Dad never “got” me. I was a long-haired teenage music artist who was going to change the world with my songs. He was a bootstrap businessman—a Mike Brady/Steve Douglas-type who overcame meager beginnings with hard work and horse sense, and who made for us a “good” home. But like many teen boys in a quest for their own identity, I came to resent the authority of my father.
It’s not that he was opposed to my music or creativity, in general. Quite the opposite. But he visibly lacked enthusiasm for my pursuit of music as a career path. I can still hear him insisting I needed “something to fall back on,” which, translated, meant “college and a full time job”—a path I was convinced would hold me back at least six years from my heart’s cry and entrench me in the inescapable prison of a professional career. So, upon completing my freshman year as an accounting major, I left college against my father’s wishes to pursue the dream.
Many adults who seem to live chronically at odds with coworkers, neighbors, police, the tax code, and religious institutions are simply those who never resolved the attitude of rebellion they fostered and embraced while young.
Although achieving some level of success over the years, that success never did rise to my initial expectations . . . mostly because I was not willing to make the personal compromises required by my chosen path. But there was, however, a more lasting casualty to my actions, and that was my relationship with my father.
Plainly stated, I was in rebellion against him. And while it came to a head in my 18th year, that was merely a symptom of a relational pattern that could be traced back to before I was even 10.
You see, rebellion can happen at any age. It just presents differently at different stages of life. I counsel parents of this all the time, helping them to recognize it for what it is at each stage of their child’s life, and to project where it will ultimately lead if left unchecked. At age 2, we say, “no.” At age 5, we throw our toys. At age 10, we use curse words. At 12, we try our first cigarette. At 14, we surrender our innocence, and at age 16 we disobey speed limits. By 18, it’s often drugs and alcohol—with many young people now transferring their rebellion to society’s other establishments of authority, such as employers, the law, and even God, Himself.
The aforementioned actions are never the desire of any loving and responsible parent for their children. Yet this pattern seems rather common, with each stage portraying the same heart of rebellion, but manifesting that heart differently. Many adults who seem to live chronically at odds with coworkers, neighbors, police, the tax code, and religious institutions are simply those who never resolved the attitude of rebellion they fostered and embraced while young. And the life ramifications can be crippling, if not fatal.
Rebellion may be the norm, but it is not normal. We should never resign ourselves to the lie that all children will rebel. Nor should we ever remain comfortable with leaving unresolved our own past rebellion—even if the object of our rebellion was a parent long deceased. Rebellion is both highly preventable and easily remediable.
Somewhere in my mid-twenties, I happened upon a Bible study dealing with the issue of authority. The text was Romans 13:1-2
“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.”
Like scales falling from my eyes, God showed me that my unreconciled rebellion toward my father was still bearing consequences for me as an adult, and primarily in my relationship with God. In sorrow, I went home straightway and read that passage before my unbelieving father. In that sitting I confessed my rebellion dating back to when I was a boy. I desired his forgiveness, and wanted to now invite his input into the breadth of my life circumstances.
Though there was a process to working this through, I have benefited greatly from my father’s input into my adult life, both personally and professionally. God has re-birthed a clean conscience within me as well, with the full knowledge that His grace has surely covered my past sin and restored me. But one of the greatest blessings was the breaking of that generational pattern in my family history of rejecting parental authority—on both sides of my family.
It is not my boast, but my delight that my children walk with God, that we have not experienced the ravages of rebellion and broken relationships under our roof—neither the “terrible two’s” nor the rebellious teens. And this is God’s power for any family who will embrace both His love and His Word as the ultimate authorities in their household.
It is a sobering truth that our children will become who we are. What they see in us will bear a greater weight than all of our words, combined. Our attitude and response toward the God-given authorities in our life will establish within them the template for how they will ultimately deal with us, their future spouses, and God, too.
If you recognize a need to reconcile rebellion in your heart or in your life, drop me an email. I’d love the opportunity to unfold for you God’s hope directly from His Word, and His “reset button” of grace over a household torn.
Michael Warner serves as Pastor of Worship & Community at Wyoming Valley Church in Wilkes-Barre. Contact Michael at Michael.Warner@GoToWVC.com