Thursday, February 2, 2012

the ugly beautiful

Train up a child in the way he should go, and even when he is old he will not depart from it. - Proverbs 22:6

Two weekends back our oldest son chose to move out on his own on a whim.  He didn't take any of his things with him.  He left one afternoon with what he said was an old friend from when he was in foster care several years ago then texted us the next day saying he didn't want to come back home.  He had just graduated high school and was starting college and a new job the next week.  He had been with us for more than three years, and while he had his issues, everyone (including him) thought he had matured and was ready to make more responsible decisions.

My wife and I were hopeful...we still are.  But we rack our brains grasping at straws for why this happened.  We were not indulgent or enabling.  If anything, we were strict and structured.  But upon returning home after graduation, we put the ball in his court and let him choose what his path would be.

An incredible ministry to porn addicts
& the porn industry...but not what I
wanted for my son.
Throughout high school, we discussed and experienced the importance of financial stewardship, integrity, and purity with the opposite sex.  We maintained a Love & Logic approach realizing that we couldn't bail him out of his problems or pity his self-induced dilemmas.  There are consequences for your choices, and as you get older, the impact of those consequences is deeper.  Ultimately, we came to find out that our son had drained his bank account in two weeks and was facing a debt of more than $200.  This is not an insurmountable climb by any means, but to a 19 year old who is paying for a phone and car insurance for the first's a rough start.  We also found that he had entered into the vast world of online adult services, where as an "adult", you can get together with other "adults" and pretend to be married for an evening or just an afternoon or just over the phone or just online.

This hurt.  We chose our son, and he abandoned us.  He had run away before when he was still a minor, and we worked through some of those issues to restore him.  But now, he is an adult (if only in a legal sense).  He had a fairly bright future.  We were not dreaming of him becoming a doctor or a lawyer, but a man who took the next step to finding himself and living life.  Being a liability to Average Joe Taxpayer was not our first choice for him.

So if we trained our child in the way he should go, why did he depart from it?

You may be reading this as a parent (whether you adopted or not) trying to avoid this path for your kids as you have set what is good in front of them and encouraged them to choose it.  The Book of Proverbs is what we call wisdom literature.  So when we interpret different passages, we have to consider what kind of language is being used.  Is it a story?  History?  Poem?  Parable?  Proverbs 22:6 is true, but it is not without exception.  9 times out of 10 a child that is trained in the way he should go will not depart from it when he is old.  But, this passage doesn't eliminate a child's capacity to choose which path he will take.

Choice is the ugly beautiful.  It means that we are not robots lacking the capacity to love God and one another deeply.  It also means that we maintain the ability to really mess life up for ourselves and others.  Choice gives us Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane praying, "Not my will, but yours" before he hands himself over to be beaten and crucified.  It also gives us Adam and Eve in another garden choosing disobedience which led to shame, cursing and murder.

Some will ask, do you regret adopting your son?  No.  We chose him, and that choice was not dependent upon his performance.  We are mourning his choices and wish more for him, but I suppose the exact same thing is true of our relationship with God.  He mourns some of our choices and rejoices in others.  God has much prepared for us to do and enjoy, but we too often settle for what is immediately gratifying rather than waiting for something better.

Our son was 15 and alone when we adopted him.  He had bounced between foster homes, residential treatment facilities and group homes.  He had been through two disrupted adoptive placements where someone told him they were his family then changed their minds when he didn't live up to their expectations.  We would still encourage families to adopt older children even as we sit in disbelief of our son's choices.  But his story is not over yet.  He is not given up on.  He is still and forever will be my son.

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