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….