I was 17 the first time I married. He was the big man on campus and his attention made me feel special, important. We were married for just under 6-months – the marriage annulled, both of us going our separate ways.
My older sister was married at 17. Her marriage lasted some 20+ years, time devoured by mental and physical abuse. The cruelty ending with her husband’s death.
Our brother, the middle child, left the house at 17. A life of drug and alcohol abuse. He struggled until cancer took him home.
I look back at my 17-year-old self and wonder why my parents never asked, “Why are you getting married?” Actually, why didn’t anyone ask?
I’m not trying to shirk my responsibility but I was a naïve 17-year-old. I had no worldly experience. In fact, my ex-husband was my first love. I could have used some guidance, wisdom, a little direction.
If anyone had inquired, if anyone had questioned my decision, I would never have married. Even on my wedding day, I was confused and questioned if this was the right decision but…
NO. ONE. ASKED.
I recently talked to my sister about her experience. I wondered if our parents offered her advice when she decided to marry. Her response, no – not a word!
The pattern repeats.
Unfortunately, I was not able to pose this question to my brother. But observing the interaction between my parents and him, there was no counseling, no tough discussions, nothing as his abuse consumed him.
Today, I have the opportunity to mentor young people. It is one of my greatest joys and honestly a source of significant heartbreak. I have learned to probe. Even when it’s hard, I ask.
You never know how one conversation, or the lack of, can influence a person’s life.
Janice was excited about the birth of her second baby. She had been clean and sober during her pregnancy and commented often that this little one gave her a reason to stay clean. This baby saved her life.
For months following the baby’s birth, Janice was the model of motherhood. She read all the childrearing books, attended baby development classes, and safety proofed the house.
She adored her baby!
When her little one was nearing their first birthday, Janice shared with a friend she wanted to have a little fun. She was confident that a few days of drugs and partying wouldn’t hurt. She was convinced that she was strong enough, in control – returning to her addiction would have no effect.
Janice packed up her little ones, took them to a friend’s house, and left in search of her preferred drug.
Janice’s fun ended in an overdose.
No one asked. No one challenged her reasoning.
Please consider asking those you love, those you are close to, those you mentor, coach, and share life with the hard questions. Risk the possibility of rejection and embarrassment, lives are at stake.
And when you are brave and speak into another’s life, make certain you do so without judgment. Please don’t shame, demean, or devalue the person. More than likely, they have already placed themselves in a prison of guilt and remorse.
A hand on the shoulder, a gentle touch when the tears arrive, they need you present, engaged, available. They need you to listen, really listen, and present questions that help direct them to what they already suspect.
At 17, in my young adult years, even today, I need someone to ask. And if you are being honest you probably need someone to ask. Someone willing to love you enough to hold you accountable, challenge your decisions, comfort you when you’re confused.
Please be open to their love-filled enquires – no defensiveness, open, willing to receive.
And remember just as you remain open to the input of family and friends, stay sensitive to God’s whisper. He longs to gently direct. He petitions us to consider His ways, His thoughts, His motivations and when we do, He provides the clarity we need to navigate our journey.
I will instruct you (says the Lord) and guide you along the best pathway for your life; I will advise you and watch your progress.
Psalm 32:8 Living Bible (TLB)
BeLOVED, find the courage to ask those you love, those that cross your path, the difficult questions and as you walk through life, find the courage and humility to respond to the direction you receive.