My daughter’s eyes shifted nervously, avoiding my gaze, as she threw her clothing and makeup haphazardly into her suitcase.
She would be 18 in a few days and had made clear her intentions – get out of our house and get out fast.
Homeschooled her whole life and an easy going, cheerful child, there had been little to prepare me for what was happening, and try as I may to dissuade her, she was determined to go.
That was 3 years ago. That daughter is now happily married and joyfully back in our family. I’m not going to lie, it has been a long, hard road with many heart breaks and hurts along the way.
Have you ‘done everything right’ and still had a child jump ship? You are not alone!
I walked around with my head hanging in shame for months after our daughter left, believing that it was my neglect of some aspect of her education or upbringing that had caused all of this. Surely it was my fault that she rejected our family and our beliefs! I wracked my brains at night, unable to sleep, as I relived the key moments of her life.
Did she eat too much junk food, too many carbs, too much protein or not enough? Did she watch the wrong TV shows and movies, or were we too strict? Was our theology wrong? Were we too legalistic or too liberal? Did we miss some other critical opportunity in her life?
The answer to these questions is yes, and no. There is no perfect parent. We surely made many mistakes along the path. But that is not why our daughter rebelled.
Adam and Eve did have a perfect parent. They had the perfect environment and the most accurate theology possible – received straight from the mouth of God! And they still rebelled.
You see, your child, like Adam and Eve, has free will. Oh, they know the truth, you have taught them well. They know the truth and they have chosen to rebel, just like every other person, including you and me.
Your child may blame you for their poor decisions, but ultimately the decisions are their own.
There are two things that I have learned from being the parent of a prodigal. There are lots actually but we’ll save those for another day.
Keep your focus on Jesus. Take your eyes off of your child, your parenting and the hurt you are feeling and put them on Jesus. Get on your knees and get in the Word. God will use this experience to refine you, dear mama! By staying close to God and listening for His guidance, the lessons are learned much quicker than if we are kicking and screaming the whole way.
I wasted a lot of time worrying, blaming myself and thinking about what others thought of me during those three years. I had trouble remembering that God was working all of our experiences for the good. He wants us to check our hearts, to be sure, but He is kind and gracious. It is our enemy that wishes for this to tear our family apart.
Our earthly struggles are not to bring shame, they are to bring wisdom and humility and to prepare us to encourage others with the encouragement that we ourselves have received.
What God wants from us is that we learn to walk by faith, not by sight. Do you believe that God is in total control of your situation?
This kind of faith only comes through testing. A faith not tested is a faith not true. Being refined is not comfortable nor is it enjoyable. Take it from me, however, as we wrestle with our doubts and fears, God will faithfully bring us to a place of quiet rest – in Him.
Give God the driver’s seat. This next lesson is difficult to share but I pray that God will use it for good. God used the pain and humility of having a prodigal child to show me how I had created an idol out of our homeschool and parenting methods. I was so sure that we were ‘doing it’ right, that we had cracked the code of parenting. Our kids were doing great, our marriage was strong. This, my friends, is a recipe for disaster.
As parents, especially homeschooling, Christian parents, it can be too easy to think we have discovered the correct way to produce good kids. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a huge proponent of the benefits of Christian home education. But there is no formula for raising kids.
Somehow, after surviving the first few years of homeschooling, I assumed I had it all figured out and all but stopped asked God for direction. Instead of thinking how great we were for raising good kids and having a strong marriage, we should have been thanking God for these blessings. Every good thing comes from God.
I know that in our family, God has used our trials in many ways for great good. Without them we surely would have kept on doing things in the way that seemed right to us. Our trials caused us to cry out to God for His guidance and direction and the path that he subsequently led us on was far above and beyond what could ever have planned or imagined for ourselves.
Are you in the midst of a parenting crisis? Please let us know in the comments and we will pray for you.