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Friday, May 11, 2012

Pimples, Ulcers, and Gin in the Cat Dish

A friend of mine is currently struggling through the early phases of a season of parenting known as oh-God-help-me-I-have-a-teenager-who-hates-me syndrome (AKA: adolescence).

The symptoms of OGHMIHATWHM syndrome are mostly exhibited by the child in question and encompass a great deal of eye rolling, moodiness, heavy sighs, general apathy, and extreme embarrassment at the very existence of her mother.

In her case, it is also accompanied by an equally as horrendous case of oh-dear-God-my-teenage-daughter-has-a-boyfriend syndrome (ODGMTHAB) and this particular affliction causes symptoms mostly exhibited in the parent in question such as hyperventilation, paranoia, headaches, ulcers, anxious prayers, irrational thinking, heavy drinking, and general desperation. Concurrent symptoms exist with the child in question and include declining grades, hours in front of the mirror, hair flipping, thumb strain (from texting), and starry eyes.

I've spent a lot of time with my friend lately and have observed the whole thing unfold before her horrified eyes. Just a few minutes ago, she held this wiggly infant girl in a swaddled bundle and looked adoringly at her, never dreaming this moment would come. Now, off she rockets into the world, leaving her fretting mother in her wake. Just listen, child… I have so much to tell you. There is so much you have to learn for what's ahead of you.

I look at my oldest son, who will himself cross over that coveted 13th birthday this summer, breaking the rite-of-passage marathon tape and probably hurdling me headlong into my own case of OGHMIHATWHM. These two babies used to play together, watched cartoons and toddled around in diapered butts together, but now they're walking time-bombs… pimpled monsters of their own making. And I'm about to join the ranks of shell-shocked parents everywhere, looking longingly at their infant children dangling car keys and squealing out of sight.

So, there's that. (Cheers.)

Being the still cool and collected outsider in the whole debacle has given me a bit of perspective and unfortunately, a clear view into the mirror. I'm a few decades past my own eye-rolling, pimple-popping, boy-swooning days but I imagine, in God's eyes, I haven't grown up all that much.

Here's my loving parent, walking me through life with compassion and grace, teaching me, guiding me, giving me wisdom for every situation, and here I am, rolling my eyes at His ways, smacking my gum and trying desperately to go my own way.

I know He's immune to the paranoid delusion that accompanies parenting teenagers, but I wonder still if I wound His heart with my rebellion… if my desperate attempts at being liked by others, at seeking after my own happiness whether it's good for me or not causes Him grief… or as Anne Lamott says, "makes Jesus want to drink gin straight out of the cat dish."

When He longs for me to turn my heart to His, I flip my hair and roll my eyes and pick up my cell phone to text a friend. When His book of wisdom sits collecting dust, I whine to my friends about my troubles, simple unable to imagine a way out of the mess I've made of things. He stands waiting in the wings and I turn my back in rebellion to find my independence, to make my own way.

My friend's daughter will grow out of it. They'll find their footing in the awkward stage of adolescence and eventually, she'll be grateful for her mom's tireless presence in the midst of her toughest years. Or at least, she'll need a ride to the mall.

But I wonder if I'll ever grow out of it. Will I ever draw close enough to my Father's heart that my own ways don't glitter with intrigue? Will I ever grow out of the awkward dance of being young enough to still need Him but not always wanting Him in charge?

Father, forgive me for my spiritual adolescence, for needing you and wanting your gifts, but chasing after my own ways. Help me to have faith like a child but the wisdom of maturity to hold tight to your hand when my desires lead me astray. 

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