I was THAT child.
You know the one: the explosive, high maintenance, strong willed one. The one that the teachers thought –at first– was really sweet, until something didn’t go my way. Then …watch out world!
And threw things.
I ran away from school.
All this was before 4th grade when my parents brought me home for school.
I didn’t like public school. I could blame my behavior on the school system, but that wouldn’t be the truth. I’d like to say that homeschooling changed my behavior and all that nonsense stopped. But it didn’t. My brother still cringes over the Saxon math book I threw at him when I didn’t like his explanation of my math questions. I can’t count the number of pencils I broke and doors I slammed in frustration at the world which I thought was set against me.
I am sorry to say that my mother endured many tears and sleepless nights over me. So what did she do?
She corrected me.
She insisted that I do right.
She taught me Scripture.
She kept on loving me no matter what.
Oh, the drama I put her through. It grieves me now, as a mother myself, to think of the hurtful things I did and said to her.
Once, in a fit of anger after running away from home at 12, I told her she didn’t love me and never had. I can still clearly remember the wounded look on her face. Even as I said it, I knew it wasn’t true. In fact, I was a miracle baby and my selfless mother had spent nights awake caring for me, listening to be sure I was still breathing, vigilant on my behalf. Her love for me was always evident in what she did. This is one of those moments in my life I regret. One of the memories that discourages me when I am down. I used my words to crush someone who loved me and cared for me more than anyone else ever had.
Back then, I didn’t really care what my parents thought. I did what I wanted with little regard for their rules or standards. I overheard a conversation between two ladies at church: they were sure I would be pregant by fifteen. But the seed of my parent’s love for God had been planted in my heart, and it was slowly growing. In my rebellious moments, I could feel a draw towards the things of God. I could see my mom snuggled in bed with her Bible, my dad on his knees by our couch in the early morning hours. I could feel a draw to God. I heard Him calling through the life, love and daily example of my parents.
One day shortly before my 13th birthday, I went to a friend’s house. She was an unbeliever. The family situation was deplorable. She has been smoking since she was seven and “physically active” at ten. She was the only girl my age our the neighborhood, and I thought I wanted to be like her. She was pretty and fun. All the boys liked her.
That day, I didn’t know that her parents were not home and that she had invited boys over for a “party.”. As soon as I got there, I realised what was going on –that they were pairing off in different rooms. An older boy “picked” me.
At that moment, my world stopped.
I had watched my friend live a life of promiscuousness. I saw the seeds of darkness in her life. But I wasn’t sure that was the life I wanted. I saw two paths separated in front of me. One was the life my parents lived, one of seeking to serve God –imperfect though that service may be. The other was a path to sin and destruction.
I had not read “Pilgrim’s Progress” nor Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken”. But I to this day when I hear references to either of those, I am taken back to this moment. This defining moment when I would choose to follow God or abandon my parent’s faith.
When this boy “laid claim” to me,I fled. I ran. As fast as I could and I didn’t look back. Joseph fleeing Potiphar’s wife in Egypt comes to mind. I ran home and locked myself in my room. Though I had urged my friend to come with me, she refused. She was even excited to stay.
Though I had fled from sin, I had not yet decided who I would follow. At home in my room, the weight of this decision was heavy on my heart and my mind. as I struggled to decide if I was going to follow the world or the Lord. I barely ate or emerged from my room for days.
All the while I could feel the Holy Spirit calling to my heart.
I remember sitting with my back against the door rocking back and forth with sobs, all the while letting the desires of this world melt away. I had seen how the sin of this world was destroying the life and family of my friend. God’s love and forgiveness stood in stark contrast. God’s love compelled me so strongly that I had no desire to say “no” to Him. All else paled in comparison to following Him.
I didn’t say a special prayer, though I had “asked Jesus into my heart” when I was four. What I did was I decided. I chose the less traveled path and have never, not for one moment, regretted it.
To this day, praise the Lord for giving me the wisdom to flee. I fled with my innocence intact. My friend was pregnant before her sixteenth birthday. Had I not fled, the overheard conversation at church may very well have come true.
I didn’t tell anyone about this battle in my heart until many years later. After I had children of my own, my dad and I were discussing the salvation of my children. That was when he described the change that he and my mom saw in me:
Suddenly, out of nowhere it seemed to them, I changed.
I cared what they thought.
I started to obey without fighting them.
I sought their wisdom.
I began to choose better friends and modest clothing.
I wanted to go to church.
I read my Bible of my own accord
When Daddy described this change I knew exactly what had facilitated it. I always knew I had changed in that moment, that the Lord had changed me. What I didn’t know is that everyone around me saw it too.
It occurs to me now that God made this change in me without my parents direct involvement. They didn’t even know what had changed or why. They simply lived a godly life in front of me as an example for me to choose to follow.
They were not perfect parents, but they were sincere in their faith.
So Mama… so Dad.. out there reading this… wondering about your own little spitfire. Don’t despair as you watch your child strong-willed child struggle. Plant the seeds of a godly life and let the the Lord water that fruit. Live a godly example, love unconditionally like Christ, and pray fervently… and then pray some more. Be an example of a sincere godly life that your child can clearly see.
God is calling your child. Even in my darkest moments, God was drawing me to Himself. He loves your child more than you ever could and He will never give up on him.
When you are at the end of your rope remember, even when you can’t see it: God IS working.
Dedicated to my parents: David and Vicki Artman
This was originally posted as a Facebook note on August 16, 2013; edited March 12, 2018