A Daughter At War

Fronting meeting place-4Arly (not her real name) has been on the warpath since Saturday night (she is not a Christian; but both her parents are). Listening to the accusations and counter-accusations the warring mother and daughter have been hurling against each other, I have even come to the conclusion that Arly has been on the warpath since she was twelve (she’s now twenty-four).

The occasion of the present war that I am watching today after church is the rebuke she receives Saturday night from the mother she has learned to hate. “Stop gambling! Take care of your child! Come to bed early so you will have strength for work tomorrow! Tell your husband to go find a job so he could support you and your child! Don’t pamper that good-for-nothing! You call him angel? He’s your devil!” Things like these that pain her and make her hate her more.

Oh how she hates her! She has learned to hate her since that afternoon twelve years ago when fresh from school she caught her in bed with someone else.

That story of one woman’s adulterous past has been going the rounds since the day I came and evangelized this village, and still keeps trying to destroy that soul who I think should have been given a respite from the troublings and the gossipings that like syphilis pester and eat up its victims. Oh those envious and those with criminal intents! When will they stop?

That adulterous woman was actually the first to receive the gospel in this village of three thousand; and her reception of my message became the start up for others to listen to me. How can I allow them, even this daughter of hers, to destroy her? I cannot. She has already repented of her every sin, of this I am sure. But the vengeful daughter, the source of the story, could not keep quiet.

Well, even the devil could not keep quiet.

For five years now, I have been trying to reach out to Arly. She considers me a friend, she likes me in fact and says she wants to listen to me too. But why is she not coming to our Bible class? Even today as we talk, she tells me she wished I had been her father, or that my wife had been her mother (not telling this of course while both parents were listening, otherwise there would be more trouble in store for her). And I could not count the number of yeses her lips have uttered in response to my urgings for here to attend our Bible classes. But in a class of twenty-five on any given afternoon, she is a missing person. Always.

The worst part of her personality shows as she argues with her mother, talking back to her in loud voices that could send even the laying hens in panic. But I just sit there, she on my right and her mother on my left. And this was after worship, when minds should be well-refreshed and heads should be cool. With her talking back loudly, sentences having neither periods nor commas, she has given scandals a new meaning. If I were her parent, I would die of heart attack. Who could tame a shrew like her? Not even the husband whom she claims she loves so dearly. It agonizes you listening to her, for she could not understand civility and good manners. Having a conversation with her when she is in this warring posture is, in the language of US Defense Secretary Robert Gates, “like pulling teeth.” Painful. Difficult.

But I have persisted. I listen. I let her talk. I try to appear as impartial as I should. For this is a war between a Christian and one who is not; this is a fight between two people who equally like me as a person. So I listen.

When her mother leaves, not wanting to endure a useless exchange of warring words, I listen to her as she rationalizes and seeks to justify her hatred and acts of rebellion.

She says she loves her father more than her mother. I ask why. That adulterous fling. One afternoon while the sun is still up. She remembers her saying, after the man vanishes and the door has been shut: “Don’t tell your father anything, or else…”

She remembers too the rough steel buckle of heavy paternal belt in the hand of her angry mother, how it strikes her young flesh and creates pain that makes her twist on the dusts a thousand times over. She remembers the ipil-ipil stick as thick as her forefinger and those angry eyes, again, threatening more pain and more hurts. She remembers too how she grabs another stick, looking at her with eyes fiery with hatred and filled with tears, and how she threatens to retaliate. Her mother understands the language of revenge, and leaves with threats to punish her someday: “Araw mo pa ngayon” (”It’s your day today”).

And as longs as those threats hung like a sword above her, she will keep her warring posture.

It is my bounden desire to have them end this war, and put closure to their past. I urge her to understand the language of gratitude, the law of sowing and reaping. In a way I am telling her that she should be grateful to her mother for giving her life; I am telling her also that her mother is probably reaping what she has sown in the past (in a harvest time that comes after twelve long years!). But what about you? I ask. Do you understand that you too shall reap what you have sown. You have a son, now one year and half. If that boy were you, and you were your mother, and he too does to you what you are now doing to your mother, what would you feel?

The answer is long in coming. But I think she understands.

Question: Are you ready for the inevitability that tonight you and your husband and your kid will find yourselves without a shelter to protect you from the cold? She says she is ready to suffer the consequence of her rebellion. Ok. But are they?

Another question: Is it difficult for you to say sorry? She does not answer. I leave it at that.

We talk some more. About God’s love. About God’s saving grace. Forgiveness that covers even a million sins. About heaven. About rest from earthly troubles. About death. About hope. These interest her too.

Three hours of useful talk. It may have been as difficult as “pulling teeth,” but I have achieved my purpose. Arly and her husband have promised to have a study of the Word with me next week. And for that, God be praised.

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