Thursday, February 28, 2008

When Those Closest To You Despise Your Most Important Relationship

We had our court date with older daughter this afternoon, and I returned back to the office to continue working until I return home in a little while. I have been thinking since our pre-courtroom conversation (the daughter, my wife and the probation officer) about what transpired.

Daughter is compliant, remorseful, embarrassed to be back in court in shackles. She expresses dismay that she finds herself in this position again. She is glad to return home, but not necessarily happy to return to her family. It is, however, better than detention and better than a long-term treatment stay.

When confronted by the probation officer about her recent disrespectful episodes concerning church attendance (one of our family's expectations), she replied: "Why should I have to go. I don't believe all that." Both her mother and the probation officer reminded Salinda that we are not mandating that she believe anything, but that part of the way a family functions is to be mutually respectful. The PO asked, "Well, maybe your parents don't believe in your boyfriend." (She had earlier mentioned that he is the most important thing in her life). "Have your parents been disrespectful about him?" Her sullen response, "No." Then proceeded an explanation about how our family expects its members to worship together; and when family members meet expectations they then receive individual privileges they believe important.

That's all very rational and sensible, I suppose, but it still tears at my heart, which I'm sure is exactly why she is maintaining the position she is. I suspect her real objection to church has more to do with the fact that her birth brother John never completed confirmation (due to his numerous in-and-out times in our family's life), and she believes that it would be disloyal to him if she were to accomplish what he has not (yet) done. I believe she is also embarrassed by the behavior of her two other of her brothers who have, within the same period of time, broken into the church and stolen money from the offering. Hey, I'm embarrassed by that myself. I am sure she is mad at God (whom she currently does not believe in) because it was God who made us leave a town she was content to live in to move to a larger, new community where things have been challenging. After all, if her father had a different job, this wouldn't have happened (at least in her mind).

But the irony does not escape me. The very thing (her parents' Christian faith) that caused her to be part of our family is the very thing she currently despises. I guess that makes sense in a twisted sort of way, too. If she is unhappy in or with her family or parents, she can blame the very "thing" that brought her into this family in the first place. So, it's not as though I can use that argument to help her understand how God has benefited her. To her it is no benefit at all.

One of the consequences of adopting "older" children who are still too young to remember the horrific beginnings of their lives (this daughter was six when she came into our family, having been in foster care for at least two years before that), is that they do not remember what it was like when they were that age. They assume, wrongly, that they were removed from healthy, loving families at the whim of some social workers and dumped into a family who may say they love them but never really could or can. I think when there are cross-cultural issues this only compounds the feelings. (Our daughter is Hispanic; her parents are white; her siblings come from multiple ethnic backgrounds).

It is painful for me to know that the one relationship that matter most to me (my connection with the God who called me and daily empowers me) is the one she chooses to attack. But, I am also relieved, because I know that the God I serve is big enough to take the disbelief of an adolescent trying to sort through what really matters in life. That Claudia and I are not only committed Christians, but that my vocation is in direct relationship to this God and the community of faith, does make me feel a little inept, or at least humbled. I know that I am not the only Christian parent who has had to deal with the agnostic railings of an angry adolescent, and I am reminded that even those who attempt to lead others in developing their faith lives may face opposition from those closest to them. Claudia says it only provides more integrity for my task, and I only wish integrity could be earned in less personal, painful ways.


Sage said...

Our comfort for many years (ummm, still is!) is the Bible verse that says "Bring up a child in the way that he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it." We did what we knew was right in teaching them God's commandments, His promises, the Psalms, etc, and we pray that it's in their heart forever. We trust that they will return to the fold, as God promises in His Word. ~marge~

Cindy said...

"Claudia says it only provides more integrity for my task, and I only wish integrity could be earned in less personal, painful ways."

That's pretty powerful...Great blog Bart. I share y'all's pain.