When you love a prodigal whose life is out of control, it is difficult, at best, to not feel responsible for the problems and the solutions.
Last Saturday, a young man, only 22 years old, entered a political rally and killed 6 people and injured 13 others. The world has been praying for each of the victims and their families. And yet, at the mention of this young man's family, the world is quick to bring judgment: why didn't his parents do a better job, how could they have raised such a monster.
How my heart aches for this family. Sadly, there are 19 victims who were directly affected by this tragedy and tragically, there are six families who will now wake up each morning without their loved ones. And yet, there are two additional victims of this tragedy--the parents of Jared Loughton. Rarely do parents intentionally raise a child to create such havoc. Why, then, is our society so quick to believe that they, too, are somehow culpable in this tragedy?
As parents of a wayward adult child, there have been many times we have faced the same judgment. Others who do not understand what it is like to love an adult child whose life is out of control are quick to suggest that if only...if only we had done this...if only we had done that...if only we had done the same things they did--that worked--our adult child would behave differently.
I believe this undeserved judgment eases the fear of others that this random act could happen in their own family. Life happens; we live in a fallen world. The belief that we can control every outcome is a good belief as long as life cooperates!
For those who love a prodigal whose life is out of control, that belief system was shattered long ago. We have long since learned that in spite of every creative parenting skill, in spite of every sacrificial attempt to make things different, in spite of every courageous effort to undo what is wrong...our prodigal has a mind of his/her own.
As the world began to blame the parents this week, it was impossible for me to remain silent. I cringed with every news commentator's question: Where were the parent's in this? As the frequency of the question increased, my heartache turned into anger.
Let's do a little critical thinking here: Let's suppose this family completely failed in raising this young man; does that fully explain the horrendous actions on January 8 in Tuscon, AZ? Many children grow up in a dysfunctional home and few become mass killers. Let's suppose this family's best was not good enough; does this make them culpable in this tragedy? If this is the case, all parents should be on guard. Let's suppose, just for a nano second, that this family ineffectively struggled to find a way through an unimaginable psychosis; does this make them responsible for their son's actions? Most parents are not Psychiatrists and as a parent who has tried to advocate for an adult child in our current mental health system, I have become all to familiar with HIPPA laws that prevent my involvement in another adult's case and records. How can parent's be held responsible for something they are prohibited by American law from participating in?
I am not here today to defend a family who I do not even know...and yet, I feel as though we are sojourners on a lonely path. A journey that is shared by many isolated travelers. A journey that is misunderstood and judged by those whose life is wonderfully under control. Nor am I here today to bring judgment upon those who do not understand, for how well I know the innate need to bring sense to our world. There have been many times as I have struggled to understand how the unthinkable could happen, that I became the victim to self-judgment, self-doubt, and self hatred. I have brought harsh judgment to myself on my own journey of loving a prodigal. Still, none of these actions brought my prodigal any closer to redemption. What I am here to ask is that we all take a deep breath and pray for everyone involved in this tragic event. As we enter our watchtowers today and stand in the gap on behalf of our prodigals, may we wave our hands heavenward and lift up our prodigals, all prodigals, every family who loves a prodigal, toward our God who is scanning the earth looking for His watchmen (Ez. 22: 30-31). Our hope does not lie in judgment, whether self-imposed or from those who misunderstand. The real hope of redemption comes when we stand in the gap on behalf of the land so God will not destroy it.
While we cannot understand, nor can we undo the choices of an angry young man in the throws of psychosis, we can rise above our anger--we can choose to pray. Will you join me today as we stand in the gap on behalf of our prodigals and pray for the Loughtons too?