catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 8, Num 16 :: 2009.07.31 — 2009.09.03


Shades of joy

“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” (3 John 4). But what if they don’t? Can one experience joy when a loved one abandons God’s truth?

My husband and I have three children, all of them talented, hard-working, productive members of society. Our firstborn displays an artsy bent, with excellent capabilities in technology and organization. Our middle daughter found her way into the health profession with an at-home flair for hospitality. Number three, still a student, finds her giftedness in music and compassion toward those less fortunate. I’ll admit it. We’re very proud of them all.

Two of our kids “walk in truth.” No, they’re not perfect, yet spending time in the Word and in prayer is a priority in their day. We see them growing, aiming to live by God’s guidelines and promises. As parents, our greatest joy is not in their accomplishments or abilities, but in their quest to pursue godliness. Though we desire them to be successful in their areas of interest, we’ve always shared with them that true success links arms with meditating on and following God’s truth (Joshua 1:8).

One of our children has chosen another path, one that, in many ways, differs from the truths with which she was raised. It happened more like a slow leak than a sudden u-turn. Despite our efforts to be nurturing Christian parents, a subtle tug-of-war peppered Lauren’s childhood which escalated in her teen years. Perceptive and analytical, she sensed hypocrisy and inconsistencies. At church and school, she saw through “talk” with traces of insincerity or artificiality. Admittedly, at times, she twisted the truth. Unfortunately, all too often, she had a point. And like Peter, who sank into the sea when he saw the waves, she somehow seemed to miss the face of the only One who would never let her down and could keep her from sinking into the current of criticism, apathy, and even disgust.

I can’t say I felt very joyful during her teen years. We did the best we knew, but the relationship with our daughter whom we dearly loved crumbled before our eyes. I couldn’t sleep. My nerves felt raw. I didn’t know where to turn or what to do. With the help of a Christian counselor, her dad and I realized we also needed to make some changes. Through trial and error, we learned how to better demonstrate respect balanced with boundaries. We pursued unconditional love and a willingness to engage, asking timely questions and listening. And we prayed like never before.

Bit by bit, through her college years, our relationship began to heal. She matured and we, refusing to label her “bad” and her siblings “good,” continued to communicate her value to us and our appreciation for her many positive qualities.

During a particularly vulnerable time, she called and expressed interest in coming to church with us. Would this be a turning point? The plan for me to pick her up at her apartment would be tight for us to make it to the service on time. But, with heart pounding with hope-and yes, cautious joy-I headed out, only to discover the fuel tank registered empty. The car coasted into a gas station where the attendant waited on me so very slowly. I hurried into the building to pay before he ambled back out himself. Then I jumped behind the wheel, and took off-only to hear a terrible thumping behind me. My heart leaped into my throat when I realized I had pulled out, still attached to the pump! Except I wasn’t attached to the pump any longer; the hose trailed helplessly behind me. When I backed up to confess my crime, the attendant stared at me in disbelief. How could he know my urgency to pick up a wayward daughter who actually agreed to come to church? Beyond that, how could he understand my aching desire for her to walk with God?

Little came of that church visit. Yet, our contrasting values have not negated our relationship. Sometimes, I sense a heart connection. We laugh together, chat about this and that, or talk about the latest books we’re reading. At other times, there’s distance; she’s easily offended, even critical. Yet I find myself grateful for the bond we do have. She shared with a mutual friend, “I know my parents will always love me, no matter what.”

Lauren has lived with two different boyfriends, both of whom we have welcomed into our family. It goes without saying this arrangement would not be our preference, yet we have respected her choices as we would like her to honor ours.

Perhaps this is why my favorite Bible story is Jesus’ interaction with the woman caught in adultery (John 8:3-11). I wonder if her mom felt as I do: concerned, sorrowful at times, even harboring a few regrets, yet viewing her daughter as a valued child, an individual bursting with potential. Did she crouch behind the nearby bushes, powerless, watching her beloved girl dragged to Jesus by smug hands and pious hearts? As the scene unfolded, I can’t help but think a strange hope kindled in her heart, a hope that flared into joy. Could it be this short interaction with Jesus not only transformed the young woman’s life forever, but also her relationship with her family?

I picture my own daughter standing before the Savior from Nazareth. I pray someday she, likewise, will hear Him say to her accusers, “He who is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone.” Even before she arrives, I’m the first to drop my stones and quietly slip into the shadows.

I strain to catch Jesus’ questions, spoken with compassion. “Woman, where are your accusers? Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, Lord.”

“Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” When Lauren’s time comes to hear Jesus offer her eternal hope, tears of joy will stream down my cheeks. I can imagine no greater joy than that moment of forgiveness and restoration.

But this hasn’t happened yet.

Can I experience joyfulness in the meantime? I wonder if sometimes joy comes in muted shades. No matter the hue, how ironic to discover the pathway of “getting the joy” parallels my willingness to walk in truth. I want to steadily pursue contentment to accept what is; a commitment to trust the investment we’ve already made; deep confidence, with gratefulness, in a God who is bigger than parental humanness and the mistakes of others; and most of all, assurance that God works redemption — in His time. 

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