After tossing out my little post-nugget earlier today, and getting the differing views and opinions, it occurs to me, I have something going on that is a really good situation to ask for some opinions about. I’m really interested in your thoughts on this stuff and how you think Christians should react.
The subject is Christian parenting, and what constitutes being a rebellious child. The situation I have been watching involves a young 20 year old girl, adopted at 9 from a foreign country by a pastor and his wife. They had adopted a young girl from there once before, and this would be their second child. These kids were homeschooled and raised strictly with other church kids. Natasha, (not her real name), had a tragic history before being adopted by Americans. She does poorly academically, and at some point, her parents give up trying to educate her.
Like most teen girls, Natasha wants boys to be interested in her as much as she is interested in them. She wants to wear makeup so they’ll find her pretty, and she wants to go to places where boys hang out. All of these things are typical teenage girl stuff, and as a mother, you balance out the insanity of teen girl hormones with communication, compromise, and the knowledge that at some point, our daughters will regain their minds again. We just hope to keep them alive, childless, and without felonies until then.
This particular family forbid Natasha from having crushes on boys, or wearing makeup, or participating in the age old ritual of haunting the mall with your girl-pack. Normal human desires, both sexually and emotionally, were labelled sinful and punished. Their elder daughter, in her late twenties, had still not moved away from home, and it was assumed Natasha would stay there indefinitely as well. Except, Natasha wanted something different, and in her opinion, better.
At 19, Natasha was working as a nanny to people with three kids. She was paid $50 a week, plus room and board. Her parents had gotten her this job, and the house was only a block away from their house. When Natasha expressed a desire to quit working for these people, her parents refused to allow her to quit, and to put some real punch behind it, they told her that she could not return home to live with them. When Natasha quit anyways, and moved in with Rebekkah and me, the parents were pissed. They had an entire church of people who wouldn’t have lifted a finger unless told to do so, save one member….Rebekkah.
In the time that Natasha lived with us, it became clear to me that she could parrot things about God and the bible, but they meant nothing to her beyond that. I could tell she had a myriad of issues I’m sure she arrived on this side of the world with already — trouble bonding, trust issues, coping problems — as well as some I’m sure she collected here — fear of rejection, fear of not being like everyone else, belief that physical beauty is all that counts. She was a hot little mess. She stayed with us for a time, and then she catapulted to boyfriends, live-in boyfriends, a pregnancy that was planned, as crazy as that sounds, a miscarriage, and finally, today, a husband.
The church, in unity, ostracized Natasha the minute she disobeyed her parents order that she remain employed as a nanny, and despite Rebekkah’s oft very public questioning of their treatment of these adult children they are clutching so unnaturally long into their adulthood, and the private discussions with Natasha’s mother and sister, the church remains convinced that Natasha is in rebellion against her parents. That to return to her place of honoring her parents, nothing but a return to living at home under the authority of her parents will suffice, and will include despising all natural attraction to the opposite sex as perverse and sinful, and she must accept that she is disgraced and tainted, saved by grace by God, but not so much by her family here on earth.
Natasha used to express the desire to have her own baby, more often than I liked. There was no amount of talking that was going to make this little girl see any of the reasons she should wait, although we really did try. Something in that little head of hers thought that a baby of her own would fix something broken in herself, and I knew we were going to lose this battle.
Natasha landed a boyfriend, lived with him, and got pregnant. A short time afterwards, she also miscarried. Her wedding plans had already been made, and despite losing the child, she and the boyfriend got married. Rebekkah didn’t think Natasha was making the right choice, but this brought up the question — do we show our disapproval by refusing to attend the wedding, like this arrogant set of church people, or do we show up anyways, because we love the person making the mistake, and want them to know they have someone to turn to if things should go wrong?
When Rebekkah brought the whole thing up to me, I didn’t hesitate. I feel we should always err on the side of mercy and compassion, and not try to manipulate people into doing what we think they ought to do with our rejection, silence, and public disowning under banners of self-righteousness. She has suffered a loss of a baby, and yet there has been no one to reach out to comfort her at all.
So, Christians. What is your take? Can a grown child be considered rebellious for leaving home at 20 despite his parents’ wishes? Should a child who is getting married to someone you disapprove of be ostracized? What versus back up treating children like indentured servants?
I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts….
10 responses to “A Question For Christian Parents”
There’s a text in Ephesians that many Christian parents tend to rush over, when discussing the relationship between parent, and child. First, the child is admonished to honor their parents–to respect them for us modern folks, and then it goes on to say, “parents, provoke not your children to wrath.” Taken in its literal sense, parents are being told to not anger their children. Further examination of the text suggests more to me. It suggests that as parents, it is fine to expect obedience, and respect from your children; however, it is equally as important to treat your child like a human being with emotions of his/her own. Natasha’s “parents” have missed more than that part of the Bible, if you ask me. God, and His Son preached a message of love from cover to cover. Despite how evil the world was, He saved Noah, and his family. Despite the sins of Zaccheus, and Mary, Martha, and Peter, even Judas Iscariot, Jesus was willing to leave room for them to know that they could find salvation from their sins. He showed them the error of their ways by being there for them, rather than being the judgmental voice the Pharisees, and Sadducees favoured.
I’ve been raised as a Christian child, and I can’t imagine my family treating me like Natasha’s adoptive parents have for the things she did. Sure, they would be hurt, and probably disappointed–perhaps, even expressing it all with anger, but to have entire community of people ostracise her is wrong beyond explanation. The church ought to be a haven, not a stumbling block for those trying to walk the Christian path. As people who care for Natasha, I say it would be fine to attend her wedding. It’s important for her to not feel like she has no one, and to not feel like she can never be that perfect person her “family” wanted. What you can do, is tell her firmly, “We love you, and want you to be happy, so we will be there to offer our support, but please know that we don’t feel like this is the right move for your life right now. No matter what though, we’re here because you deserve to have people in your life who respect your ability to make decisions, and who will love you even when those decisions go against things they believe in.”
Sorry if I came across strongly, but controlling parents bring out my outrage. I’ve seen too many friends suffer, or feel like they couldn’t handle their lives because their parents didn’t allow them to learn how to live.
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We are in perfect agreement, Kadeen! I disagreed with every part of what was going on. Rebekkah has been the churches thorn over all of this, and they have tried ostracizing her, calling her a fanatic and a radical, trying to manipulate her with faulty logic, and she has not only stood firm, but they have been unable to dislodge her from attending church. I have a feeling God loves Natasha quite a bit to have deposited my daughter, the rock, to keep anyone from forgetting the wrong done here. I know my kid, and frankly, they have no idea how impossible she is to sway. Thanks for your thoughts, Kadeen!
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I’m the last person who can advise on Christian attitudes since I’m not strictly a Christian. For me, this story just emphasises what I’ve always believed, that Church and religion are about control. It also strikes me that your attitude is more about love and I know which way of life I’d rather have.
No matter your beliefs in religion Bird,I hope your attitude to life, love and family never change. Maybe mankind stands a chance then.
xxx Massive Hugs xxx
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Despite being a Christian, I must agree that our churches are rarely about love anymore. I have always felt that running a good church and running a good business are at odds with one another, and the minute a congregation buys a building and some land, the goals change, and you will either have a good church or you’ll have a good income. I can’t agree with any form of parenting that uses rejection and manipulation as discipline tools, and treats a child with a history of orphanages, dead parents, and no sense of belonging like this. Pastors are held to higher standard by the Lord for a reason, and I believe that is why Rebekkah is stubbornly refusing to go away.
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Churches should teach people to have intimate relationships with God – that means that’s between the person and God, not God, the person and the church(or pastor). It’s sooo sad how some people left the church because there’re SOME SO CALLED CHRISTIANS who live like the world who hurt them and never loved them. The secular world has immensely impacted the church today. Thanks for bringing that up.
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Hey, Bird. It seem to me that whether a child is raised in a “strict” or “permissive” home isn’t as important as an atmosphere of respect, admiration, and, of course, love. It doesn’t sound as though “Natasha” had any of those qualities.
Preacher’s Kids (PKs) are often religiously precocious, challenging, and a bit unruly. Adopted kids from Eastern Europe generally have some sort of issue or another–even Russian kids raised in reasonably good orphanages. Many have mild to moderate fetal alcohol syndrome. Many have, or develop, learning disabilities. Then there is the whole issue of attachment, or lack thereof. Adoptive kids, especially those who are older when adopted, have trouble bonding. It’s not that they don’t want to, they just sorta can’t do so. All that, and then there are the language issues. Even two-year olds adopted from Russia have been exposed to Russian, speak some, and may have delays with English. It all contributes to the child’s view of him or herself. Mostly negative. If “Natasha” is artistically talented, then there is a great chance she finds the world overwhelming from the very start. And it wouldn’t surprise me if Natasha just has a need to draw attention to herself. And that attention-seeking is something that is just there, regardless of being loved or unloved. Furthermore, unresolved, nagging questions, not even articulated, lay within some adoptive kids, such as: “Why was I discarded?” And: “If I was so bad as to be discarded, who can love me, who would love me?”
Oh, I raised two from Russia. It is a challenge. It is also a joy and a blessing. One cannot have expectations of perfection.
Also, honoring one’s parents isn’t necessarily obeying, in my opinion.
Lord Bless, Keep, Shine. . .
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How insane for any parent, pastor, or church to think it is appropriate to control a 19 or 20 year old! The character-formation strategies of child raising reached their end usually by early adolescence, and after that the challenge was being loving, present, tender-hearted, and building an adult relationship. You should view yourself as her rescuer, not treat her as a child or a project, and keep building a friendship with her based on affection and trust. I think you should also embrace the idea of being a type of mother to her, too, offering kindness, acceptance, and support for her. Her baggage has to do with the attachment issues of her past, and (I think) the pain and damage of religious dogmatism/perfectionism. But we all have baggage, in the end, and so we need people who will not hit us over the head with our baggage, but will instead give us hope and acceptance–baggage and all! Thanks for helping her out!
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We raise our children (biological or not) to our best ability hopefully, and if we’re Christians we teach them about God. When all is said and done, they will do what they choose, and when they are of age we need to let them make their own way and mistakes, just as we did. Our job though is to love them unconditionally just as our God loves us….To threaten them and to try and control them is of no benefit to anyone….. Diane
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I agree with you completely!!!
Thanks for sharing the story, the details like this I have heard in many of my travels and visits to churches across America.
When God created man he did so and gave us free will, he did not make us do what he wanted. To often many church leaders forget that when dealing with the adult children. I raised my daughter she is now in her late 20s. While she has made some choices I wished she would not have, I let her live her own life. Yes I want to protect her, but she must learn somethings on her own.
Mistakes and failures are the things that teach us more of the important lessons in life. We need to let them go make the mistakes. Support them, love them. When we walk away from God he lets us, BUT is always there with open arms to accept us back.
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