Thursday, January 24, 2013

Transitions & Extreme Parenting!

Christian Author Graham Cooke said "Transition is a place between promise and fulfillment where we are tested to see if we can inhabit the place that God wants to give us." As I thought about this comment, my mind wonders to the 13 young women at RAP (Ratanak Achievemnt Program) Community home who have now been staying at the RAP Community home for 2 months. All of them are in a place of transition, transitioning from a shelter environment or semi independent living group homes to this community home. The RAP Community home represents a place between promise and fulfillment for they are each on a journey, a journey towards independence, a journey towards discovering what it is like to live a more normalized life like many other young adults, a journey to discovering that God has a plan and purpose for each of their lives.

The RAP home is a place where they can enjoy more ''freedom'' than the shelter environment they have been used to. It is a place where they learn about being responsible young adults, doing daily chores---cooking for their fellow room mates, cleaning their rooms and the common areas, washing their own laundry,  doing their home work, learning new life skills, attending regular devotional times, learning how to save,  going to work and earning a wage and returning home at a set time in the early evening. But the transition is not always easy for just like many of us, transitions involve adapting to new environments, new relationships, new challenges. It is a place that offers many promises but at times we can get stuck in old habits and behaviors that prevent us from transitioning well. Most often these old habits and behaviors have been learned in environments that have been harsh. For these 13 young women, they have experienced different levels of trauma and so the journey of restoration, is often a journey of transitioning from the old to the new, from letting go of the past and moving forward with hope, that the future is full of promise. This is not always easy for when one has encountered abuse as they have, when one is treated in a degrading way, when one is repeatedly treated as garbage, when one is treated as an object to be exploited, it is easy to see why a person can believe they have no value. 

Such transitions are not easy for ''emotionally healthy individuals' for we too can get stuck if we resist change and new experiences. How much more so for these young women and those of us who act as caregivers on the frontlines. My friend and Ratanak board member Cheryl Weber describes what we do as ''extreme parenting.'' I laughed when she told me this but as I reflected more deeply on those words I realize that is probably how the Lord relates to us as well. His love is extreme--laying down His life for us while we were still sinners---talk about extreme love! His parenting skills involve being ''slow to anger and full of compassion and mercy'' when we keep sinning and falling short of His goals and desires for us. He is the epitome of patience....He is patient with us, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). So we too who work on the frontlines are called to reflect Christ heart to these young women to demonstrate the ''extreme love'' of Christ day in and day out. During this time it is the verses of 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 that we keep sharing with our staff.  Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.Love never fails

Anyone who has teenager daughters know the mood swings, hormonal issues, silent treatment,  rebellious behavior and attitudinal problems that so often are seen in this age group. Add trauma to the mix and well you can witness extreme behavior. Hence the need for extreme parenting and extreme love! :-)  His agape love really is an extreme love since none of us really have truly experienced that kind of unconditional love from other humans, yet this is what Christ is calling us to do as we minister to survivors of trafficking and sexual exploitation. 

Extreme love involves extreme patience as we walk with these young women who so often are still acting out related to their traumatic past. They are still learning what it means to experience a life of freedom. Such a life does not mean that they can do whatever they want, but true freedom involves making wise choices after all, their previous traumatic past prevented them from even having choices. So as they transition to a  new life, a life that offers more independence, it is a life that requires more choices. At times, they often stumble around in the darkness, repeating the same mistake and making decisions that so often hurt themselves and can impact their safety and their future potential. As caregivers, we are called to encourage them to assess and evaluate their choices, to help them understand the implications of taking one path versus another, to encourage them to make the best choice. We are called to not keep a record of wrongs when they make poor choices, but like Christ extend grace and yet speak with truth in a way that builds them up. So as you pray for the young women at RAP, please pray that the Lord will bless them with godly wisdom to make wise choices. Pray too for our staff that they will be filled with the Holy Spirit daily to endure the entourage of demands that are placed on their lives and their time.

Indeed we look forward with faith and hope that these young women will continue to transition well from a place of promise to a place of fulfillment where their true reward is living the life Christ has for them, full of potential, full of opportunity and most of all full of experiencing the deep and abiding love of Christ whose love never fails and who is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow! He is the ultimate example of extreme parenting offering us extreme love at all times and at all places!

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