During many of my teenage temper tantrums/pity parties, I remember deviously thinking, “I’m never going to take any help from my parents. I’ll do it all on my own.” I would almost whisper it out loud, but each time, I’d feel a peaceful check in my gut. I don’t remember the exact words that I’d hear myself mutter, but they went something like this “Don’t be a fool, Rob. You better not make that vow.”
In some ways, I wanted to be a fool. I often felt the urge to pack my bags and run off like Alexander Supertramp from the movie Into the Wild. Whenever I almost vowed to leave, I would hear the “Don’t be a fool” speech from the mystical presence who seemed bent on keeping me in Jackson for the rest of my life. I realized that the “God voice” wanted my best, so I would sulkingly decide not to leave. About fifteen minutes later, I’d laugh lightheartedly and shake my head in disbelief at the foolishness of my “near vow.”
At that time in my life, rejecting all help from my parents would have meant giving up my room, my bed, my car, my clothes, my college tuition, my food, and my gas. I would’ve been a naked, homeless teenager walking around Jackson with no shoes. Like every adolescent, I disagreed with a few of my parents’ rules, and, yes, I habitually loathed the feeling of being dependent on someone else. But I could never bring myself to make that vow. No matter the depth of disagreement or intensity of the argument, I just couldn’t do it. I’m glad I didn’t!
As I’ve grown older, a nagging suspicion that my parents just want the best for me has been confirmed. They’ve given me encouragement, gifts, loans, jobs, and a variety of other things all for the sole purpose of helping me be successful. Imagine that! They’ve invested money in me when no one else would. They’ve shown up to concerts when no one else was in the audience. And they always have an encouraging word for me. If I get a voicemail from my mom, I can expect an encouraging Bible verse or an invitation to dinner. Every time I talk with my dad he says, “You’re a blessing wherever you go! Praise the Lord!”
It’s an easy fix to fault parents for all the emotional damage and hurt that you experience as a child. It’s easy to fault others for any problem in your life. The only thing I fault my parents for these days is my success. This summer, they set me up to succeed by giving me a job and forgiving all my debts.
One afternoon, as I was taking a break from painting my parent’s farmhouse, my dad came bounding down the stairs with a piece of paper. He handed it to my mom, and she excitedly signed it. They seemed kind of “hush hush,” like they were planning a surprise or something, but I just thought, “Huh, that’s weird,” and kept chowing my sandwich.
While I was chewing on lunch meat and bread, my dad walked up and handed me the paper. “Your mom and I want to give this to you,” he said with a half smile on his face. I noticed that my mom and dad exchanged a “he’s really gonna like this” type glance like the kind that you’d expect grownups to share when their kid is about to open the “Big Present” on Christmas Day. I started reading slowly. This is what the letter looked like:
FROM: Mom and Dad
TO: Robert Andrew Vischer
This is to notify you of the following:
1) We love you very much!
2) We want you to be your own man in God.
3) Our desire is to help you be free to follow the Lord wherever He leads with no debt hanging over your head.
THEREFORE WE CONSIDER ANY DEBT THAT YOU OWE TO US AS OF THIS DATE (JULY 7. 2010) AS PAID IN FULL.
4) We are transferring ownership of the 1990 Buick into your name at the earliest time that you can get the insurance for it. It is yours, free and clear.
John 15:15 “No longer do I call you servants………, but I have called you friends……”
With deepest love,
I reacted with shock and awe, thanking them profusely, but I didn’t know how to show them my gratitude appropriately. I cried later. Eh, let’s be honest. I sobbed later and showed all of my roommates the letter. I read it over and over and over. I felt like a guy with OCD because as soon as I put the letter down, I’d pick it back up again just to check if it was real.
As a teenager, I could’ve made a stupid vow. I could’ve rebelled. And I could’ve run away from my family. I wasn’t close to being a “good” or a “perfect” teenage guy, but I tried to make the right decisions. If I would’ve made that vow, I would’ve missed out on experiencing the friendship and generosity of my parents. Independence is the lie that sad and lonely souls comfort themselves with. If I could go back and tell that younger version of myself something, I’d just say, “When you didn’t make that vow, you did the right thing. Thankyou!”
“Thankyou” might be the most underused word in the English language, so after reflecting a little, I vow to use that word more often when I talk to God and to other people, especially my parents. Mom and Dad, Thankyou. You are my most loyal fans and my best friends. I vow to remind you of that often.