Bindweed is fertilizer: an open letter

An expatriate friend asked me about my opinions on French schooling yesterday.  They’re considering the future for their boys, and collecting pros & cons about French versus American education.  She’s right to wonder if the lack of after-school activities here is a serious concern.


I regret that you girls usually spend 12-hour days revolving around academics, but when it comes down to it, every person bends to his own natural direction.  During the primary school years, children are exposed to various subjects and sports, and a wise parent will go with the flow, becoming aware of (and hopefully be able to provide for) his child’s interests.  The music lessons, riding lessons, tennis lessons, youth group and so on, all fell by the wayside.  We didn’t push you to practice what we didn’t sense was worth pursuing.  For that reason, the art lessons continued despite difficult schedules and tight budgets.  We saw the interests that were worth developing, and the gifts became talents—these investments paid off.  That’s basic parenting, so why am I fuming?


Granted, you were quite grouchy last we spoke, but in your honesty you stated the issue:

That you missed out on extra-curricular activities, thereby negating your opportunities for the IV-League Unis.  It would’ve been pointless and rude to debate you with my previous paragraph, and ultimately solve nothing.  Nor will I negate your natural inclination for study, even when it involved hours of researching popular American TV shows when you might’ve been playing football or riding your bike.  See what I’m saying?  That when the going gets tough, the tough turn to what they love best, and you work hard at being involved in all you attempt.  So, why did Friend’s question come the day after your complaint?  It was a wake-up call for a bigger issue: What seed of discontent was planted here?


As it turns out, during dinner discussions with family last week, one outspoken member assertively informed you that you should be attending a US University.  Never mind that the high-caliber University of Glasgow is waiting for you following this gap year as a Smithsonian Air & Space Explainer.  Opportunities?  Should I even start listing the opportunities you’ve experienced as a bi-lingual Third-Culture Kid, graduating with high honors on your French BAC in Sciences, the people you know, the places you’ve explored, the…  No, enough with the smoke and mirrors, let’s identify that seed of discontent for what it really is: Bindweed.


There is a common type of person in this world who, no matter what you might say or do, will tell you how you could’ve done better.  Some have invested so much time and effort into perfecting this craft that you don’t even notice the damage until they’re long gone.  They have an uncanny way of latching on to a weakness—which is your greatest strength—and setting roots.  They appear to be doing just fine where they are, knowing how everything works, settling in, keeping everyone in check.  They cling tenaciously to expectations and choke out anything that doesn’t fit the plan.


So, pay attention to that uncomfortable feeling when you’ve been told you’re doing it wrong.  This gift of pain is so much bigger than you, that you can’t possibly manage it as you are at this moment.  The divine irony of this ‘weakness’ is that it has the potential to be your greatest strength if you’re willing to step out of the box.  This is faith.  Genesis is loaded with outrageous adventures that our patriarchs encountered when they left everything they knew for a promised land.  Are you willing to test everything you know in an attempt to meet a loving, rescuing, redeeming God?  Or do you want to hold tight to where you’re planted, waiting for the bindweed to choke your potential?


I’m angry that a trusted relative perpetuates his personal insecurities on a young person.  Not so much that he did this, as it’s quite natural for all of us to project what we know on to those we care about, especially in families.  I’m angry because I fall for this all the time, and I’m sure that I do the same to others.  Lord, forgive us our trespasses and help us to forgive those who trespass against us…and please let me identify it before it chokes the joy out of us!  Turn this fume to fumier—pardon my French for ‘manure,’ and after it’s been well-rotted is what a good crop loves best.


Oh, and before I’m accused of making accusations, I’m willing to bet that your malaise didn’t come from only one voice.  These things have a way of coming in pairs and legions.  Haven’t you noticed that, when something’s on your mind, you’re most likely to spot similar messages?  It’s a good way to know that you’re facing a test of character.  Stay alert!


Speaking of sewage, you know a lot about the space shuttle toilet, but you’re not an expert.  You’ve met him, and he’s really cool!  Opportunities?  Who knew?!  Never pass an opportunity to laugh about life!


Name the muck in your life that can fuel your potential for strong, healthy growth.  What actions must you take to turn that rot into good?  Need a shovel?




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