She needs help, but she doesn’t want help. She especially doesn’t want our help.
She would rather be homeless than be home.
It’s a loss unlike any other loss in life.
When your child is born to you or comes to you, you are filled with hope for that child. You pour your heart and soul, energy and finances into caring for this precious being.
When my children were young, especially the adopted ones, the advice was to invest our energy into bonding with them. That never seemed to be a problem because we loved them each at first sight. We totally committed to holding, affirming and loving them.
Perhaps that complete bonding is what makes the tearing away so painful. I haven’t figured that part out yet.
My husband and I devoted our lives to family. We went from two careers to one, made large financial sacrifices and even homeschooled the kids. We took them to church, youth group, youth camp and did everything good Christian parents are supposed to do.
We even wrote books and articles about good parenting and gave speeches about it.
And we prayed for them. And we prayed over them.
When a child excises herself from a family, it is a different kind of letting go. All parents know that we raise kids to ultimately let them go. They go off to college, they marry, and they work and live on their own. This letting go may be painful, but you know you are letting your child go into a future with hope.
When you child tears herself away from you into a life that can only lead to poverty and despair, there is no joy or peace in it. When they reject every offer of help or hope, you have to let go.
Not letting go has caused me marital stress and physical illness. It has squelched my joy and stolen my peace.
In our family, we have dealt with this difficult behavior for a decade, with an acceleration of the insanity in the past six months. We are stretched, worn, heartbroken, aching, and broken.
In my daily thoughts and prayers about and for her, this is my focus:
- I feel I have done everything in my power and it is time to rest in that. The choices being made are choices made by my child. Letting go is accepting the reality that her difficulties are the sum of her choices. While I grieve, cry and pray, it is out of my hands. I don’t love my daughter any less. But I am realistic about what I can expect from her. I can expect hostility, not a loving mother-daughter relationship. The only thing I control is my reaction to it. I can allow it to ruin my life, or I can learn what I need to learn and move forward.
- I am not the only parenting suffering. When I have chosen in my writing to be transparent about our difficulties, the response has been breathtaking. Other moms who have poured their hearts into their children spill their tears in my inbox. I welcome them to this shared suffering and hope they take comfort in learning their pain is not unique.
- Finally, as hard as it is to imagine, God loves my child even more than I do. I used to tell my kids, “I love you to the moon and back.” The God of the universe loves them even more. I can unload my grief and pain into my prayers to the Lord, who knows well the suffering caused by all of our sin and dysfunction.
While my words bounce off her ears (when I am allowed to communicate with her) I must remember that the Lord can reach her heart at any time. God can speak to her when I cannot and in ways that I cannot fathom.
In my moments of complete honesty with myself, I recall the young girl that was me so many years ago. I ran from my family. I ran so fast from the Lord that surely I was beyond His reach. But He pursued me and wooed me to wholeness in Him and reconciliation in many relationships.
I rest in that and let God can speak words of peace and comfort to me through His word.
And I pray, “Do it again, Lord. Chase after her hard like you chased after me.”