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A few weeks ago my youngest daughter came home for a quick visit on her way to a wedding and a football game.
At 27, she has long outgrown her terrible teen years, although she still has a bit of an edge. That’s just Laura.
When she was 14 or 15 she was into a grunge stage, very Kurt Cobain-Pearl Jam-Stone Temple Pilots. She’d wear pants big enough to fit two sumo wrestlers and heavy, bump-toe combat boots — to church. Hey, I was just glad she came to church back then and I wasn’t about to quibble over what she wore.
With teens you have to pick your battles.
She’d sit with me on the front row next to the pastor, and as he got up to preach she’d slouch way down in her seat and stick her big combat boots in front of her.
I well remember being pulled aside by some older, grandmotherly type women and bracing myself for what was coming. As they searched for the kindest thing to say, one of them said, “Well, it could be worse.”
With great relief I let out the breath I’d been holding and thought, “Yes! Thank you, Jesus. It could be worse.”
About a year later, I don’t know if it got worse, but it definitely got different. Laura went from grunge to Goth-lite. She was into the all-black stage, but not creepy stuff. And she still wore her combat boots — to church.
She still came to church, and for that I rejoiced.
About a month ago, a friend with a teenage daughter found himself faced with a potential battle over attending church.
When your kids are adults and live hundreds of miles away and don’t want to go to church there’s not a whole lot you can do other than pray. But when your kids are still young and living by your rules you have to do something, and sometimes that means a confrontation — and sometimes it means God steps in and gives you supernatural wisdom. That’s what happened with my friend.
Here’s what he told me:
“I wanted my daughter to attend church with me. She didn’t want to go and so I gave her the old, ‘I’m going/you’re going’ parent ultimatum. That didn’t satisfy my soul, so I asked God for help. Specifically, I prayed that I didn’t know how to do this and for him to please show me how.”
He then told his daughter several reasons why we go to church:
• Even though you might not feel the presence of Jesus in your life right now, a lot of people at church do and it’s good to be around those people.
• You go to church because there may be someone lonely and in pain who needs to be surrounded by loving people and your presence may help that person.
• You go because this might very well be the day you hear, see or experience something that touches your heart like never before … and you don’t want to miss it.
• You go because the seed of faith may be planted today and you won’t even know it until much later.
My friend told his daughter that even on days when he wants to run away, he runs to Jesus and that Jesus comforts him. He told her that he truly believes Jesus is the way to eternal salvation and that just about everyone he knows who is contented with his or her place in life believes that.
He also told her that her salvation was very important to him, that he wants to see her in heaven one day and that, while her relationship with God is a personal one, the only way he knows for her to begin to experience that possibility is at church where she hears God’s Word and is surrounded by believers.
I love that! I love what he said, that he was able to appeal to her in a logical, non-threatening way. He held up the standard without beating her over the head with it or using the “because I said so” card. As a result, his daughter comes to church with him. Who knows what will happen after she leaves home, but for now, she’s there.
As for my daughters, once they left home they joined the ranks of their peers and left the church. For now. My prayer is that they’ll return one day.
As a parent, you do your best. You plant the seeds and trust God to work in your kids’ hearts. And you keep going to church because someone might need your presence and you might need someone, too.
Nancy Kennedy is the author of “Move Over, Victoria - I Know the Real Secret,” “Girl on a Swing,” and her latest book, “Lipstick Grace.” She can be reached at 352-564-2927, Monday through Thursday, or via e-mail at email@example.com.