My mom and I hardly ever fought....except for the summer right before I went away to college. We wrangled all the time. Looking back, I can see I was scared about heading off to college: that I'd get lost on campus, that I'd hate my roommate, that I'd be far too stupid to pass any college course. The fear came out as anger and downright bitchiness at my mom. I was yearning for total independence and totally freaked out of the idea of independence, all at the same time
Fast forward 30 years.
Curly-haired Daughter, now a high school senior, told me last night that she "just wanted to figure things out for herself" and didn't want my input on anything, "unless it was financial". (Yeah, I know....sigh....) She's struggling to figure out the same thing I was trying to figure out 30 years ago - how to be her own woman, but in the process of laboring to bring forth that woman, she's causing me a lot of pain.
What she doesn't realize, of course, is that there is no such thing as a truly "independent" man or woman - we all need each other all the time, and most of all, we need God. Jesus gives us a lovely example of this in the story of the Prodigal Son: the young man who decides he just wants the money "owed" to him by his father and off he goes, all bright-lights-and-big-city. Once the son gets to the point of munching on corn husks, he re-thinks his decision.
We all have our corn husk moments. We all have a point where we realize that our own decisions and choices have left us in a bad place, and we have to re-trace our steps home. Sometimes we do it with embarrassment and shame, sometimes with guilt, sometimes just with the knowledge that, in order to go forward, we have to go back.
The father in the Prodigal Son story must have had a very heavy heart as he watched his youngest son disappear over the horizon, pockets loaded with cash, and a head full of ill-conceived dreams. The dad knew what lay ahead, if only because he was older and more experienced. And he knew he had to let the son go - birth him into the world, a hard and painful emergence into adulthood and responsibility and choices and duties and constraints and concerns and promises and the weight of all those grown-up things.
I know Curly-haired Daughter has a lot of dreams and hopes and ideas for herself - some ill-conceived and some very thoughtfully planned out. And I have to watch her bolt over that horizon, away from me and what she sees as my meddling ways.
Coming to his senses he thought, ‘How many of my father’s hired workers have more than enough food to eat, but here am I, dying from hunger. I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers.”’ So he got up and went back to his father. While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him. His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son.’ But his father ordered his servants, ‘Quickly bring the finest robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Take the fattened calf and slaughter it. Then let us celebrate with a feast, because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found.’ Then the celebration began.(Luke 15:17-24)