I know that there are obstacles in life, which we don’t necessarily choose but ‘stuff’ happens. Over the last few days I’ve been around good friends who are experiencing significant heartache because of family members who have made poor life choices. I know that as a parent one of the greatest tendencies is to want to rescue our kids regardless of whether they are 5 or 25 years old. I have been programed from birth to see failure as the end of the rope. Yet, as I do more work in marginalized neighborhoods and affluent neighborhoods it is becoming more clear that the path to success or sustainability is through failing, falling on your face or watching a loved one dive bomb.
I was blessed a few days ago with a connection that saw a single dad friend receive a washer and dryer that are in great condition. As I reconnected with a close friend, who I’ve known over the last 19 years, we talked, as usual, about our kids who had grown up together. We both had success stories and not so great stories to share. The challenge is that no parent wants to watch their adult kids end up as substance abusers that are no longer capable of keeping a job, maintaining relationships or functioning in any situation. The unfortunate reality is that there is usually someone in their circle of family and friends who tries to rescue them not realizing that they are really hurting their chances of eventually getting back on track and be able to put life’s pieces of the puzzle back together.
Last night we went skating with a gigantic group of youth with New City. I was again struck with the reality that the fallout from brokenness is obvious in the way that we live. One of my teens quickly over reacted to someone that was making fun of him. This girl had just joked and his fuse, which is way too short, went off and the loud voice and display of anger was scary. On the other hand I was fortunate to talk with a cousin of one of our teens who is going through some really tough times with health issues and a struggle with living arrangements. She was able to communicate as an adult even though she is still young and has grown up in difficult circumstances.
My wife bumped into an old friend that we hadn’t seen in 10 years to hear about the circumstances around the demise of his marriage to another good friend of my Anne’s. The real ‘bummer’ was hearing one of our key volunteer couples share about their adult kid’s struggles with substance abuse. I know that the tenderness of any mom towards their son or daughter’s struggles will bring tears and emotional collapse.
I know that too often you can’t reason with someone who is in denial about his or her life choices. You can even scream at them and come close to beating them only to realize that they don’t hear you or understand your actions at all. I can remember when one of my siblings had a drug issue that saw their collapse and then their more willingness to listen. I knew that attempting to strong arm my one sibling wouldn’t only cause more alienation and contention with me.
I know that too often one of the symptoms of brokenness is both substance abuse and emotional instability. It is so easy for many of our youth and adults to have this huge anger issue that is always exhibited in blowing up in confusing circumstances that don’t make much sense. I know that it is a waste of time to attempt to reason or argue with someone that is crashing and burning. It is only as they step up out of the gutter that they are more open to asking for help and actually listening.
One of my favorite authors, Brennan Manning, would look back at his life and express his brokenness in the area of his alcoholism, which destroyed most of his relationships and forced him to eventually live on the edge where he couldn’t fool himself or God about his weakness. I know that this priest is a very gifted writer and communicator who is afraid that people will not see through to his real self when they listen or read about his passion for God’s love for the least, the last or the lost. He would always begin any conversation with saying that he is an alcoholic whose life has literally been in the gutter.
The real question, which I face, is that it is all too easy for me to act as if my life is really better than those around me. I don’t struggle with drug or alcohol issues and I don’t have a temper that ends up in loud outbursts. Yet, my false sense of importance or belief, that I’m really more intelligent than most, is so far from the truth. I would hope to understand a little bit more about what it means to be a servant leader where humility takes precedence over an ego driven battle to be perceived by my peers as being successful.