Friday, October 24, 2008
Here's some questions for you: should an under-aged teen have the right to leave home? How about if there is abuse in the home, but it's not substantiated? What if the teen is living in an Old Order Amish home, and is running away because the rules are too strict? But what if the teen is running because he/she has become a born-again Christian, and now the church and family are not happy with the teen and wants the new faith squelched?
These are some questions that have been in my mind lately as I study and prepare to write my NaNo project. My novel will be about a teen who wants to leave the Amish because she becomes a Christian and her family wants her to renounce this kind of faith. It's easy to decide what kinds of circumstances in a book to put your main character into. But when it comes to real life, the circumstances, and the realities of those circumstances, are often colored in gray, and there are rarely sharp coloring book lines to delineate the clear picture.
I've been made aware of some of these exact circumstances in the last few weeks, and it often has the effect of a conundrum--it's puzzling! I find myself going back and forth between what I used to think, what I think in regards to certain circumstances, and what I think others will think.
As a parent, I can fully understand the motivation of Amish parents who, uncharacteristically, bring the full weight of the law down on the heads of their wandering teen. But I can also see the pain in that teen's eyes as she recounts the oppression and the frustration of not being able to live under Grace. On the other hand, if my son ran away, it would break my heart, and cause me to worry endlessly--enough to guarantee that I'd call the sheriff to have him returned home to me. But then again, I hear stories about strict punishments, shunning, and kids being sent to mental institutions as a means to control them, and my heart recognizes how unbearable that would be for anyone. I just can't seem to stay on one side of the fence!
These questions have been making my head hurt and my heart cry out to the Lord: "Why does it have to be this way?" And it all comes down to SIN; the same reason all of us do things to cause hurt and pain to each other and to God. Pride. Rebellion. Fear. Lust. Retribution. Foolishness. Bitterness. Lying. Self-Righteousness. Disobedience.
These sins, that are so prevalent within our fallen human souls, lead the Amish to the same destructive behaviors as the rest of us. Just because they are quaint does not make them immune...just because they live a simple life does not make them immune...and just because they profess a Christian faith does not make them immune to the effects of the sinful nature of man.
"We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate, I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.
For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do–this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law;but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?" Romans 7:14-24
Paul very vividly describes the conundrums of life in those verses. So what can we do with this sin and our bodies of death? Paul answers his own question:
"Thanks be to God–-through Jesus Christ our Lord!" Romans 7:25
The good news is that no matter how many times we fail because our sinful natures just can't seem to get it right, there is a loving Savior who welcomes us, sin and all, and by accepting His grace, and His sacrifice to cover our dreadful sins, we can be rescued from our bodies of death!
This doesn't mean that the conundrums of life will be put straight. We're not capable of always doing what is good and right by each other, but when we do fail, we can go to the throne and ask forgiveness, pray for wisdom, and trust the Lord that He'll give us direction to figure things out.
In the meantime, I suspect that I'll keep struggling with these puzzling scenarios and asking God to help me understand. But first and foremost, I need to remember to be praying for these dear people: Amish parents and their wandering teens.