Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Chasing Perfection

My Mother and Father were born into broken families. Both had alcoholic fathers and were raised in poverty. Both had troubled siblings and my father was physically abused. Christianity provided them with hope and purpose. They met and fell deeply in love. He was a soldier, she was a teaching student. They married and started a family right away. A beautiful baby girl, and then two, and then three. They loved their children and each other very much, but i imagine they were still afraid. Would love be enough to keep these precious little ones safe? What if the lies of the world drew them away from the love and hope of Jesus? What if they were brainwashed in school and there was nothing they could do to stop it? What if bad people drew them into drugs and alcohol, like Dad's sister? what if they made mistakes in raising them and they ended up bitter and wounded like Mom's sister?

One day my mother found an article in the newspaper about homeschooling. My dad, who had hated every moment of public school, loved the idea. They started looking into it. They soon discovered what they had been searching for all along. They discovered people who knew all the answers. Books that promised healthy happy children that feared God and loved their parents. This system taught them what God REALLY wanted for them. If they followed these steps, God would bless them. Their family would never suffer the way that THEY had suffered as children. It was calm in a world of chaos. It answered every question and calmed every fear. They implemented their new beliefs and soon began to reap the blessings of God.
It was may years before those babies grew up and rocked the boat. We are not the chaste, happy, selfless children they were promised we'd be. Between the oldest five there is depression, drug and alcohol abuse, promiscuity, self mutilation, sexual abuse, eating disorders, and suicide attempts.  But still they will not renounce the system. They hush it up, brush it under the rug, and let everybody think that we're still perfect. They see the system as something good that they were never able to achieve.  Today i see my cousins falling into the same trap.

My father's sister struggled with alcoholism and bulimia her whole life. She and her husband made some terrible mistakes and eventually their family fell apart. leaving my cousin Wendy (not her real name) and her two siblings in a wake of destruction. Her brother got into drugs, she struggled with depression. Then she met Jesus at church, and then a boy at college. This boy has 11 siblings. He was home schooled in a family that looks just as perfect as mine. His sisters are submissive and his father is a strong leader. Wendy has fallen hard for this boy and everything he represents. She hopes to have his children, and teach them at home just as God intended. She wants to follow the system to a T. She has been promised that they will never suffer the way that she did. They wont get in to drugs like her little brother. they wont lose their virginity to a liar or lose their mother to the bottle. She thinks she has found the answer to all her fears and questions.

I have tried to pull her back from the edge, to save her like i saved myself. Maybe i still can. But right now, all she can see is perfection.The promise of certainty that just does not exist. I just hope that some day when her children tell her she was wrong, she'll have what it takes to admit it, and maybe stop this cycle once and for all... 


  1. "A family that looks just as perfect as mine."

    This. The appearance of perfection, as you so aptly point out, can be deceiving. My family is very like yours in that respect. And yet there is the chasing, chasing, chasing. It never stops. Thank you for writing this - it's beautiful!

  2. Obviously perfection doesn't come through simply obeying and applying specific religious principles. Appearances of people are often not what they appear to be, although the outside might look great, the inside can often tell a different story.

  3. This is one of the bests post I have ever read. Excellently written!


  4. It's so sad, and so human, that we do that. I don't thonk my mom will ever understand that I'm sick of answers. I'm in search of something that doesn't presume answers, but simply lays the responsibility to do your best at your feet. Answers, in my experience, always require blinders and denial to keep believing them in the end. Jesus is the only answer. And that doesn't mean what they think it does. He's a light that shines in darkness, not a map showing the whole territory from start to finish. I find it so much easier to just live moment by moment, despite the fact that my nature rebels against it. I start going nuts every time I try to control the future.

  5. What an insightful piece. It is so important that you understand what led to these parenting beliefs, so that you can avoid the same human condition...finding utopia. Pippi is right. It is better to live in the ambiguity of not having answers than chasing after a utopia that is never meant to be in this life.

    But oh how painfully difficult, if not impossible to admit that you hurt your most precious people, your children. That you were stupid enough to fall for all the lies. That you could not see through to the truth. Really, I feel for parents caught in that trap. I don't have the answer of how to gently lead parents to a realization, just too unbelievably painful.

    "Which would be better, to live as a monster or die as a good man?" Shutter Island

  6. I just wanted to tell you that I've really been enjoying your blog (and your sister's) - very inspiring.

    Stop on by at my blog if you get the chance.