A Loved One’s Addiction Changes Us

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Christians whose adult children deal with addictions change how they see the world. They must to survive.

If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? Ephesians 2:15-16

The car pulling into the gas station today caught my eye. Nothing special about it, I just noticed it because we jockeyed for the same pump briefly. We ended up on opposite sides of a different pump. The car had a handicapped placard, so I blinked in surprise when a young woman popped out of the driver’s seat. In one glance I knew. She’s an addict. How? There’s a look around their eyes. They have an unhealthy used, run-over appearance in their face. They tend to be skin and bones. I chided myself for thinking such things and went on and pumped my gas.

While I replaced my card in my wallet, she walked up to the payment window. I couldn’t help but wonder if she knew my daughter. A few moments later, she returned. She noticed me watching her and veered toward me. “Can you spare a dollar or two for gas?”

I told her I didn’t have any cash. She shrugged and walked away. A wave of guilt hit me. Could I buy her some gas? Sure, but there was no way I’d hand any cash to her. And that’s really what she wanted. The gas request is a subterfuge. It’s not like a dollar or two would help.

While I waited beside my car, I heard her answer a phone call.  “Hello? Who’s this?”  she said this with a suspicious, sharp edge to her voice. Yep. I’ve heard that tone before. As I finished up, she left the car at the pump and headed toward the grocery store. I assume to beg from someone more amenable.

I found myself driving home replaying some stories my grandchildren have told me. My daughter pan-handled for gas money and food, her children in tow. One man threatened to call social services on her for exposing the children to this. I wish he had. I’ve heard some disturbing stories of the things she did when short on cash. I’ve experienced what I call “the shakedown” when she tried to coax money out of us.

Was I wrong not to help this woman today? I’m typically a very giving person. I feel empathy for the person in need. In Matthew 25:35-40, Jesus says when we provide food, drink, clothing, or we visit prisoners, it’s the same as doing these things for Him. I can get very literal about this and say this woman did not lack in food, drink, or clothing. She was not in prison. She drove a decent car. I don’t think that’s the point in those verses.

Then there’s the passage at the beginning of this post. Ephesians 2 explores acts versus faith, so it may be out of context to point to it as a command to give to the poor. Yet, I’ve seen it quoted as guidance for dealing with those in need.

I struggle with this dilemma as I’m sure many other Christians do. Should we give to someone who appears in need when we suspect an ulterior motive? There is a flip side to this discussion. We don’t hear it talked about as much in our current society, but it’s worth remembering. Later in Ephesians we read:

Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need. Ephesians 4:25

If the woman honestly needed gas money, then it would be ok to help her. But when she walked away from me, she didn’t ask any other person at the gas station. She walked past a woman putting groceries in her car and didn’t ask her either. Someone truly in need would not shrug and walk away when I said no. They would tell the person who called them on the phone that they were in need of gas. They would ask everyone they could for help. She didn’t. She only asked me because she saw me watching her.

Whether I like it or not, I’m more cynical than I used to be. I can’t help it. Maybe I’m wiser. I don’t know. What I do know is having children with addiction problems changes the way Christians look at the world.

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Disappointment Part 2

You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy. Psalm 30:11

Last week, I shared my concerns over promises and plans my daughter made with her children. This week, unfortunately, it appears she chose to disappear again. I can’t be sure, but all signs point to it.

I’ve posted the verse above from Psalm 30 as a reminder to me as I prepare for the time when my grandchildren realize she’s broken her promises. There will be tears and pain. Some they will show, some they will hide. Most times the tears will appear in response to something unrelated, and I’ll need to remember that something else drives the tears. Hopefully, we will find a way to help them dance instead of cry.

Prayers appreciated for my daughter, grandchildren, and us.

Disappointment: When Parents Break Promises

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“While we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed.”Titus 2:13

We cling to hope in our Christian walk. So many parts of the gospel remind us of that hope. But hope is sometimes difficult when dealing with other people. For instance, my daughter and grandchildren.

What happens in the next week or two will significantly impact my grandchildren and their relationship with my daughter. Will their mommy disappoint them or stay true to her words? It’s hard to know, and I’m a bit frustrated with the situation.

Without going into a lot of detail, I can tell you she’s made promises. Promises that she can’t keep because she doesn’t know what’s coming or what’s going to happen. My daughter tends to count her chickens before they hatch. A LOT. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen her do this. Every time I warn her, she says I’m negative. It will happen. I’m wrong to worry. Then, of course, her plans fall apart.

She’s doing it again.

Once I realized what she was saying to her children, I tried to get her to stop. She can’t see how her words affect them. She wants to be with them, hug and kiss them. I want this for them, too. But, even if things do go the way she hopes they will, it’s going to be a long, hard road. History says she’ll disappear instead.

Unfortunately, for Victoria and Amari, this leads to disappointment and frustration. For us, it means picking up the pieces of their shattered hearts. I wish she could see this, but she’s shortsighted. She knows what she wants, and she’s determined it will happen.

The disconcerting part is the way my grandchildren interpret her promises. Amari believes that on a specific date in a few weeks (yes, he states an actual date) he will go to live with her. That’s not going to happen. It can’t. Not that soon. I had to be the bad guy and tell him this last night. He wanted to know how soon they could live with Mommy. I told him I didn’t know, but it would be at least a year or two. I didn’t have the heart to tell him it might not ever happen, but that’s a real possibility. Past experiences point to the likelihood of her violating her promises.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

I’m not anxious for me. I know to trust in God. I’ve grown past the hurt of her actions and understand the peace my faith and trust give me. To two little children, this is not so easy. As much as I’d love to say, my prayers will change what she does and how the system will respond to her, I know that’s not always the case. So, I pray. I wait. I prepare to pick up the pieces if she shatters their hope.