This article was originally published by Mennonite World Review

Parent-child relations

Our diagnosis: Parent-child relations. At last. After a fast-moving, slow-motion spiral that had led to my daughter’s hospitalization for emotional and behavioral health, we at last had an answer and a direction.

imageThis latest set of doctors and counselors overturned everything the previous doctors and counselors had said. This doctor in effect said that my daughter needed no medicine stronger than vitamins. The primary issues were that we as parents needed to do a better job of relating to her and providing her structure and guidance, and that she would have to learn more healthy ways of relating to us and the world around her. Was this doctor correct? We didn’t know. Yet it is what we had. So we went with it.

Sometimes the answer to prayer is unexpected. Sometimes it is a kick in the gut.

Over the previous year and a half, we saw our daughter slipping away from us. We did everything we knew to intervene. We talked to her school: teachers, counselors, administrators. We took her for regular therapy. We moved her to a private school. We met with her new school: teachers, counselors, administrators. We became far more restrictive in terms of people, places and things she was allowed to relate to and experience.

And we prayed. We prayed and prayed. As a father and a bi-vocational pastor, I prayed. I prayed privately. I prayed with a prayer partner. I asked co-workers to pray. I asked family to pray. I asked the church to pray. My wife and partner in life did the same. Despite all our best efforts, despite all our prayers, we ended up where we ended up.

My daughter has been back home now for nearly two months. While things have not been perfect, they have been better. Therapy continues both for child and parents. Prayer continues for both parents and child. We as parents work to develop and deploy new strategies and techniques. Our daughter is working to develop and implement new strategies and techniques. We moved her back to public school. We continue to meet with her school; teachers, counselors and administrators. We continue to ask everyone to pray.

At last, with all of our best efforts, with all of our prayers we are seeing some positive results. We hope and pray that the next year and a half and beyond will bring a steady ascension just as the previous had brought descent.

So what to make of it all? Being a pastor, I’m given to attempting to find spiritual significance in every situation. Through this process, I have learned to be less defensive. If the doctor said in effect that we needed to develop a skill set that better met my child’s needs, so be it. I have also learned to be more forgiving of myself — and everyone really.

Looking back, I gave my best headed into the crisis as did my wife. Many others did too. We didn’t get the outcome we wanted. So, I had to learn to give my best in a different way. The answer to my prayers was and is that I have to be willing to learn, to change, to grow. I’m still a work in progress. My child is still a work in progress. Yet, I remain convinced that the One who has begun this work within us, will bring it to completion.

Horace McMillon is the “tent-making” pastor of Open Door Mennonite Church, in Jackson, Miss. He and his wife, Monique, have two children. He is a graduate of both Chicago Theological Seminary and Oberlin College and the author of No Mo’ Broke: Seven Keys to Financial Success from a Christian Perspective. He blogs at churchoftheweb.wordpress.comThis blog post is provided thanks to our partnership with Practicing Families.

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