Archive for March, 2013

Of fig trees and teenagers

Luke 13:6-9

And He told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none.  And he said to the vine-dresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none.  Cut it down.  Why should it use up the ground?’  And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure.  Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’” (ESV)

Yep, that be what I’m thinking.  ‘Cept, I’m thinking about The Resident Teenager, aka Herself.  Yes, we have entered a new phase, that of “I’m the Princess, and you’re the….”  Well ‘manure’ comes to mind.

As usual, good words from the Good Book; dunno if Jesus intended this Parable of the Barren Fig Tree for teenagers; but, if the shoe fits.  So, is the message to have patience?  Or, hope?  Or, lots of fertilizer?  I’m running out of hair on my head to pull out, and since we don’t have a dog, I can’t kick that (‘course the puppy mill next door has about a dozen football dogs that I’d love to use to work on my kicking game).

‘Patience’, to me is just to hunker down, because this, too, shall pass.  No hope for change, none for improvement, progress, relief.  A synonym for ‘endure’.  A Via Dolorosa without the Golgoltha.

‘Hope’?  Why, yes, I do believe in miracles, but it is a poor strategy to depend on them.  True enough that most teenagers grow out of their behaviors (I know I have – or choose to believe I have – and I was one of the most incorrigible teenagers ever).  So, am I merely waiting for the calendar to take this problem off of my hands?  This is just a time thing, or am I waiting for Divine Intervention?  For my part, I pray every day; but I’m starting to feel like Billy Graham on a golf course (“God answers all my prayers, except the ones I make on a golf course.”)

Finally, there is more fertilizer.  Very active approach.  And, I think, self-defeating.  When I was 18 and knew everything, and everybody else hadn’t seen the football since the kickoff, at least I was burning with ambition and enjoyed hard work.  Looking back, I was certainly ballistic in those days (no straight line between then and now), but at least I was moving.  Never satisfied with the status quo, I sprinted to see what was on the top of the next hill.  Yeah, adventure and travel – good stuff.  But, my quest was to prove I was as good as anybody else.  I was not the red-haired step child from the country; or, if I was, at least I was going to pull myself up by my own bootstraps.  Unfortunately, those were also the days of “todai moto kurashi” (pardon my Nihongo) and I missed a lot of daisies.

Since I have lost my sense of humor I guess I am left with patience.  Not a problem staying out of her way – she comes and goes without so much as have an apple or kiss my foot; but I am counting the days until she is scheduled to throw her mortar board in the air (94).  Definitely done throwing money at the problem.

The missing years

No doubt there is a theological reason as to why the Bible is silent on Jesus-as-a-teenager. I’ve always wondered why. Perhaps because we are supposed to focus on His short ministry, and not obsess on how He got there. Maybe it’s because He was a typical teenager? After all, He was completely human….

Assuming He was a typical teenager, it is no wonder the Bible is silent. Is there any worse time of life, for both the teenager and the parental-units? As I remember my teenage years, I can only conclude that I am being paid back now. My mother says I wasn’t that bad; I think she’s sugar-coating it (but then, she raised four others, too).
All I can say now is: “Dear God, deliver me – and my wife and our daughter.”

It is easy enough, from this position of nearly 60 years to anticipate. But, it’s like visualizing what is going to happen, and experiencing it unfold. I’m thinking of the hapless pedestrian standing on the curb as the bus zooms by, hitting a water puddle. You know it’s going to happen, and you’re powerless to avoid, or prevent it.

And then there are those things that are completely unexpected, like having a slightly built eighteen year old girl fight tooth and claw against a much older guy who out-weighs her by a good 70 pounds. Frankly, the Marines and years of karate never taught me how to subdue someone without hurting them. Yes, her bite is almost gone now, thank you very much. What compelled her to “fight for her life” when the only issue was her use of the F-bomb? Where’s her perspective? I am clueless.

Of course that most recent of episodes is more fuel to send her on a trajectory that is completely unpredictable – well, other than not being able to wait to flip me the bird the last time she walks out the door.

It would be nice if my wife and I were on the same page for our daughter’s increasinly disrespectful behavior. But our situation can be summed up as “If it’s her (the wife’s) idea, it’s wonderful; if it’s my idea, it’s terrible.” Merely trying to support my wife is no good either: by the time I have figured out what I am trying to support, I am on the wrong side of the argument. I need to remember Biblical silence.

Will we survive all this? Well, the Mayan calendar came and went, so yeah, I guess so. Will we laugh about it someday? I’ll take bets against that one – I’m betting there won’t be any contact at all as soon as she can leave the house (high school graduation is in four months; I think she’s sticking around for that – I think).

The tragedy is that teenagers are so full of themselves, all they can see is that they know everything, and everybody else knows nothing. I know, I was there, once. And, thank God, I can’t ever be a teenager again (yes, that would be my idea of Hell). But, when the blossoms can be so beautiful, it is so very hard to stand by while someone just cuts them off out of spite. How does one be humble and accepting, and still try to teach self-respect and respect for others? I’m old fashioned enough to believe that saying yes to everything is not the answer.

Maybe the Bible would be more helpful if we had a hint as to what Joseph and Mary did when Jesus was being “fully human” as a teen? If Jesus was the “ideal, perfect” teenager, what was that like? If He was a “helion,” how did Joseph and Mary survive?

Mother of God and St Joseph, pray for us.

Can we borrow your sword?

I feel very strongly that I must mark this event, this departure of Pope Benedict XVI.

I remember very clearly, like it was yesterday and not nearly eight years ago, the death of Pope John Paul II and the cries of “Santo Subito.” Well, JP2 has not yet been canonized, and we are saying good-bye to another pope. My world stopped then, as much as it stopped when the World Trade Center came crashing down; I had to get off the merry-go-round and collect myself. I do not feel the need to absent myself from the world this time, tho I am, more than ever, convinced my world will change more now than it did then.

I am quite sure my observations of the Church have not changed it; but, I have changed. I pray for the better.

In any event, the new pope will have to solve the existing problems using new thinking and new methodologies – it is the old thinking that got us into this mess. He may have to ask St Michael for his sword.