Children are known for acting foolishly. Teenagers are notorious offenders, sometimes showing reckless regard or on other occasions failing to weigh the risks. As one example, we’ve all read the tales of teens driving and texting. Not every teen ends up slamming into a tree because of his or her poor judgment, but some do. (The statistics are sufficiently troubling.) Because children (especially teens) believe they’re invincible, they rarely spend time considering possible unintended consequences.
Since children don’t always have the maturity necessary to make good decisions, we give them the benefit of the doubt. When a child has a run-in with the law, his or her records are usually sealed and sometimes expunged after a certain period of time. Today, I’ve mused several times how different the world would look if the records of all juvenile lawbreakers were unsealed and open to public scrutiny. The media frenzy surrounding Josh Duggar’s admission of “inexcusable” behavior in his early teens is a case in point.
We’ve known the Duggars for many years, not intimately but we are more than passing acquaintances. As the records and scuttlebutt emerged today, my mind traveled back to the distant past when our daughter was victimized (and became pregnant). In a flashback kind of way, I found deep empathy with JimBob and Michelle. Here’s what I know from experience.
When one of your offspring is wounded (physically, emotionally, psychologically, or all three), the first thing a parent wants to do is make sure the child is okay. If more than one child is involved, your first inclination is still to ascertain each one is okay. This initial assessment takes time. You’re not just concerned about the child’s physical condition, you know as a parent that victimization causes unseen scars and inner demons. Working through those concerns isn’t accomplished in a three-day weekend.
While you’re helping your child (or children) heal, you find you’re also overwhelmed with grief, pain, guilt, and any number of self-flagellations, but all those feelings get set aside for the present because when one child has been victimized, every member of the family is affected. Healing is the first order of business. Until a fragile equilibrium is regained, many parents think of nothing else except binding the wounds of the child.
The Duggars have been criticized because they addressed the transgression in their home, then went to their church elders before filing a police report later. Frankly, I find their actions perfectly reasonable. This very private matter required the closest possible oversight and intervention … exactly the role parents have in their children’s lives.
Further, I know a handful of individuals whose families encountered serious and similar family issues. The issues were addressed by no one other than family members.
Whether the child is perpetrator or victim, genuine healing guided by forgiving and loving parents ensures the best outcome without escalating the issue to a law enforcement matter. A child who has been victimized doesn’t need further victimization in having to relive the horrific experience. Likewise, a child perpetrator can be brought to actual repentance and restoration through parental love and guidance.
Notoriety, as the Duggar family well knows, can be both a blessing and a scourge. Their lives are played out on a larger stage than most of us would find comfortable, so their perceived failures are more likely to be magnified. People who have adored the family in the past, may now cluck their tongues and nod about “just desserts.” People who’ve disliked them all along will gleefully nod and posit other “hypocrisies” are soon to be revealed.
The Christian community can be on occasion as brutish as the non-religious. When our friends and acquaintances learned of our daughter’s victimization, our entire family felt the sting of the just desserts crowd as well as the hypocrisies crowd. Tongues wagged and our daughter’s character was repeatedly impugned … by supposedly godly Christian people. Within two months of our grandson’s birth, my Beloved was quietly dismissed from his job in a Christian ministry. Coincidence? You decide.
John 1:17 tells me: “… the law was given to us through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” The law, that list of dos and don’ts to which it is impossible to adhere, reflects what we see in the mirror everyday – our gross and despicable imperfections. But grace and truth come through Jesus Christ. Such grace and truth we (and the Duggars) have experienced in our lives! Where there is grace and truth, there is also forgiveness. Thank God!