Yesterday my daughter was at her second day at a new school for kids who for various reasons need a different type of learning environment other than that offered in the traditional public school.
This school is answered prayer for us. It provides a flexible schedule, the ability to do her work at home, and relationships with peers who have similar struggles.
My daughter has actually enjoyed her past two days at school after years of attending school and feeling overwhelmed. For her this is huge.
But yesterday she got in the car asking me when I started dating her Dad. My daughter is only 13, so I had to talk myself into staying calm as I answered her question and told her I was 18. Then she told me the reason she asked the question. A 16 year old young man in her study group, who had just broken up with his 13 year old girlfriend the day before, wanted my daughter to be his girlfriend. She had told him that we had a rule that she had to be older to date, but this young man had insisted that he could prove himself to be worthy to date her. He wanted to talk to us and try to convince us we should let him date her.
I took my daughter’s phone and read the text messages from him. It was obvious to me this young man had a desperate heart longing for love.
I sent him a text and told him our rule that our daughter could not date until she was 16. He insisted he would treat her well and he’d prove himself to us. I insisted it wasn’t about him, it was about her, and she was too young. I also told him that friendship often had more rewards than serious relationships. I encouraged him to be a friend. He finally stopped asking, but I’m not so sure he’s given up.
Reading this young man’s texts to my daughter yesterday reminded me of my own desperate heart when I went to my pastor over ten years ago. It was obvious this young man was in pain. He mentioned in the text to my daughter how he felt that he was a bother. How he wanted to die. It made me feel sick inside, because I’d known that kind of pain for most of my life. And I knew what it felt like to hope another human being could make it all better.
When I went to see my pastor the first time I poured my heart out to him. I’d carried around the pain I felt for so long. I needed for someone to tell me it was going to be ok. To tell me they loved and accepted me.
When my pastor opened his arms to me and allowed me to hug him everything in the world seemed right in those moments. I believed for years this moment was a gift from God. I had no idea I’d been set up to become a victim of spiritual abuse.
I remember in one of the first counseling sessions that my husband and I had with Sharon, she asked us why we gave our hearts away so quickly. We didn’t know how to answer then, but as we’ve talked over the past several months my husband and I are starting to understand.
The human heart is desperate, but when children don’t get the love and affection they need growing up it causes their hearts to have an even bigger hole. For my husband and myself we especially longed for a strong father figure. This pastor seemed to be that person.
As I look back to early on in our relationship with this pastor, I recognize he had a real opportunity to give us the only thing we really needed, the truth of the Gospel and God’s great love for us. But this pastor had a desperate need of his own to be a god for us.
Because I knew what kind of pain the young man texting my daughter was in, it was difficult for me to tell him he couldn’t have what he wanted. But I knew I had to set boundaries for my daughter’s benefit and his. I also knew I needed to make sure I didn’t hurt him in the process. It was tough for me to do. I imagine I may have to continue doing this until he gets it. Desperate hearts don’t give up easily. But I know it’s the right thing to do. I wish my former pastor had done the same for me. It would have saved everyone a lot of pain.
God loves us so much that He gave us boundaries. Boundaries for our good even though sometimes not getting what we want feels like the wrong thing. I know this, because I actually got what I thought I needed and it was the worst thing for me.
I didn’t need another father. I know that now. All I needed was Him. My perfect, loving Father who gave His Son to die for my desperate heart. A heart that could only be satisfied with His kind of love.
John 15:13 ESV
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.