Some people might assume that my family is “extra holy” because my dad is Max Lucado, pastor and author of books such as He Chose the Nails, He Still Moves Stones and Six Hours One Friday. People might even think that my family sat around at night and listened to Dad practice his sermons and then rose early every morning to read our Bibles before school. While there was certainly Bible reading and sermon writing in the Lucado household, my experience growing up probably looked similar to that of many other kids who grew up in a Christian home. There were days of laughter and love — and days of fighting, drama and rebellion. Being Lucados did not make us immune to these things.
My two sisters and I provided the typical array of parenting issues for my mom and dad: attitude problems, arguing, back talk, and eventually, drinking, boys and sneaking out. But these were not parent fails; these were human fails. Because I am a sinner, raised by sinners, I was going to sin and do dumb things — especially during adolescence.
Some adolescent behaviors are inevitable, and I don’t believe parents have much control over them. What they do have control over is their response. My parents were careful with how they chose their responses. My sisters and I subconsciously understood this: Our parents are approachable. They love us and will forgive us, but we will have to learn from our mistakes.
This parenting approach was illustrated beautifully for me when I was 16 years old. During a time in my life when I had doubts about my faith and a strong desire to be popular, I was spending the night at a friend’s house and we decided it would be a great idea to sneak out without her parents’ knowledge. We wanted to meet up with boys . . . who were smoking marijuana.
Although we didn’t get caught, the next day my friend — in a bout of desperation or guilt — admitted to her mom what we had done. Her mom then called me and said she would have to tell my parents if I didn’t confess to them first.
Most teens might squirm, bargain, deny or do whatever they could to avoid an open confession to their parents. I considered those options and then determined that confession was my best option. I’m certain I was able to do this because of the environment in which my parents had raised me.
At first I was afraid to confess my rebellion to my parents, but 16 years of experience had taught me that they were approachable. Whenever I walked into my dad’s office, he would look away from what he was doing and give me his full attention. Whenever my mom was cooking dinner, I would sit at the kitchen island and vent about what happened at school that day, and she would listen. When I needed my parents to listen, they were always available.
With this confidence, I walked into my parents’ room, preparing myself for honesty and bracing myself for consequences.
I talked to my mom first. She was sitting in her prayer chair, where I could always find her in the mornings and at various times throughout the day. I sat in the chair opposite her (my dad’s prayer chair) and before I could say a word, I began to cry — somewhat hysterically. I was ashamed and afraid of disappointing her. Eventually, through broken speech, I told my mom the full story. And then I kept going. I told her about the other times I had sneaked out of the house. I told her about the parties I had been going to and lying about. I told her that I drank sometimes and that I knew I was rebelling, but God felt so distant that I didn’t know what else to do.
As I confessed, my mom began to cry with me. Her eyes were kind, and even though I could see she was hurting, she listened for as long as I needed to talk.
In my mom’s gentle reaction to my confessions, I knew she understood. What I feared would horrify or devastate her did not. She, too, had been a teenager faced with temptations, and she did not think I was doomed. Her tears were grace to me.
Of course, the conversation with my mom was not the end of things. I knew there would be consequences because my parents had always disciplined my sisters and me. Rules were rules in our house.
After my dad came home from work that night and heard the full story, he sat me down and asked a few questions: Why did you do it? What were you hoping would happen? How well did you know these guys?
He listened to my pitiful responses and then explained how my behavior had not only broken the rules, but had also endangered me. He told me that I, as a 16-year-old, had not considered the risks of spending time with people I hardly knew and who smoked pot. My dad always wanted his daughters to understand the reasons behind the boundaries he and Mom had set.
With a calm yet stern voice, he detailed my punishment. I was grounded for three weeks, and I was to stay away from certain influential friends for a yet-to-be-determined amount of time. He assured me that he loved me, but I had broken his and Mom’s trust, and when that happens, restoration is in order.
Because my parents had established a home of grace where they listened and were slow to react (James 1:19), my heart was transformed. Rather than growing distant or angry with my parents, I actually did what so many parents demand: I thought about what I had done.
That’s when I realized that I didn’t like the “bad-girl” gig. I wasn’t any good at it, and I wanted the real me back. I wanted Jesus back, too. I wanted my faith to be as strong as it had been before.
It took some time, but I was on the path toward the restoration of my parents’ trust and restoration in my relationship with Christ. The journey, though not perfect, was made possible by parents who were approachable, extended grace in abundance and disciplined in love.
Andrea Lucado is a freelance writer based in Nashville, Tennessee.