Collateral Damage (Part One of ?)
When you love a wayward child your heart is torn to pieces. No matter the circumstances of your prodigal’s choices: drugs, alcohol, mental illness, jail, prison, lies or deception; each is a dart that further poisons your emotions, changing your core worldview. No matter how much hope you cling to, the day-to-day experiences of your reality chip away at the very core of everything you hold dear and sacred. Family, friends, faith—all are encumbered with the weight of your burden.
The energy required to stay connected with those around you is depleted with every misspoken word, every misunderstood conversation, and every misinformed statement of concern. Don’t misunderstand; the damage the choices your wayward child makes are clear to all who know them. It’s the collateral damage, the invisible ramifications of your prodigal's choices that weave through your heart with a vengeance; spouse against spouse, sibling against sibling, friend against friend. Perhaps the most damaging consequence is the insult of injury done to your faith.
Oh, the irony of such a statement. While you remain firmly intact, standing in the gap for your loved one, your faith falters. Questions become accusations, hope becomes despair, and your faith becomes fodder for the enemy. How long the wait, Oh Lord? I have stood on your Word, on your very Promises; where is my answer, Oh God? Why don’t you hear me? I feel so abandoned in this journey; why can’t you reach my son?
While you shore yourself up, shaming yourself for even doubting, the conflict enters another sacred area of your heart—your home. After all, who else really understands the battle you are waging? The very people who have been your life source become the enemy. No one else is safe enough to share such raw emotions. Within this state of vulnerability, each family member copes differently—while one is facing the issues head on, the other is resting in denial. While one is practicing grace, the other is unable to tolerate, yet, one more excuse. Stretched beyond reasonable limits, creative parenting exposes foundational limits of forbearance that could never possibly have been discussed in any pre-marital counseling sessions. Every attempt to reach out is squelched, receiving only shame and embarrassment for not producing solutions. With each attempt, your perception affirms: this is your battle alone to fight. This isolation causes a family in struggle to collapse on itself.
Still, no matter how certain the family is that others will not understand—after all—history has shown just that—the family needs support. This is a heavy burden to bear alone. The family spirals into a shared depression, which of course, is desperately addressed once again, by itself. Even though the prodigal’s family may be diligently trying to live in the joy of life, it is collapsing under the pressure of the collateral damage of the prodigal’s journey. Individually and corporately, the color of their world has been tainted. Short of the miracle of the prodigal's return, will the brilliant hues of their hearts ever be restored?