“We’re working harder to help her than she is,” my wife commented to me last Tuesday. After nearly pulling out what little hair I have left on my head, I was about ready to scream. The push and pull of raising teenage daughters could drive anybody nuts.
Sometimes I wish I could crawl inside my daughter’s head to convince her that I’m trying to help when I push her to turn in her homework on time. Or tell the truth. Or practice her cello. But this week I reached the end of my rope. I couldn’t “make” her do any of the above.
Later that night, I experienced one of those “aha” moments that occur only a handful of times in a person’s lifetime. Quite honestly, it was a spiritual experience.
Rather than bail out my daughter from her self-inflicted problems, I realized that I need to let her experience the consequences of her choices. If she chooses to flunk out of the 8th grade, she can go to summer school—but she’ll have to work for me to pay off the additional fee for summer classes. If she chooses not to practice her cello—when I pay $50 per lesson—then she’s choosing not to play the cello. Canceling her lessons was is easy as a phone call. Suddenly, I recognized that I was part of the problem. I was becoming the co-dependent parent. By rescuing her, I was preventing her from growing up and becoming a healthy, functioning adult.
Then the thought hit me like a ton of bricks. God isn’t co-dependent. That’s why he lets us fall. That’s why he so often doesn’t rescue us. If he did, he would be reinforcing co-dependent behavior. We’d expect him to bail us out and we wouldn’t grow.
How often do we mess up our lives and then blame God when he doesn’t rescue us? After a neighbor died of a drug overdose, the deceased’s grief-stricken step-father asked me, “Why did God let this happen?” He didn’t; his son made a fatal choice.
This brings to mind the fact that God’s perspective on pain is different than ours. Pain is a great motivator. C.S. Lewis once wrote, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
Sometimes pain is the better option than our deliverance from it, and rescuing us may at times be the worst thing for us.
So last Tuesday evening, after trying everything within my power to “make” my daughter practice her cello, I calmly walked into her room and told her, “Tonight I’m going to give you a choice. If you choose not to practice for your lesson tomorrow, I’m going to take that as your decision to quit the cello. I want you to play. You have the musical ability. But that’s your choice. I’m happy to call your teacher and cancel your lessons. But you’ll have to reimburse me for the $100 for the last two lessons of the month.”
I turned around and walked downstairs to my office. Within 5 minutes, the most beautiful cello music I had ever heard began emanating from her bedroom.
God isn’t co-dependent, I told myself as I soaked in the music.
But lest we assume God lacks any compassion, the fact is, he has rescued us. He threw us a lifeline when he sent Jesus to earth. He’s given us the Holy Spirit to comfort us in our pain. We aren’t alone.
God loves us and he wants us to be healthy–in our relationship with him and with others.