Last Sunday I was speaking about people feeling guilty because their adult children were rarely going to church or not going at all. My suggestion was to stop thinking about your past errors – regardless whether they were real or just imagined – and supporting them here and now. Obviously we cannot change the past, but we can and should determine our present and future time, as far as it is within our power. However surprisingly many people seems to forget this and they spend their precious and ever shortening time in tireless, but ineffective pondering on the past.
In today’s gospel a father approaches Jesus, asking him to come and heal his agonisingly ill daughter. The man is a local VIP – a synagogue official. His request to Jesus is the sign of his desperation, as many people of local power and authority rejected Jesus as a dangerous, rebellious self-made people’s leader. The officials were looking for any occasion or excuse to mock or underestimate Jesus’ teachings and ideas. When he is invited by Pharisees, the reason is not their hospitality, but they are testing him. A synagogue official asking Jesus to come along to his house might be another ambush or a man that has run out of other options, risking his reputation to save his daughter’s live.
There’s a Polish proverb: ‘small children – small problems; big children – big problems’. The relevance of this say is not limited to Poland only. It’s an experience of all parents around the world that filthy nappies, night crying and eating toys turn out to be nothing compared to a moody teenager, risking experiments with tobacco, alcohol, drugs and sex. And the next stage is when your children start their own families, with inevitable misunderstandings, arguments and conflicts between the couple. After twenty odd years it must be hard to stop interfering with your own children’s lives as if they were still little boys and girls.
As an older generation we have an astonishing ability to speak and to give advice at every time we are not asked for it. Many of us have not learnt how to listen to the younger generation. Too often we don’t create any space and time for our adult children to share their lives without being preached at or judged. I’ve met a relatively young man who contacts his parents out of sense of duty. He just listens to them pretending to be interested, but in fact waiting to leave. After many attempts he stopped trying to speak about his life feeling ignored and not listened to. Is he an isolated case? I doubt it.
You can support your adult children first and foremost by giving them a feeling of safety, by your careful listening and understanding. I’m sure you feel you know better what is good for their lives. We always know how to solve their problems. But perhaps it is a good idea to make this prayer your own: ‘It’s a pity not to utilize the great resources of wisdom that I have, but you Lord know that I would keep a few friends until the end of my life’