I simply don't want to be there to hear him lie or to feel like I have somehow been responsible for his criminal activity.
So, today, I will be doing something that feels irresponsible. Today I will not attend his sentencing. And I will say to myself what he has said to me numerous times over the years. "I'm not going to do it because I don't want to."