Turn Away

By the time you read this, my firstborn will be a wife. She entered the Sacrament of Matrimony on Monday. To say this is a milestone is an understatement. I was a pregnant teenager. I raised her as a on-and-off single mother. I put my career before her because I thought I had to prove something to the world. I neglected her. Because of my poor choices, confused ideas about relationships were cemented in her mind.

She ran away at 17 and became a single teenage mother herself. Now she has three beautiful children. Like me, she is a convert, a woman who found the courage to turn her life around. She practiced the virtue of determination to get to her wedding day. My daughter is a living testament to the mercy of Christ, the embodiment of hope. In my most desperate moments, I never gave up hope. I dared to hope.

Since I write about faith and science and about my experiences as a convert and a mother of a convert, I get requests for advice from parents whose children have also turned away. Here’s the thing: There is no perfect answer, save faith, hope, and love in Jesus Christ.

Nonetheless, here are a few practical tips I’ve learned (the hard way).

Don’t argue. Pleading will only push your child further away. Conversion has to be a personal act of the will illuminated by grace, and we are all unique. Hold your child in your heart through prayer.

Don’t give reading assignments. No matter how objective any writing is, it passes through a subjective personal filter. If your child is not ready to open her heart, she won’t find the arguments compelling. A flawed understanding may even be detrimental.

Read and learn. This is a time for your intellect to grow; do it as an act of love. When your child wants answers, be ready to stand on the rock of truth and point to the light of the Holy Mother Church. Teachable moments can be fleeting, so strive for loving and precise articulation of the truths of faith.

Expect to suffer. It will hurt; you may panic. The thought of your child dying in a state of mortal sin will incite the worst fear. Desperation is a time for your faith to grow stronger, through endurance. Pray because your prayers are heard. Your tears are not wasted.

Be realistic. I know my daughter will still face hardship. She may still go through periods of despair, as may I. Life is like that. When you fail, admit it, pray for grace, and try again.

I could write so much more, but these are the sifted nuggets of wisdom. Any of my other six children could turn away one day too—I know that—and I dare to hope that should that day come, I will dare to hope all the more.

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