So, I have been thinking about a blog post for a while. This is the hard kind of post to write. The ones about the kids and fun family stuff are way easier. Plus, I know they're more fun for you to read. But I have been mulling over something for a while, and it won't leave, so I know I am supposed to get it out there.
It's hard for several reasons. One is that it is something I have been guilty of myself. Another is that it touches on areas that are personal, and therefore it is more important to me to write about them sensitively. The purpose of this is not to offend or cause strife among others. But there are times when not saying something is the wrong thing to do.
There have been several articles floating around talking about "mommy shaming" and the negative repercussions that it can have on our mothering. For those of you who may not be familiar with this term, it basically means that moms who subscribe to certain thought processes (vax vs. non-vax; bottle vs. breastfeeding; homeschool vs. public school, etc.) band together and leave out other moms who may think differently about a topic. Not a pleasant thing to do, or to have done to you.
These articles have been mainly written from a secular standpoint, addressing the problems in play groups, carpools, classrooms, etc. Part if what I want to write about touches on this a little bit, but I think there is a bigger problem in church circles than just "mommy shaming."
It's more of a "family shaming" problem. I have noticed how quick we as Christians are to look at a family who has a kid who strays from the way they were brought up and begin the process of dissecting them. From famous people--like the Duggars--to people who are in your own circle of acquaintances. No one is safe from our opinions on the hows and whys of what went wrong.
Well, of course, they over-sheltered their kids. Or didn't protect them from the influence of the world enough. They were not very tough disciplinarians when their kids were young. Or they were too strict. They sent their kids to public school. Or they never let their kids out of their sight. They missed too much church activity with their family. Or they let the work of the church take priority over their family. The dad (or mom) was not a presence in the home. Or the dad (or mom) was over-protective and a "helicopter" parent. Are we seeing a pattern here?
The pattern I am starting to see is that there is no pattern. Good families who have done their best to follow what they believe is God's will for their lives don't get the magic formula for perfect kids. Their kids walk away...sometimes they come back later, and sometimes they don't. And a large part of this tragedy is that they are not able to turn to their family in Christ for support. Partially it is due to embarrassment of feeling like you have somehow failed as a Christian parent, but a large part is because often times the reaction of people is one of silent (and sometimes not-so-silent) condemnation.
Take for example the recent situation for the Duggars. This family, who have been outspoken witnesses for Christ in a very public way, have been berated for every decision they have made for the last fifteen+ years. They should have sent their son away. They should have reported it. They should have not reported it. They should have done more. They should have never been in the public eye. They should have... We are so quick to tell them (or other people) what they should have done. Rather, we should realize that they did the best they could in a tragic situation. There is no way to prepare for some things. You just have to get through it one step at a time, doing your best to follow God's leading in your life.
Because what it is really about is a choice. A choice that we all must make at some point in our lives. The choice to put ourselves aside and follow Jesus. No matter what. And this is hard. The hardest thing you will do. And some people don't. It's not something their parents did, or didn't do. It is their choice, and they have to make it. And as a parent, this is a scary thought.
You wonder, "Am I doing enough? Did I miss too many opportunities? Have I been genuine in my faith so my kids see truth?" Terrifying...how can we keep from constantly second-guessing ourselves? But we have to remember it is not ourselves that we trust in.
One of the greatest verses for me as a mom and a teacher is 3 John 4: "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth." But conversely, you understand that there must be no greater sorrow than to hear that your children walk away from truth. And how much is someone's sorrow compounded when they hear the people who are supposed to love and support them begin to dissect and make judgment on everything they have done? It would be like going to someone's funeral and standing around and criticizing the medical decisions made by his family. How cruel. We say "We would never do that." But how many times have we made statements like, "Well, if they hadn't done X, Y, or Z I bet their kid wouldn't have gone down that road." I know I have. And I shouldn't.
So, instead of dissecting and performing an autopsy on someone's seeming failures, maybe we should help in the healing processes. Maybe instead of thinking "I knew they shouldn't have done that," we should take time to pray for that family. Be more understanding of the rawness of their wounds. Be willing to listen without judging. I know I want to be that person. Christians shouldn't be spiritual "coroners"--always trying to determine how someone else failed. We should be medics...ready to enter the fray and do all we can to aid our hurting brother and sister. We should see other's hurts and ask "How can I help?" I am sure that is what the Great Physician would have us to do.