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Tuesday, October 12, 2004

When No. 1 Daughter Rebelled

When my no. 1 daughter announced her independence - from her parents and from God - it was like the roof had caved in to our shaky world. Although it was a gradual thing, it hurt a lot to see our little baby move out of the home. It wasn't just a physical moving out. She was moving out of our lives. Further, there were other questions. There was no way she could have afforded the apartment that she moved into. She wasn't telling how she (1) has the money to pay for the rent, and (2) was able to get security in order to rent the apartment in the first place.

The most heartbreaking fact was that she also declared her independence from God. Actually, she had already done that months ago, however, she had continued to come with us to church each Sunday as I had made a rule that everyone who lives under my roof would go to church each Sunday. So, even though she'd crawled into the house at 6 a.m. after a night of partying, by 9 a.m. she would be with us - physically - at church. When she moved out, she was no longer obligated to obey that rule so she stopped attending church with us. She also started having boy friends who are non-Christians; her current boyfriend's family are Muslims.

Dealing with a grown daughter who insists on going her own way is one of the most maturing and humbling experience for me. Shortly after my no. 1 daughter moved out of our home, while we were still processing her rebellion, our no. 2 daughter told us she wants out too. Not out of the house, but she wanted to stop attending Youth Group at church. I panicked. Rationalizing that she was still "controllable" - she was still in high school - I used force and coercion and demanded that she attend Youth Group, no ifs and/or buts. That didn't go down well, and what ensued was not very nice as we went through several weeks of hell until I realized that I was not only driving my 2nd daughter away - from me as well as from God, but also doing damage to the rest of the family. I finally learned to accept her wishes and supported her decision even though I did not agree with them. I learned that this is the way of love - loving the person involves letting that person have the free will to choose.

I had to learn this lesson well with No. 1 Daughter. Her decision to give up on her faith affected me thoroughly. I felt I had not brought her up in the faith. Like every good Christian father ought to have done. So, I was feeling not only the hurt from her rejection, but feeling the shame and guilt of having done a bad job in raising her. Memories of times when I hadn't been the best father to her came back to me. Like the time when our house was broken into and the police were around at 3 in the morning. She peered out of her blankets and cried out to me in a shaky voice, "Daddy..." I was in shock and disbelief myself. All I could do at that moment was to say to her, "Go back to sleep." In retrospect, I feel I should have gone in and given her a hug and comforted her. Simple memories like these flooded through my minds, reinforcing my self-doubt and guilt. Throughout it all, I had to learn what it means to let go.

Although she moved away from home, and away from God, she made a point to re-connect with her parents. She came home often, ostensibly to taste Mom's cooking, but she made a point to sit and talk with both of us. She also kept her relationship strong with her siblings. We actually grew closer to each other as the weeks and months rolled by. There was a nagging feeling in me that we were growing closer, only because we do not talk about the contentious matters. As long as we don't mention the things that we do not agree about, we are close. But then, I realized that this was the perfectionist part of me thinking. I need to accept her. And, I need to give her time to be herself and to grow in her own pace. As I learned these lessons, and as I allowed the Spirit of God to work in each of our lives, we eventually grew closer together. Every now and then I felt brave enough to invite her to church, especially when there was a special speaker or a special event, and each time she came along.

I don't know when she will re-commit her life to her Lord, but I pray that through my actions and through my demonstration of unconditional love for her, she will eventually respond to the promptings of the Holy Spirit in her heart.