I have a 19 year-old friend who was just recently released from prison. If you met her, you’d never guess she’d lived on the streets, abused drugs, experimented with all kinds of harmful behaviors.
She’s beautiful. And she looks so innocent.
When she comes to church she sits right next to her parents and her sister, and their family looks normal. Very middle class suburban. You’d think, that girl’s probably a cheerleader. And her mom probably bakes great brownies. And her dad probably drives a crossover.
And you’d be mostly right.
So how does a girl from an average, church-going family end up incarcerated? For a year.
Well, for one thing, her parents. They’re awesome people today. Love God with all their hearts. But when my friend was growing up, before her parents came to Christ, her dad was an alcoholic. And her mom, making up for her dad, worked. A lot. They didn’t start pulling things together until she was in middle school. And by then…
Her parents would give anything to undo and redo her childhood. And I wish they could. They’d do such a good job.
While her past doesn’t excuse the choices she’s made, it does explain something inside her, a hole that needs filling.
I was thinking about this as I was reading yesterday, about how kids need parents who protect them, parents who love them, parents who want them.
When a dad can’t protect his daughter from danger (because he is the danger), his daughter grows up feeling insecure and vulnerable. When a mom can’t love her daughter fully because she’s not around to actually know her, the daughter goes looking for someone who’ll show her attention, any kind of attention.
I need my girls to grow up feeling safe and loved. For one, because I want them to be confident, complete women. But mostly because I know that as their parent, I’m showing them what God looks like. If I love my girls lavishly, they’re more likely to embrace God’s generous love. And if I defend them and make them feel safe, they’re more likely to trust in God’s faithful care.
It’s a huge burden for parents to bear. Ask my friend’s guilt-ridden parents. But it’s also an honor. We are our children’s ambassadors. God with them.