Larry Barkdull is working on a book about wayward children. It will be published by Covenant Communications next year. On his blog he has posted a number of stories shared by other parents about their wayward children. Based on the participation in the comments, I think his book is going to do well, especially among mothers, the primary Deseret Book customer.
In the comments following one of Larry’s recent essays published in Meridian Magazine, I was pleased to read some advice from a parent who has gone through some serious difficulties with their rebellious child. In their case, the child had become involved in drugs. After making many excellent points that pull no punches, the parent shares something you don’t read very often:
Demons of the drug culture
“If you see significant changes in countenance, language, etc., bad friends, rotten music and evil posters on the walls, after your kid starts using [drugs], ponder and pray about the possibility of demonic possession. Yes, it still happens, just like it did in the Savior’s time, but now we call its manifestations some kind of psychosis and try to treat it with drugs and therapy.
“Sometimes you just need to use priesthood authority to cast them out. I got rid of 19 evil spirits in my kid. He and we saw a difference in him afterward. Sometimes you have to do it over and over again. It seems that getting high can remove the normal protections we enjoy and open a door wide for evil spirits.” Only a parent who has seen this firsthand can really understand.
Not in my child!
When first presented with the idea that a family member had come under the influence of an evil spirit, like most of the world today, I dismissed the idea as being something from a time that was much less enlightened. Surely there was a much more reasonable explanation that could clarify the irrational, angry, disrespectful and downright mean behavior. It was just hormones, right?
I have written a series of essays on this whole concept of what I prefer to call spirit attachments. Through much study and prayer I have concluded that this parent knows of what he speaks. I too am familiar with the process of casting out evil spirits. I also know that sometimes, they must be commanded to leave again and again. They keep coming back looking for their old home.
A wise family counselor
For some reason, we were led to a special family counselor early in the process of dealing with a wayward child. He was recommended to us by our bishop. While his technique was unusual, his ability to get to the root of the problem was amazing. The results were equally astonishing. I have never heard of a family counselor who said he wouldn’t need to see you more than twice.
This blog isn’t the place to present the very remarkable diagnostic technique that this counselor employed. I have covered that in great detail in another essay elsewhere if you are interested. I simply would like to point out that the idea of spirit attachments or demonic possession is a very real phenomenon associated with the drug culture. I agree with this parent. I too have seen it.
Power to deal with opposition
I think one of the main points Larry will probably make in his book is that the process of dealing with a wayward child is really a sanctifying journey for the parent. I can’t tell you how many hours we have invested in fasting and prayer, multiple temple visits, and continual searching in the scriptures for answers. We were driven to our knees in extremity on so many occasions.
But because the Lord knows how to succor us, he provided a unique way for us to deal with this problem that just would not go away. For over ten years we struggled with the sorrow, heartache and disappointment that accompany a rebellious spirit in the home. How often I would have cast out the vessel that it possessed, but was stayed by a loving and tender-hearted companion.
The Lord knows what we need
Parents of rebellious and wayward children know how difficult it can be to keep the spirit of the Lord in the home. Perhaps the most difficult place to keep that spirit is within your own heart. Certain kinds of music and certain kinds of behavior just seem to cause the spirit to leave. The Lord has said that control or compulsion will not work to win the hearts of children to Christ.
Long-suffering, persuasion and unfeigned love are the only acceptable ways to reach the strong-willed child in a way that respects their agency. But it can sure be frustrating when the only discernible result is to be taken advantage of again and again. A loving Heavenly Father lead me to the process I needed to learn to control myself through so many years of this struggle.
Forgiveness is the answer
When the door slams again on the way out as the child goes on their way to another rendezvous with drugs, the temptation is to pack up the clothes and throw them out in the street. The worst part for me was knowing that the money to purchase the drugs was deceptively obtained from my pocket. How does Heavenly Father stay his hand when we knowingly try to deceive Him?
I know if sounds simple, but the key to dealing with a rebellious and wayward child who takes advantage of loving and long-suffering parents is, simply put, forgiveness. In my experience, there has been nothing so powerful that has helped me through this long journey. Disrespect to a man is like non-reciprocal love to a woman. The rebellious child knows very little of either.
The first stage of the journey
I would not ever want to go through this journey again. After much effort and encouragement, our son has recently moved out and is on his own. He holds a job and pays his own way. Yes, he returns often for financial help, food and other sundry items. He is discovering that all the things he used that he never thought about, no longer miraculously appear when needed.
Now is the time we have prayed for and done everything in our power to bring about in the manner the Lord intended. What would have happened to this child if I had kicked him out the first time he stole my money and bought drugs? Now, he has a chance. He is now in a position that the Lord can reach him in ways that we never could – through natural consequences of life.
Peace in spite of pain
We are at peace. We have done all we could to help this child enter the world as a responsible and productive member of society. The naturally rebellious child has a self-destructive streak that can end a life early without special attention from the Lord. These kind of children are late bloomers. They just don’t get it until much later in life. Or at least that is my current theory.
I am just grateful that the drugs and the associated demons did not claim the life of this young rebellious child while he was in our home. The relationship is relatively good. He is welcome back anytime. I attribute that fully to his mother who suffered so much and gave of herself in ways that I would never have imagined possible were it not for the assistance of a merciful God.
Summary and conclusion
Don’t try to tell the parent of a child who uses drugs that there is no such thing today as being possessed by an evil spirit. Enlightenment to this parent came specifically because of prayer, study, fasting and revelation from a loving Heavenly Father who knew what was needed to deal with the terrible reality that most of the world denies, ridicules or tries to explain away.
When I was set apart to the High Council when this all started, I was promised that my son would someday come to accept the ways of the Lord and remember all the things he had been taught when he was young. I hold the Lord to that promise but know that the fulfillment of that promised blessing is dependent upon the faithfulness of this parent to what I know to be true.