Romans 10:21 But God said, “All day long I opened my arms to them, but they were disobedient and rebellious.”
There are some things about God that we rarely experience or even see others experience. So it can be hard to accept certain teachings as we just can´t relate to them. For example, how can a loving God punish those who turn their back on Him with eternal separation in a place we call hell? Can´t God just overlook their mistakes and make everything work out nice?
Recently Luci and I had a teenage girl stay with us for a month. Her parents had divorced when she was very young and she had grown up without a father. Her mom asked us to keep her for a month so she could spend some time in a “normal” Christian home with married parents who love each other in order to experience a life that she had never known. We accepted the request to be surrogate parents.
We had a plan: work, activities, food and fun stuff. She would work with us at the publishing house for part of the day boxing up books so she could earn some spending money. In the afternoons and evenings, we would cook together, play games and do family things. We would take her to the beach, a mountain resort, go shopping and let her see, experience, and learn some new things.
We had established and gone over our house rules with her. The day of her arrival came and we headed off to the airport to pick her up. Our month as surrogate parents had begun.
In a new environment, she was timid, so we did most of the talking at first. She seemed to understand and agreed as we went over the plans and expectations for her time with us.
The next day as we were eating breakfast and discussing the day’s plans I was suddenly reprehended by my 14 year old “daughter for a month” who barked out at me, “STOP CHEWING WITH YOUR MOUTH OPEN!!”
At fifty going on sixty, and in a culture where parents and elders are highly respected, I have to admit I wasn’t too accustomed to being told what to do by a 14 year old. Even still, it wasn’t proper behavior for a teenager. So after a couple of similar outbursts I told her that she was welcome to discuss with me whatever she wanted, but that it needed to be done respectfully and courteously. My words fell on deaf ears.
House rule number 1 had been broken – “Obedience to what we say”.
Everybody has a bad day from time to time and teenagers can be moody and grumpy without having experienced a change in environment, so we wrote it off to stress and let it go at that. After a few days of overlooking bad behavior, extending grace and providing some space for her to regroup and settle in to her new environment, there was no apparent improvement as the disrespectful behavior extended from me to others.
House rule number 2 had been broken – “Good behavior at home, church, Vida Nova and wherever we may go”
Now it was time to sit down and resolve this. My request for us to discuss her behavior was summarily ignored as she walked around me and off to her room. A little later I tried again. I was completely ignored as she continued on with what she was doing with no acknowledgement that I had said anything. I waited patiently for her to finish. “We need to talk,” I insisted as I stood in the doorway. She pushed me out of the way to leave the room making it perfectly clear that she was not going to talk to me.
House rule number 3 had been broken – “Honest open conversations”
At dinner that night, I tried again to open the lines of communication by asking her a question. No response. I waited. “WHY ARE YOU STARING AT ME?” she snapped. “I would like to talk with you,” I replied. “I DON’T WANT YOU TO LOOK AT ME!! I DON’T WANT YOU TO TALK TO ME!! Not now, not ever.”
It was clear at that point that House rule number 4 wasn’t going to happen –“Have a lot of fun together”.
I was ready to throw the thorns and briers into the fire to be burned, but Luci wanted to work the soil, irrigate and tend to our young sapling. She thought she might be more successful at communicating, so we agreed that I would keep a low profile and Luci would be the primary point of contact. I watched and prayed and reflected on what I observed while Luci spent the rest of the month working at building a relationship. There were some outings to town, special food purchases to please her tastes, play dates set up with the children of our friends, and other things that while not resolving the underlying problems at least minimized direct confrontations.
Toward the end of the month, Luci took her out to the mall, splurged and bought some expensive snacks for her. Then Luci asked if she could sample one of the snacks. “No, you can’t have any, they’re mine”, was the response. After some physical aggression against Luci, things deteriorated even more.
When the month was up, we headed back to the airport for her to catch her return flight home.
In silence, with no hug, no “Thank you” or any indication of gratitude, not a single, “I made a mistake” or “I’m sorry” ever having been uttered during the entire month, she turned her back and headed off to catch her flight.
For a month she stayed in our home, ate our food, played with our friend’s kids, barely did any work, and used our internet incessantly to entertain herself and ignore us. For a month we provided for all she had. In the end she walked away unappreciative of Luci’s kindness and wishing I was dead.
I don’t recall ever having been so disrespected, disdained, mistreated, unappreciated and hated by anyone in my life. It made me realize how God must feel when the people that He created, live in the world he created for them, with the health, energy, talents and abilities He gave them, greedily taking the earth’s bounty for themselves, living for their own desires, and all the while ignoring, disrespecting and belittling their Creator and Sustainer.
While I have not doubted God’s Word of warning to those who turn their back on Him, this month I believe I felt how God must feel when totally rejected. It was an experience that made understanding eternal separation for those who chose to ignore God more comprehensible. There is truly no fellowship between darkness and light. We are saddened. Please pray for her, and for us.
“There are only two kinds of people: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, ‘All right, then, have it your way.’” C S Lewis, The Great Divorce