What is perfect love? Does it even exist? I knew my maternal love was strong, and my need to nurture and guide my daughters to love and honor God was even stronger. Raising them, I took the command from Proverbs 22:6 seriously: “Train up a child in the way he should go…” Daily prayers, nightly devotionals, Sunday school… check, check, and check.
I guess that is why I was completely blindsided! I had no idea I would turn around one day and see that my daughter was, what most would identify as… a rebellious teen. I truly didn’t understand where the disrespect was coming from and I wondered why she was so angry. In my opinion, she was out of control. In hers, she was merely and finally taking control. Conflict became the norm. “Pick your battles” was the common advice. But when your child is making destructive choices, choices that jeopardize her future and health, that phrase becomes meaningless.
I was sure that I needed to, with tenacity and devotion, be in control and that is exactly what I attempted to do. I felt that if I wasn’t, I couldn’t do my job. I wanted…no, I needed to “save” my daughter. James 5:13 told me, “Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray.” She was in trouble and I did. I prayed fervently, every day, several times a day. I remember waking up in the morning, feeling hopeless and simply rolling to my knees as I pleaded with God to get us through THAT day. I would audibly beg, “Lord, please keep her safe today.”
But, I didn’t rely solely on prayer. Every day, I resolved to try harder. There were five very long years of trying harder…five years of meeting with doctors and counselors, attempting to sort out truths and courses of action. Five years of the pendulum slowly but steadily swinging back and forth between punishment and reward systems, between “tough love” and leniency. If I thought an idea would have even a chance of gaining some control, I tried it…year after year. And with each year, her anger only increased as did my feelings of guilt and self-doubt. I failed to gain any control.
High school was a painful blur for both of us. The range of emotions was draining, but we were still mother and daughter. We never stopped loving each other. And yet, we were both devastated by the fact that there seemed to be no answers, no common ground, and no hope.
Everything came to a peak during her second year of college. I received a call from my daughter to come pick her up. A glimmer of hope dared to seep into my soul as I so wanted to claim the promise from the last part of Proverbs 22:6, “…he (she) will not depart from it.”
However, on our drive home my daughter spoke these words: “I’m leaving. I have a plane ticket for Arizona and I leave Thursday.” There was no explanation and no discussion. She was, after all, 19 and didn’t need or want permission. She told me that she was finally listening, and she would seek her health, happiness, and safety, as I had preached so often, but she would do it her way.
Then… she was gone. My daughter was 1800 miles away and I was afraid. And this is how I know there is perfect love. God looked at my broken heart and gave me this verse from 1 John 4:18, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.”
I confessed to Him. “Then, I must not have perfect love, because I am afraid.” I felt His response. You love her very much… I love her more. It is My love that is perfect. She will come back, but she will come back to Me.
You see, the only way to gain control was for me to be completely out of control. There was absolutely nothing I could do, except pray. But James 5:14 & 15 says: “And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up.”
The control was in God’s hands, where it should have been all along. Now, we had hope. Now, He would be able to bring my daughter back into a loving relationship… with Himself.