A Divided House

“Oh no, not another family fight,” groaned 16-year-old Carole, and she fled to her room in tears.

Carole had asked her mother if she might go roller skating with the church youth group, and Mom had replied, “No. You were at Bible Study last night and you studied late the night before.”

Just then Dad had come in and urged, “Let her go. She’s young only once.”

“But Carole needs her rest,” Mom insisted. Then the seesaw argument began, and both her mother and father were soon angry.

“Forget the whole thing,” Carole cried as she left them. There had been a family quarrel every day that week.

Carole was caught in the vortex of two swirling forces: her controlling mother and her strong-willed father. They bickered and squabbled over trifles and over real problems until Carole’s head and heart spun with confusion and revolt. The troubled parents finally brought her to me to discover “her” trouble.

“Talk of a mixed-up kid!” Carole wailed as she told her story. “Mom and I go shopping and I always wind up getting the clothes she picks out. I’m ungrateful if I disagree.”

When her mother suggests they whip up a cake together, Carole shudders. Either she selects the wrong pan or doesn’t mix the batter right. She may tense up and drop something; Mom gets disgusted and finishes the job, and both pout for the rest of the day. When Dad comes home, he interrogates them, and then gives them a lecture.

Carole’s father makes a good salary, and she has a generous allowance. Active at church, the parents are considered models. But Carole says they’re hypocrites. The moment they get in the car for home, Mom tells Dad how to drive or that he slept during the sermon, and he responds with a hot retort.

Like a number of church “pillars” Carole’s parents were suffering from spiritual termites that were destroying their inner being.

Carole was plainly up against a situation she could not change. She couldn’t possibly be obedient to her parents when they gave opposite directions. And she couldn’t escape their constant bickering. But, I suggested, she could do some things.

When working with her mother, she could try harder to do it Mom’s way. She could accept her mother’s choices. She could realize that her parents’ quarrels were not her problem.

And there was something else. We turned to 2 Corinthians 1:2-5, and as we read we underlined these words: grace, peace, mercies, comfort, and consolation. These, Carole saw, were the blessings God was ready to give “in all our tribulation.” She tried it, and it worked.

Sometimes she forgets and pities herself. But as she repeatedly yields herself to God, she is learning to live with something she cannot change.

 

The names and certain details in this true case history have been changed to protect each person’s identity and privacy.