No Matter What

Dear Will:

My son is mad at me. It’s not the first time, nor will it be the last, but he’s finally old enough (nearly 18) that he is confident in wielding his agency against me. And I’m not enjoying it.

I’ll spare you the gory details. But the essence of the disagreement that provoked his anger went something like this:

Luke: “I’m going to Australia with my girlfriend and her family. It will cost $2,000 or so. I will raise that money myself between now and July and it won’t cost you a dime. I just need your consent.”

Me: “No.”

Luke: “This should be my decision, not yours. When are you going to let me make decisions for myself?”

Me: “When you move out and pay your own way. Until then, you’re not spending $2000 you don’t have to vacation with your girlfriend.”

At this point you can assume that we continued to repeat these same thoughts over and over for several days and that he grew angrier and angrier the more intransigent I became. Finally he presented the following bit of desperate extortion: “If you don’t let me go, I will cease all activity with the Church. Immediately. Starting right now.”

And he has made good on that threat.

As you might imagine, I watch Luke’s rebellion with a mixture of sadness and bemusement. For instance, I wonder how this plays itself out. Does Luke put on a show for a few weeks and then come inching back into the fold, or does he dig in his heals, never to return? Will he retain a semblance of faith, expressed elsewhere and/or in different ways? Or will he drift into a state of agnosticism or indifference? And in all of this, what role, if any, should I take? And what’s my next move?

Now as one who for whatever reason has also chosen to disassociate yourself with the Church, perhaps you recognize a little of yourself in all of this. Or perhaps you merely see Luke as the rational one in the family. On the other hand, maybe you see him making a familiar mistake that’s hard to reverse. (In fact, I would be very interested in knowing your honest perspective on all of this. If you’re willing, drop me a note and let me know.)

Meanwhile, I take little comfort in the fact that throughout the scriptures there are stories of faithful men whose sons for one reason or another rebelled. However, I do take especial interest in the story of the Prodigal Son. In that parable, Jesus tells of a young man who asks his wealthy father for an early inheritance. Flush with cash, the youth “[wastes] his substance with riotous living.” Before long, he finds himself working for a pig farmer and coveting the pig’s food.

When he finally hits bottom, the young man decides to return to his father, beg his forgiveness, and ask to become one of his servants. The surprise (to him) comes during the journey home. Jesus says: “But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.” Note that the son didn’t have to come all the way back. He merely had to head back in the right direction and his father came running to meet him.

So I guess that’s my task: Not to wait for Luke to come back to me, but rather to watch for signs that he is beginning to turn around. When he does, I must show him an outpouring of love. Whether he returns to church is almost immaterial. The important thing is letting him know that, no matter what, I will and do always love him. Now the question is: Can I pull it off?

PW

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