I was never a rebellious teenager and when I hear the stories of those who were, I kind of wonder if maybe I missed out on something.
It was rebellion enough I suppose to have a temper that flared at home but I still somehow keep at bay everywhere else I went. I had that goody-two-shoes act down so well I even managed to fool myself sometimes. Peers thought I was near perfect and were shocked when I told them about how I struggled with Algebra 2 and Geometry so that I had to repeat them in summer school. They found it hard to believe that I couldn’t even make it through a semester of physics or trigonometry. At the university level, I was a C student in my favorite subject: French. Ironically, my French friends studying in the U.S. (where English was their second language) were getting invites to the honors society. But I’m getting sidetracked, right?
My rebellion didn’t come when I was in high school. Instead it came when I left home and it wasn’t a rebellion just for the sake of rebelling. It was a shift in how I thought; it giving doubt the permission to freely infiltrate my faith; it was giving myself free license to do things my parents would never approve of. In fact, there was a time when I felt a lot of anger toward my parents, blaming them for many of my problems with adapting to the world. Thankfully I recovered from that phase although there are quite a few things my parents and I don’t see eye to eye on still. But I assure you, it is possible to love someone with whom you disagree.
Now I’m living with my parents again and the years have flown by so quickly that it hardly feels like I’ve actually been here very long at all. I remember how fiercely I lobbied my social workers at the hospital to help me find a place to live that wasn’t my parents’ place. But it was no use. The best I could do was postpone the inevitable for a month or so. Eventually I had to accept defeat and return home in a shroud of shame.
My older sister had moved back long before me only she didn’t seem to feel any shame over it. In fact, she talked about her future with confidence. Even now, at age 40, while still living with Mom and Dad, she continues speak confidently about her future (although her plans have changed a few times over the years with little to no acknowledgement of the conflicting plans she spoke of before).
I wonder if I’ve fallen into a trap. How is it that the life I tried so hard to run from in the past still managed to catch up with me?
My faith eventually returned but not as it was before. I don’t belong to a church but I have a strong sense that I should be doing more for those in need. I just can’t figure out what. And let’s face it, even if I had the money, I’d want to do more than just donate to such-and-such charity. I’d want to get my hands dirty. I want to talk with people, hear their stories, be part of a community. That, of course, is not beyond the realm of possibility. But sometimes my heart breaks when I do talk with someone in need and I have to tell them in all honesty that I have nothing more to give than my presence and my time. Then sometimes they’ll look at me as if I’m wasting their time. I mean, obviously I have a home and plenty to eat. Clearly that’s a sign that I have money, right? I do, I suppose. But it’s not my money. I can’t do with it as I please.
I told my mom today that if this were my house and not theirs, I’d have people sleeping on the couch all the time. I’d take in refugees and homeless folk if I could. But maybe it’s best I can’t. I’d probably take in too many or mistake helping them with enabling them. I’d probably become co-dependent. My own mental illness would prevent me from being present all the time for theirs. I’d become discouraged and lose heart.
I wonder then if an act of rebellion in my household now would be to break free from the vicious cycle I’m stuck in. When I argue with family members these days, it’s often about politics or theology. Am I still a Christian if I don’t believe homosexuality is a sin? Can I still be a Christian if I don’t believe in a literal hell? Can I still be a Christian if I didn’t vote for Trump? Can I still be a Christian if I’m a pacifist? For many of us the answer is a qualified yes. But it is difficult to live in a household where I am the only one who holds these beliefs to be true.
I’m not at all skilled with arguing my side either. I know why I believe what I do and I’ve read and heard enough evidence for me to feel confident in those beliefs. But too often my emotions cloud my thoughts and weaken my testimony. I can’t argue with them, but I can still love them.
To be fair, there is much encouragement in my home when it comes to professional, academic, creative, and healthy pursuits. I managed to fit in about three walks last week. This week walking at least that much should be easy to achieve too, provided I go in the evening as I did today. Here in Arizona I know the nice weather won’t last much longer but I’ll take it while I can.