I am sitting on my couch in Alaska, the house is insulated by 2 feet of freshly fallen snow, and the winter darkness warps the sense of cozy that I usually feel. Truthfully, I am feeling bereft and simultaneously angry. About eight months ago, Brad and I learned we’d be moving again. It was an expected move and we were thankful to move here. Shortly after we learned of our assignment, I received an unexpected call from my 18 year old niece. I heard my mother-in-law (whom I love dearly) urging her to “ask her!” It seems that my niece was experiencing difficulties at home and she and my mother-in-law hatched a plan…she wanted to move to Alaska with us.
At first, Brad and I were shocked. Truthfully, we had many concerns about her lifestyle there. We worried that allowing her to join our family would somehow bring other ‘influences’ into the lives of our young and impressionable children. At the same time, we could not deny that God has brought us to a point that we were able to be a family to someone who needed it. After much discussion, prayer, and deliberation, we agreed that she could come with us provided that she follow our family rules. Basically, our rules amount to no fornication, intoxication, or inhalation with the caveat of church on Sunday. Not to sound prudish, but these seemed easy and obvious.
I was thrilled to have a companion to move with me. For this particular move, I’d planned to take the children and arrive in time for the school year to start; Brad had to attend a three month course in Florida to requalify in the jet. As soon as we arrived, my kids and Sarah enrolled in school. I immediately began teaching as an Adjunct Professor at UAA and life percolated along at an amazing pace. As an Air Force family, perhaps I assumed we would all move ahead…you know, in a forward direction, as in toward the future.
The kids and I jumped in with all four feet. But from day one, she refused to transplant. It seems she’d met a guy three weeks before she moved from home. Based on the side of their conversations I heard he was, at best, churlish and unmotivated. At worst, he was a high school drop out, sometime/part time Subway employee, and financially unsupportive father who lived with his grandmother. As women often do, she made him what she wanted him to be in her mind. In an appalling break from reality, she ‘fell in love.’ Any energy she had was spent looking back and wishing to be home. Sadly, she blew off her freshman year in college and never made any friends. Her days were spent on my couch with the tv on and her cell phone at the ready. All of the wonderful opportunities she had to begin anew were squandered.
Fast forward to a week ago. Her grandmother, who has been ill with cancer for many years, was hospitalized. I went to work one day and returned home to find that she’d sold her car, disenrolled from university, and was planning to move back home. Her stated reason was so that she could be with her grandmother. The breadcrumbs that I gathered hearing half of her telephone conversations indicated she was going back to move in with the boyfriend and live the life she wanted. I tamped down my emotions and laid all the pros and cons out in logical form. Together, Brad and I implored her to stay the three additional months until the year was out. Truly our goal was to help her through her freshman year. I longed for her to start something and finish it; not for me but for her. From the beginning, I admonished her to ‘have a plan and not to quit.’ Once one begins quitting, being a quitter becomes a pattern, the fall back impulse of a failing lifestyle.
I quite literally cried myself silly for two days. I remember her as a baby; she was such a fun little girl! At that time, her dad had been seriously injured in a car wreck. Her mother was occupied with seeing him through a traumatic brain injury. As a result, she was raised by her grandparents and doted on by aunts and uncles, myself included. She was such a joy to all of us. When I would take a break from classes, I’d pick her up and take her with me. The entire family cherished her; we all became invested in helping to bring her to adulthood.
My heart yearns for her to want a life! A life where the next party isn’t the biggest high and where friends aren’t queued up to take what little she has. Most of all, I pray that she will see the value God places on her and not sell herself-least of all so cheaply!
A small sliver of me now understands what God must feel when we choose the ugly over the beautiful; when we choose what we want and our ‘plan’ over His plan for us. After all, we have no idea what tomorrow will bring and absolutely no control over the future. We can only choose how we respond and I suspect that our response reveals the essence of our character.
I’m MAD! She doesn’t realize what her decisions have cost us, nor does she care. At the same time, gosh I see myself reflected in her actions. I know that I too am guilty of the same offense. Each day, God hopes that I will stop and see all that He has given me. I know He wants me to see how much it costs him and to be thankful for those many blessings. In my own stubborn way, I offer up a fleeting prayer and forge ahead with what I’ve decided to do.
The sadness I feel is multifaceted, but I know that it is largely the result of seeing the promise of her life flicker and dim just a little. I feel helpless, because no one can make these choices for her. It’s a bit like watching a car wreck in slow motion. The beauty in this place is that God never gives up. It contradicts His very nature to force us to love and serve Him. But He is always willing to take us back. As I pray for Sarah, I know that He will be waiting. It is my earnest prayer that she will see differently when truth shines on the life she has chosen; it will look cheap and tawdry like Las Vegas in full sunlight. And then, I pray she will choose him.
This situation is also an admonishment to me. I need to be living in such a way that it almost makes God’s sacrifice worthwhile. I need to be running the race that is set before me.