This one is difficult to write. The issue is not as widespread as some I have written of lately, but for some it is the most intense. Without further suspense, I speak of adult children, often times parents themselves, of parents in the Independent Baptist world. Again, this is not unique to us as if springs from a temptation for every parent–not letting go.
There is the more visible manifestation of this problem in one of the smaller segments of the Independent Baptist world. You will see a family that lives in a way similar to the Amish or Mennonites. They will often dress that way and live cloistered from the world. I am not criticizing them for that lifestyle because if they feel they should live that way to honor the Lord, it isn’t my place to say it is wrong even if I feel that the Lord is not asking that of me. I know some of them love the Lord as much as I do.
What is an issue is how at times the family is handled. The man is rigidly in charge and makes every decision to the smallest detail. I have seen some of the mothers in this environment who seem to often be looking downcast and unhappy, but that is a discussion for another day. Then there are the children. Becoming a legal adult changes nothing. I have seen several men and women in their mid-20s who couldn’t go even to town without parental permission. To decide on a life course or whom to marry is out of the question. The parents will decide, require long courtships, and have endless hoops for their grown children to jump through. My first thought is that if your child is incapable to make good decisions on their own by 25, you should make a public confession that you have already failed. By then, you have missed your chance. If these young folks ever get the courage to go their own way, the greatest pressure is often brought to bear. It kind of reminds the of Amish and their shunning. The parents are the patriarch and matriarch and naturally are the spiritual gurus for the whole family. Perhaps you shake your head and say this is ridiculous.
Much more surprising, and not as obvious, is another segment that in no way look like the Amish but demand a role in their adult children’s lives that robs them of standing on their own in life and before the Lord. Often times they are the ones with the higher standards and feel those standards are some of the most critical things of the Christian life. I have no criticism of anyone’s standards as long as they realize that it is not their place to impose them on everyone else.
A real problem arises when those adult children go through a process that all believers must go through–feeling a necessity to know what the Lord wants for themselves and then making that the way they live their lives. All too often that may mean a few differences in detail than what their parents followed. Of course I would like my children to reach my same conclusion on everything, but I am not naive enough to think it will happen. For that matter, I really, when my head is on straight, want them to follow Christ instead of me anyway!
Then comes the crisis. There is the parents who they love on the one hand, and the Lord they love even more on the other. The parents feel rejected, dishonored, and unloved if they follow the Lord, or there is the guilt of not giving the Lord the first place if they follow the parents to keep the peace. It is pretty much a rotten ordeal either way, though there is really only one option to a Christian. Some withdraw from their children and practically break fellowship with them!
In addition to knowing several people personally in different families going through this situation, we have several more write either my wife or I since we have been blogging telling us of going through this problem. The names are different, the issues may be different (dress standards, church of choice, or some other standard), but the pain is the same. Relations are strained, holidays are awkward, and a rift grows. And it simply should not be.
Points For These Parents Of Adult Children To Consider:
1. Does the Lord deal with us in this way?
2. Even if you are sure your adult children are making a mistake, did the Prodical’s Father treat the Prodical Son in that way?
3. Where is your Scriptural permission to act in such a way?
4. Is it worth losing your grandchildren too?
5. Are your motives 100% pure? Is part of the your disappointment that you have made a big point out of the standard in question and it embarrasses you when others see that one of your adult children is not following what you have made a key point of your life? (A few of the cases I know about personally had one of the parents say to their adult child, “you are damaging my ministry by your change”).
6. Is it working? Are your methods yielding the results you want?
I appeal to you to let go. Your time to mold them is over. You only have influence now and you surely don’t want to throw it away because you can’t have a control you have no right to anyway.
Points For Adult Children Who Have These Issues With Their Parents:
1. Remember you are not alone.
2. You may not be able to take the unpleasantness away.
3. Love your parents.
4. But follow Christ. As you well know, He is worthy of first place. This point is non-negotiable.
5. Remember that in a few short years you will face the same problem with your children.
6. Raise your children where your control decreases and their personal decision making increases so that when they reach the steps of adulthood they can go on making their own way as we all must. You have about 18 or so years per child to get the job done. May our Lord help us as we go bumbling along the road of parenthood.
7. Don’t repeat the mistake later that causes you pain now.
I sincerely pray that many families can turn the corner on this perplexing issue.
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