Sunday, January 13, 2013

Letter from Harrisburg

Today's Letter from Harrisburg is about those times when our adult children take a different path than the one we'd have picked for them.

Right here.


  1. I can relate to this post so much. Our son is very much like Matt (curious, intelligent) and has chosen a different route then we had in mind. We have chosen to do what you have done, much to the dismay of some other people. Blessings!

  2. It is so freeing to realize that we don't need to chose a path for our children but rather keep adding kindling to their God-sparks. Louise

  3. I understand your response as a mom, but I would seriously caution you that you may be on a slippery slope unless you are very careful.

    What will you do when or if your children would choose to do something the Bible calls sin? Many have said like you did: do not react but keep silent and be accepting. It is this mindset that has propelled the immorality that has become commonplace in popular churches and now even in Mennonite churches.

    Many parents consider approval by their children of far greater importance then approval by God. Just want to warn you about what you will face and be sure your reactions are a reflection of abiding in the vine - the one who did exactly as the Father instructed Him to do. John 14:31: "but so that the world may know that I love the Father, I do exactly as the Father commanded Me." NASB

    Been there, done that and am still there - a parent can never allow his prodigal to feel approval for his choices.

  4. I need to take the first sentence of the last paragraph of this column and tape it in big letters to my mirror. And memorize it. Betsy from Indiana, mom of an 18-year-old

  5. I applaud you as a mom. You have raised Matt just as you have your other are not being "silent" has some would say...he knows how you feel...he knows you don't approve...otherwise he wouldn't have thanked you for your response! You are choosing to love...just as the Father has loved us!

  6. I love your response! All I really wanted to hear from my parents when I began making choices they didn't agree with was "we think you're making bad decisions, but we love you anyway."
    I hope that if I have children someday that I can love them without trying to control them.

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  8. To anonymous who cautions me about the slippery slope: you have a valid point. I face this all the time with people, not just my children: how do I love them without making them feel I approve of their sin? Only God does it perfectly. The rest of us figure it out as we go and make a lot of mistakes.

  9. Thank you for this post Dorcas. One of my children did join the military about 6 years or so ago and has been deployed twice now. This has created a 'storm' of mixed emotions for me-it still does.

  10. Grandma Ruth1/14/2013 1:27 PM

    Thank you for this post. I passed it along to a friend.

    I"m not Mennonite, but a Christian mother. I think all parents have this kind of delima with adult children.

    I have two grown sons and pray constantly for them. I remember hanging up the phone and crying when my eldest son told me he'd been accepted into the Elite Forces. God had other plans for him. ((phew!!))

    Meanwhile, best piece of advice I ever got about parenting grown children: Dont' give advice unless asked.

    Bless you and your family!

  11. Matt Smucker1/14/2013 7:38 PM

    To the anonymous commenter at 5:47AM:

    Do not misunderstand my mom...I knew from the beginning that my parents didn't really approve of my decision, and that their preference would have been that I do something different.

    At no point did they ever say that they approved of my decision.

    That being said, they were willing to hear me out. To hear why I made the decisions that I did, to learn more about what I would be going into, and to treat me the same as they always had.

    They didn't go all "your our prodigal son" on me. They didn't drop not-so-subtle hints about praying for my soul. They didn't try to MAKE me change my decision. They didn't try to guilt me into changing my decision.

    Nor did they crow when my original plan to join the Air Force fell through, though I'm certain they were on some level relieved.

    THEY DID NOT, AT ANY POINT, SEEK MY APPROVAL. Sorry for the caps, but that part is very, very important.

    Unfortunately, many Christian parents see their adult child making decisions that they don't agree with, and think that the proper response is to "preach truth" or some such. To use preaching, guilt, fear, or any other means at their disposal to get their child to change to a course that they approve of.

    To every parent who happens to read this: if your child is making a decision that you don't approve of (like I did), read Mom's article.

    Then, read it again. Read it a third time, if need be.

    The way my parents did it about as close to right as you can possibly be, and today we have a great relationship, differences and all.

    If my folks had taken a self-righteous stand because of some fears of a "slippery slope" or openly treated me like I was some kind of still-lost prodigal...suffice it to say, our relationship today would be significantly tarnished. That kind of behavior on the part of parents will usually only push the kids away.


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  13. Matt, thanks for joining this conversation! I really like this article, Dorcas. It's what I feel called to.

  14. I am very new to your blog and I really appreciate this article. My oldest are 16 year old boys and I know they will not always make decisions I think are best but I pray our relationships are never severed because of my reactions.

  15. Matt says, "Unfortunately, many Christian parents see their adult child making decisions that they don't agree with, and think that the proper response is to "preach truth" or some such."
    I'm wondering why that would be unfortunate?

  16. Matt Smucker1/17/2013 6:09 PM

    "Preaching truth" can be unfortunate because when a parent (or other older person) takes it upon themselves to "preach truth" to someone younger, it seldom comes across in a way that is positive...much less in a way has any record of success.

    One basic fact: if your child has been raised and taught in your church setting, he already knows what you think, has decided he doesn't agree, and has decided to go his own way. Or her, as the case may be.

    "Preaching truth" in this context is not really preaching truth, its re-hashing things that he's already heard 500 times before turning 18.

    It's unfortunate, but many times older Christians think they are "preaching truth" to younger people, when in reality they are coming across as being pompous, boring, out-of-touch, and self-righteous.

    And I can basically guarantee that if you try "preach truth" to a 25-year-old who you think is going astray, and that preaching is something that he's heard 500 times before, he's going to perceive you as being more in the pompous category. At that point, you're not educating're trying to using guilt or manipulation in the name of "preaching truth" to get him to change to a course you approve of.

    I grew up Mennonite. I know and fully understand the rationale behind the teachings I heard on nonresistance...that said, my interpretation is somewhat different.

    My parents could have preached non-resistance to me non-stop in the name of "preaching truth" and it wouldn't have made any difference. And truthfully, I probably would have much less communication with them now, had they done so.

    Bottom line: some Christians will try to use guilt and/or manipulation to get the young people to fall in line, particularly when it's their own children, and they do it in the name of "preaching truth." Or, they rehash the thing that Joe ex-Mennonite has heard 500 times already, expecting that the 501st time God will some kind of miracle and turn him around.

    My parents did neither of things. They knew that I understood their position, and respected mine. And today, our relationship is much better off because of it. What would have been the point* of them "preaching truth" to me if I already knew their position and disagreed with it, and it would have simply ended up damaging our relationship?

    Remember: just because you were raised that way doesn't necessarily make that position correct. Also: nobody is 100% correct. Your military-joining child isn't, and neither are you. Some battles aren't worth fighting.

    *I cannot believe I just used that phrase. Ask Mom why, next time you see her.

  17. To both Matt and anonymous: Chances are good that we handled this all wrong. But that's the thing with parenting--we never felt like we had all the answers and kind of figured it out as we went along. We figured it didn't make much sense to come down hard on a 25-year-old and it was time to listen and discuss rather than push. However--Matt, you might look back at age 50 and think we were crazy not to try harder to persuade you. For some reason God allows us to bumble along as parents without spelling everything out clearly, and apparently there's a reason for that. But it sure opens you up to second-guessing from both yourself and others.

  18. I've seen parents try to guilt their kids into doing what they want them to. It often works but the down side is that the person doesn't have a conviction for it. He's just 'doing it.'

    As a parent of grown children, my role is to maintain a relationship with them and pray for them constantly. Praying for them will do far more for them then we can by 'preaching.' God doesn't need me to be the Holy Spirit. He can handle that just fine! That doesn't mean I can't say a few words now and then to my grown kids about what they are doing but I do not make a habit of it.