Jesus Didn’t Have Teenagers

It is just before 5:00 on a Thursday morning. It is raining and rather cool for late September.  I have gotten about 4 hours of sleep, if you can call tossing, turning, can’t-turn-off-the-thoughts, twisting around, it’s 5 AM might as well get up – sleep.

The past 24 hours have been something, I can tell you. I work as a counselor assistant at an inpatient drug and alcohol facility. I deal with a lot of people with serious issues and lots of serious consequences. I like my job. I really do. Not all of my clients “get it” – the recovery thing, but some of them do. Those that”get it” make it all worthwhile – all the frustration, all the countless hours, all the emotionally exhausting work that goes into leading addicts and alcoholics from the brink to a better, more whole life.

Yesterday was an exceptionally long day – 11 hours. Monday and Tuesday were long days also. So coming home last night was supposed to be a welcome respite from the frenetic atmosphere of treatment. It certainly started out that way but quickly devolved into chaos and drama.

Did I mention that I have a teenager?

My son has issues, issues that I don’t feel is appropriate to discuss in such a public forum as this. I will say that he has been diagnosed with PTSD and is supposed to take some medicine to help him regulate himself. He is not consistent with doing that simple task and the evidence of what happens is clear. The result … a crazed, manic, obsessive desire to upend the downstairs because he wants to clean. Threatening to throw out other people’s stuff, rearranging things because that is where he thinks it should be placed and generally causing havoc and mayhem in the household (all at 9:00 at night). I suspect, as the decibel level in the house is ever-rising and the cursing would make a longshoreman wince, that he has not been taking his meds and that suspicion was confirmed. As anyone who has dealt with someone with PTSD, when the manic state begins it is very difficult to de-escalate the situation until the stage of exhaustion is reached. After an hour or so of arguing, threats, me walking out to cool off, trying to disengage from the circus unfolding in my living room, we finally reach the stage when the balloon pops and things begin to settle down.

Honestly, I really struggle with dealing with this. It is exhausting. We’ve been dealing with episodic displays like this – and worse – for the past two years. There are times when I just want to give up. There are times when I just want to walk away.

There. I said it. Sometimes I question my sanity and my decision-making process. I question my ability to stay the course. Yes, I know. As a Christian I’m supposed to ask “What would Jesus Do?” in situations like this. I’m sure that Jesus would continue to love and turn the other cheek and stuff.  Spoiler alert: I’m not Jesus. I’m a guy that yells, curses and loses his temper … a lot!  My patience is not inexhaustible.

It’s dawned on me recently that we don’t know what Jesus was like as a teenager. The gospels go from Him being 12 or so to Him being 30. Nary a syllable about his teen years or His life as a carpenter working with his father. Did Jesus give Mary and Joseph a hard time? Did He carry around tons of attitude when His hormones kicked in? Was He a know-it-all? Did He have an entitlement mentality? Did He lord his status over others saying, “Don’t you know who I am?”  Did Mary and Joseph throw up their hands in desperation, yelling at the heavens in frustration?  Did Mary ever question saying “yes” to that angel all those years ago?

One thing we’re told about Jesus is that He could understand what it was like to be us, humans. He experienced the same things we do, He struggled with the same things we do, He felt the same emotions we do. I mean, that’s one of the greatest aspects of the Christian faith, isn’t it? God wasn’t just sitting on some lofty plane without any understanding of the plight of humanity; no, He became one of us and could empathize with our struggles.

So, if that’s true maybe Jesus was a pain the ass to Mary and Joseph during his teen years. Maybe He flouted their authority and sassed them and felt entitled. I don’t know for sure. The record is silent on that matter.

One thing I do know is this: the gospels are silent on Jesus having a family of his own. There is no mention of Him having to deal with a surly, snarky teen. There is no discussion about how He responded to a teenager who had attitude as big as the day is long.

Perhaps there’s a reason for that. Perhaps not even Jesus could keep his cool in dealing with a teenager. Perhaps He would have reached a breaking point with His patience and cast the teen into the sea like he did with the herd of swine. That certainly wouldn’t have been “on message”.

Imagine, an entire faith never takes wing on account of a surly teenager who tries the patience of God.

Jesus never had a teenager to deal with. Just saying.

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So Tired

I am physically exhausted.  You know how your head feels when you get almost no sleep, that heavy, fuzz-on-the-brain, no-amount-of-coffee-is-going-to-help, type of feeling.

But it goes beyond physical exhaustion.  I am emotionally drained from last night’s run-in du jour  with my son and the ripple effect of that with my wife. So if the cohesion of this post is less than desirable you’ll know why.

He has lots of psychological and physiological trauma issues from his biological parents(particularly Mom) the details of which I will not go into here.  Suffice it to say he has lots of pent-up anger.  Hell, let’s call it what it is … rage.  When he gets into it with my wife he seems transported back in time to when he was a defenseless little boy; all he seems to see is his bio-Mom and it takes some doing to bring him back down.  It comes out in ways that clearly indicate he has not healed from the damage; it is very much a festering wound.  He talks as if and reacts as if he is still with them only now he is much stronger and says things like “If they try it today, they will see!”

So, we struggle to keep him focused on his school work. We persevere in showing him love. We, despite our flaws, continue to reinforce what being a part of family really means.  Sometimes we miss the mark but we plod ahead.  My pastor was telling me yesterday that the most important value a father can teach his son is perseverance; that there is value in seeing something through to the end.  “Never, never, never, never, never give up.” – Sir Winston Churchill.  I’ll be honest … there are fleeting moments when quitting looks pretty good.

So I ran across this interview in my email.  Actually, it came in a few days ago but I am just now getting around to listening to it.  It’s called “Forgiveness of Unforgivable Acts”.  God’s timing is spot on.  The story concerns a woman who suffered familial abuse as a young girl and who suffered rage as a result.  She used that rage to motivate her to “right similar wrongs in society” but the rage was consuming her – physically, emotionally and spiritually.  So she gets an audience with the Dalai Lama and she asks him how he is able to do good works for those who suffer without anger.  His response was unorthodox.  He asks her if she’s been angry long enough; is she ready to let it go; has the luster of the anger worn off?

“Forgiveness is giving up all hope of a better past”  she says.  I like that. I like that a lot.  I like the whole image of letting go of the image of what the past was supposed to be like and accepting it for what it was.  Not condoning it but just accepting it and moving on with the business of life.
I don’t think my son is there yet but we’ll get there (I hope).  Maybe we’ll listen to this interview together.

They’re Listening

I am a Dad to a teenage son. His name is Kristofer. Here he is: IMG_0903

This is not my first time around the block with parenting teens.  I raised a step-daughter during my first marriage. Yeah, that was real fun (he says with lots of sarcasm).  Springing from my step-daughter came four grandkids – all before I was 40!  At various points of time I was responsible for raising all of them as my own kids.  Not like the storybook version of family life but it was family nonetheless.  Looking back I wouldn’t trade it in for anything else.

Sure it was hard.  Being a parent is the hardest job there is.  There is no one-size-fits-all way to parenting.  Everyone is unique and I made and continue to make mistakes along the way.  It’s a lot of trial and error, lots of apologies, lots of tears, some regrets but always lots of love.

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Parents try to instill values in their kids.  Honesty. Hard work. Courage. Faith. Responsibility. Self-confidence. Integrity. Self-worth. Forgiveness.  I am no exception.    I tried not to just tell them about values but to show them values in the way I lived.  I wasn’t always successful but I think I did an okay job at it.   Honestly, there were times when I didn’t think I had gotten through to them. I wasn’t sure that they heard the message. But they did and he does.

Case in point: Kris’s English teacher was telling me about an incident in class a few weeks ago.  Kris had unintentionally hurt another student’s feelings.  Kris looked at the kid, took a deep breath, apologized for hurting his feelings and shook his hand.

And all was right in the world.