As you might imagine in a household where there are four children close in age, we had our share of disagreements and bickering to contend with. Since unlike automobiles and small appliances, children don’t come with operator instructions, a lot of what we did as parents was an incomplete science.
In other words, like generations of parents before us, we faked that whole authority thingy.
We were both college-educated, well-read — it’s just the things we read weren’t manuals about parenting.
We still aren’t always sure we’re making the right call. That’s why when children question a parent’s authority, a parent’s default is to get defensive.
Why? I’ll tell you why — BECAUSE I SAID SO!!
It’s the parental form of stuttering.
The point where parents become more concerned about being right in the eyes of their children, than they do about the redemption of their children.
Of course, this default isn’t restricted to just children. We are all prone to falling back on it whenever our authority is questioned. Particularly the more unsure we are about the calls we’ve made.
Perhaps the defensiveness is our last ditch effort to persuade ourselves into some wrong-headed notion.
Are you with me here?
Because that sort of defensiveness is what I came up against when I made some calls in response to the girl with the handicapped mother. (See Monday’s post if you missed this.)
Briefly, I met a young lady who told me that as her mother became more and more ill, due to a degenerative brain disorder, her mother was asked by the leadership at my church to refrain from attending worship service because she was just too disruptive.
Perhaps it’s the reporter in me. I’m always a bit skeptical whenever I hear stuff like this. I hoped and assumed that the girl had her story mixed up. That there was no way the leadership at my church would ask a woman who is ill to quit coming to worship service. Maybe some random person in the congregation took it upon themselves to speak on behalf of the church, I thought. I could easily see that happening.
Verifying information is the quickest way to dispel rumors.
I intended to do just that.
I made some phone calls, expecting & hoping to be told that I didn’t know the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
And that is what I was told.
I didn’t know the whole story.
Okay, I conceded. That’s probably true. I don’t even know this girl. I just met her. Even so, she’s very upset about all this. Why would she make this up?
So I got the sordid story. I heard about how awful her mama’s disease was, about how it made her prone to falling and flailing, about how she got to where she couldn’t talk or participate in worship. She needed to be in a facility. We were the good people, stepping in to care for this woman when her husband walked out, when other family failed to show up.
Hold. On. Wait. But what I want to know is did someone in leadership actually ask this woman to not come back to worship service because she was being disruptive? That’s all. I’m just trying to confirm that.
Who did this thing?
You don’t understand — this was a hard decision. You have no idea just how hard a decision it was. The woman had no bodily control. The disease was ravaging her. We were afraid she was going to hurt herself. It was a decision made out of compassion.
Y’all know me well enough by now to know I don’t mince any words when it comes to the practice of Certainosity. I called bullshit on that last remark about compassion.
Where in scripture do we have any evidence at all that Jesus did the safe thing? Or that he made decisions based on the safety of others?
If Jesus was anything he was downright dangerous.
And if you are going to follow him, he demands you live dangerously, too.
We don’t get to say to our children when they are babies — you are too demanding. You expect too much. I can’t deal with your bellowing and flailing about any more. I’m done with you.
When that happens in parenting we call those people bad parents.
When it happens in a church, we become defensive and start making excuses for our wrongheaded ways.
You show me in scriptures, in the walk of Christ, anywhere that he pushed aside a person for being too sick.
Oh. You should have heard all the justifications.
Followed, always, of course, by the accusations.
What was I doing to serve others?
How was I evangelizing?
Did I belong to a care group?
It was ugly.
But because I’ve been a parent, because I’ve made bad decisions, because I’ve been part of a family my entire life, I get it. I really do.
That doesn’t change anything for me. I still think the decision was wrong-headed.
I don’t think it was motivated by compassion as much as it was by comfort – and I don’t mean the comfort of the ill person.
I was still mortified that I learned about all this from a woman I’d barely met.
A woman whose heart is hurting.
Don’t get me wrong. The church did pray for healing for her mama. They did try and tend to the ill woman — for a time. Until things became a real burden.
Then, instead of shouldering the Cross, they began to look for people to nail to it.
Or that’s how it seems to the sick woman’s daughter.
It’s wrong, I told her, standing there in the garage, next to the pickup. Her shoulders curled around her heart, protectively, as she sobbed.
I’m so, so, sorry, I said. I hoped that what I heard wasn’t true. I hoped it was all just some sad misunderstanding. I hoped to be able to come back to you and tell you that this thing never happened. But it did and it was wrong and I believe it hurts the heart of Christ. I can only imagine what this has sown into your life — to have your mother rejected this way.
I can only tell you that it’s not Biblical and I didn’t know about it and I bet most of the people at the church didn’t know about it, either.
They owe you an apology.
But they aren’t here.
So on their behalf, let me just say, I’m sorry, honey. I am so sorry you were hurt like this.
She stopped her crying for a moment.
My mother used to work at the state hospital for the mentally ill, she said, recalling a story from the days when her mama was healthier. She would take us girls sometimes. It was scary there. Sometimes the patients would chase us. My sister and I would run to our mother. She would explain that the people couldn’t help it — they were sick. They aren’t trying to harm you, she said. They just want to play with you. Don’t be afraid.
Your mama was a kind-hearted woman, I said. I see where you get it.
People with broken bodies do terrify us.
And when we make decisions out of fear, we are not living a life of faith.
We are faking it.
As a mother comforts her child,
so I will comfort you.
Is. 66: 13
Sometimes in a family, we have to apologize for the wrongs, even when we aren’t at fault.
It’s not all that hard to do, really, if we can get to that point where we worry less about who is right and who is wrong in this thing.
And make redemption our focus.
Karen Spears Zacharias is author of Where’s Your Jesus Now? Examining How fear erodes our faith.