There is no pain quite like that of watching one of your own children make terrible choices- choices that you know will tear his/her life apart. As a father, you begin to doubt your parenting and wonder where you went wrong. Were there too many bad examples? Was I not there enough? A pastor’s children are often under a microscope- were my expectations unreasonable? You finally realize that to some extent it could be any or all of these, but you also know that as an adult your child must take responsibility for his/her own decisions. Blaming yourself is at best counterproductive and at worst enabling.
This is where my wife and I found ourselves with our daughter, Nikki. Bright, loving and oh so social- then pregnant at fifteen, married for the wrong reasons and divorced five years later. It was her relationship with money that caused the most damage, however. Money seemed to become her “god”, and everything else was measured by it. It even led to a year in federal prison for tax evasion on money she received by falsifying student loan applications. Watching this downward spiral was one of the most heart-wrenching times of her mother’s and my life.
Nikki says that prison was her wake-up call, the time she “hit bottom”. We were so hoping that she would receive probation, but I believe God put her in prison- that’s right, put her in prison- because it was the only place from which she would transfer her trust from money to Him. The changes she made, and the ones God made in her, are simply amazing. She is still bright, loving and yes, oh so social, but her focus is no longer on the things that would destroy her. She is engaged to a man who loves her for who she has become, not just in spite of what she has done. The past is not defining her, and for that we are so thankful to the God of second chances.
Nikki’s mother and I are so proud of who she is becoming. She isn’t trying to hide from her past- that is part of the reason for the openness of this blog. Instead she is trying to let everyone know that she has made her share of serious mistakes, and that in the ways that count, she is no longer the same person that walked into that Federal Prison. I know this. I have seen it with my own eyes.
Some people, however, will not let it go. They are taking every opportunity to attempt to use these mistakes to destroy Nikki through a campaign of character assassination. Ironically, the person behind most of this is himself a convicted felon. His business failed, and is now either looking for someone to blame, or is just lashing out in his own pain. Please- it’s time to let it go before it destroys you.
“Judge not, lest ye be judged.” These may well be some of Jesus Christ’s most famous words, yet it seems they are some of the least truly taken to heart. All of us have sinned. All of us have failed. Perhaps standing in judgment of Nikki makes some people feel better about themselves, but it can only lead to a bitterness of heart. I hope and pray that we can all allow forgiveness to replace judgement, and at the least allow our daughter to move on with the life God called her to from the beginning. “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.”