Joseph was seventeen.
I paused in my daily bible reading when I saw that number. My son is seventeen.
I hesitate to record or publish anything damning toward him in my blog. It isn't right or fair to cast blame publicly of weaknesses. But I believe many teenagers have similar characteristics as they navigate adulthood and take on weightier responsibilities.Joseph was seventeen. His dad loved him more than all his siblings. He had a big mouth. His brothers hated him. And he was seventeen.
And I do wish to address my own insecurities as a mother.
Did Jacob know he was actually hurting his other sons by favoring Joseph? Was it some subconscious identification with his own sibling relationship with Esau? Was it the way Jacob was favored by his mother Rebekah and not his father Isaac? So was he repeating the cycle, Cats in the Cradle and the Silver Spoon?
And, thus, Joseph had an entitlement mentality, for real. Didn't he have the many-colored coat to prove it? He barged ahead in life without fear. He was seventeen. He was invincible.
I wonder if the way that I was raised has caused me to create an entitled and invincible offspring. My dad was authoritarian; my mom permissive. But I didn't live with my dad. I lived with my mom. She was so complacent in her child-rearing, that I longed for structure and parameters.
I believe this is one of the reasons why I felt so loved and cared for at Red Bridge Baptist Church when I started attending in seventh grade. Although they wouldn't admit it at the time, there were many legalistic expectations at that church. It was considered Fundamentalist and Conservative. I was loved and appreciated there. I learned some much-needed social parameters and acceptable etiquette. I developed some incredible relationships there.
For YEARS after leaving home in Kansas City I fought to find a balance in my personal journey of life between authoritarianism and permissiveness.
Here is a great example. I know it may sound stupid to others, but it was a legitimate struggle for me. When I was in 6th grade, I got a new stereo with a record player and 8-track. I owned 3 albums: Barry Manilow: Barry Manilow and This One's For You and Beach Boys: Endless Summer. I wore those albums out.
When I started going to Red Bridge Baptist in 7th grade, I had just become a Christian at Youth For Christ Camp in the summer of '79. I found the church by asking the people I babysat for if I could go to church with them, since they had a God-plaque on their wall, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." But that was it. I tried to attend the church and be faithful to God's leading in my life. It was a struggle. That is an understatement.
My mom was raised in a wonderful Christian home and attended an amazing church--Linwood Presbyterian. She memorized chapters in the Bible and won awards for Bible memory and drills. But then something happened. I'm not sure what. She was married to my dad for 7 years. He was Christian Science in his faith. He was a bully and an ass, according to my mom. He was unreasonable and unyielding. She left him by taking their 3 kids and was pregnant with me at the time to go back home to Kansas City--8 hours away from her home in Canton, Illinois.
Was that when she changed? Was that when she gave up being a good mom and a Christian? Was a switch cut off in her spiritual world somehow because she felt like she had tried to trust God with her marriage, but it failed--therefore He must not be real? I dunno.
But I know I was raised by a fun, creative, out-going, competitive, amazing mom. She just didn't have a trust in Jesus. That is for sure. I remember after her 2nd divorce, I was in 5th grade at the time, Mom and I went to the Adam's Mark Hotel for a few weekends to take classes in Silva Mind Control. Not kidding. I have a certificate showing my passing the class. Transcendental meditation, seeking spirit guides, foretelling others' medical needs, etc. For real. She felt like I had gotten such a bad-end of the deal where dads were concerned, that she took me to the class with her--none of my siblings went. Just me.
7th and 8th grade I spent trying to get rides to church at Red Bridge and trying to be a happy teenager. I was rebellious and searching at the same time. One minute I was playing "Stiff as a Board, Light as a Feather" and stealing wine out of parents' liquor closets with my friends, and singing in the Youth Choir at Red Bridge Baptist Church. Up. Down. Up. Down. Confess. Rebel. Repent. Rebel. Over and over again. I remember Halloween in 8th grade. I was Trick-or-Treating with friends and causing trouble. We went to a party near East Jr. High. I drank so much that I was throwing up strawberry daiquiri all over the toilet and my clothes. The girl had to let me borrow her shirt. I can't even remember whose house that was. But what I do remember is walking home alone, at midnight, down Byars Road to River Oaks where I lived. It was a dark, wooded road, cut down to a one lane bridge over a creek. How stupid I was. I could have been raped, tortured, and murdered, and no one would have known. Thank God I survived that night. Surreal.
I remember bragging about it in science class Monday and Heidi Durham said, "I wouldn't be proud of doing that." It totally gave me pause and stopped me dead in my tracks . . . but only for a moment. What was I doing?! I didn't care. The rest of 8th grade was a wash. Bad choices. Dangerous friends. We bullied and mocked others. We drank. We stole my mom's Buick LeSabre from the garage in the wee hours of the night and went joy-riding on the weekends. Yeah, I was 14.
Bad. It was bad. Meanwhile, my mom was living with off-and-on her boyfriend, and then 3rd husband. I couldn't stand him.
I truly believe Mom was DEPRESSED, as in clinically depressed. Her 2nd husband, whom she loved dearly had run off with another woman and abandoned us. She was raising kids on her own on a schoolteacher salary with pittance supplements from my dad. She had various boyfriends those years. We had to sell our nice, big house, the grand piano, all the China and silver. We moved into a townhouse and down-sized our lives. Money was scarce. So she would go off with men for a weekend in the Ozarks and leave Allen and me home alone. We fought constantly.
The summer after 8th grade, I tried to NOT go to YFC Camp. I KNEW God wanted to get ahold of my heart, and I was running fiercely. I remember backing into a fireplug across from Brian Barkers house and knocking out a taillight on Mom's car. When she found out her light was out, I told her I was out riding my bike when I heard the phone ringing. So I jumped off the bike to run in the house and my handlebars landed on the taillight, knocking the light out. Lie.
I had to pay for the taillight, so I didn't have the $$ to pay for camp. My excuse. Of course, Mamamarge paid for me to go. On the very last night of camp, I broke down the walls of my pride and rebellion and turned my heart back over to Jesus. I was resolved to turn over the reigns of my life to Him. It was a big resolution. And it stuck.
Back to my Endless Summer. By the time I was in 9th grade, I was alone in the house with Mom. Shannon was a senior at Colorado University. Chuck had moved up to live with dad since 7th grade-and was also attending C.U. Allen had gotten kicked out of Rockhurst High School because of his failing grades (not because he wasn't smart--but because he played around too much), so he had moved up to Canton, Ill. to live with Dad. (My dad was much more stable and normal than my mom. But I didn't know it at the time. I was just afraid of him.) Mom had divorced her 3rd husband. And I was resolved to change.
There was a new youth pastor at Red Bridge, who happened to live in River Oaks, just down the street from me. This made my attending so much easier. Through the church, I found the boundaries and attention that were lacking at home. I grew in my relationship with God, who I saw as a Father to me. A verse I claimed was, "When my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will take me up." Psalm 27:10 And He did. He was salve to my aching soul.
But life was still hard. I had relationships that were stupid.
The church and YFC condemned rock music and going to movies. So I "gave those up".
Yeah, well, I really liked the Beach Boys. So after a year or so, I went out and re-purchased the Endless Summer album (on Cassette this time.)
Then I felt pressured in my conscience that I was sinning and threw it away.
Then I went out and bought it again.
For real. The struggle was real.
Now I see it as the struggle of legalism vs. common sense. At the time, I was a little lost sheep seeking direction and approval. It was such a confusing time. I wanted to do some things that were frowned on by my congregation, yet I wanted their acceptance, as well.
Forward to college years. I had such a hard time wanting to judge others with the same measuring stick that had been held up next to me, and yet in my mind I knew God's plan was to L O V E, not judge. I was so confused. It was hard. I'm sure I hurt people. I didn't do it intentionally, I was just trying to understand the world I was in. I couldn't understand how they could say they were Christians, but they did things were on my NO GO list. How could this be true? I'm sure I hurt some amazing and wonderful people because I was so immature and uneducated. I was missing the forest for the trees--but I was trying to see it. It would just take some time. Time to heal, develop, and get to know my God as one concerned about every hair on my head--not the way it curls or straightens, just knowing it is me. I am His and He is mine. His love is deeper than any ocean, broader than any sky. And this is what motivates me to accept myself and others in our imperfect state. The older I get, the more I can see this. Attending Liberty University with Christians from all denominations and sects helped me a great deal in my tunnel-vision. They were wonderful. They didn't act the way I did. Perhaps I need to expand my viewpoint.
Kinda like Joseph hurting his brothers when he bragged about the moon and stars bowing down to him. Just stupid. Not thinking. Myopic. It was foolish, but he was just a kid. He didn't know better. There were consequences for his actions. His brothers hated him and conspired against him. He became a slave. He was falsely accused by Potifar's wife. He was betrayed in the prison by someone he was counting on to report him to the king. The years went by. He had time to reflect on his youth and make choices to shape his future. Joseph matured and developed. Joseph turned out okay.
And I turned out OK.
And the weaknesses I see in my own seventeen-year-old offspring will need to work themselves out in time, as well. It is going to be okay. At times I worry that I've been too permissive with him by letting him choose when to do his chores instead of requiring absolute and strict obedience. I'm more like my mom than I know. His dad is more authoritarian, so he is getting a nice balance, I guess. Joseph turned out well despite Jacob's bias and rearing habits.
In a few years, my boy's endless summer will be over, and he will be a man. Camping out on the sand bar in the river and popping in to Bojangles are important, too. I don't wish to take away his fun, I just wish to see him have both. Responsibilities AND Fun. He'll have "Fun, Fun, Fun." And he will get there. He knows right from wrong. He is making his choices. He will have consequences. And he will come out the other side stronger for it all. He needs to experience it and choose for himself the type of man he wants to be. He also deserves to have his own Endless Summer.
I've done my part. I love him, I support him, and I'm praying for him. And if I keep telling myself this and writing it out, perhaps I'll believe it more firmly!
Now to my next 4 months: To fuss or not to fuss when the AP assignments don't get completed? That is the question. "Help me Rhonda, Help-Help me Rhonda."
Image of my favorite album found on Wikimedia: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/d/d5/EndlessSummerBBCover.jpg/220px-EndlessSummerBBCover.jpg