My mom has sponsored a Leadership Development Program (LDP) student for nearly three years. This bright young woman, let’s call her Cecilia, said she was grateful to be a part of the leadership program. She was working hard toward her goal and was banking everything on LDP.
Cecilia had no doubt that she’d “make it.” She was full of confidence. She was determined. All of her effort and focus was directed toward the Leadership Development Program. She was celebrated for her bright future, and happiness was a sure thing.
But then she made a choice. She had sex out of wedlock. Cecilia got pregnant, and she’s no longer part of the leadership program. Actions have consequences.
My mom thinks it’s ironic that when her girl most needs compassion, Cecilia gets none. I understand that point of view. But my point of view is that Cecilia didn’t get asked to leave the leadership program because she got pregnant; she was asked to leave because when she joined the program she agreed with its values and promised that her behavior would reflect them.
If Cecilia was married and got pregnant, she’d still be in the program. But that’s not what happened.
The good news is that Cecilia and her boyfriend are in love, and they’re planning to get married. Unlike many of Cecilia’s childhood friends, who didn’t have the opportunity she did and who had babies when they were teenagers, Cecilia has learned skills and developed strong relationships over the 10+ years she was participating in our programs.
Cecilia has not been abandoned. She’s been equipped. She’s been equipped to successfully navigate the challenges that will come throughout her life, including this one.
But let me contrast Cecilia’s situation with what’s happening in my “little brother’s” life right now.
L.B. is growing up in poverty here in America. It’s not the same variety as what Cecilia has lived through or what any of our sponsored children are experiencing, but it’s just as devastating. It doesn’t matter what poverty looks like on the outside because on the inside poverty destroys.
L.B. is 15, and his life mirrors the stereotypical inner city African-American struggle. The day-to-day emotional abuse he receives from this world has brought him to a defining moment in his life.
Last month, he accepted an offer to live with a married couple who were friends of his family and who wanted to invest their time in him. The couple has no children, has been married for more than 10 years, and are closely involved with a community center focused on helping kids in the inner city.
This couple was willing to do something they had never done before, for any kid. They were willing to bring L.B. into their family and to assume legal guardianship for him.
L.B. moved in and agreed to submit himself to their authority and obey their decisions. He was free to leave at any time, but if he made the decision to leave he would not be accepted back.
L.B. agreed. And then as most conflicted people do, he tested the boundaries. He made a conscious decision to disobey, and in anger said he wanted to move out.
The circumstances weren’t quite as sterile as how I’ve portrayed them, and I don’t have all the details, but there was a threat of violence. And it wasn’t the first threat. Actions have consequences.
What should be the consequences for Cecilia and L.B.?
Is it as simple as compassion for Cecilia versus the preservation of integrity for our programs?
Is it as simple as mercy and a second chance for L.B., or does his life have a better chance of being redeemed through justified discipline?
Unlike Cecilia, L.B. doesn’t have the skills or relationships to weather this storm. He hasn’t been equipped … yet.
L.B. isn’t being abandoned by this couple. They will still be involved in his life, just not as his guardians. However, I bet poverty is telling L.B. that he’s being abandoned.
Our ability to take ownership of our actions is a necessary skill in escaping any strain of poverty — physical, emotional or spiritual. Actions have consequences. It’s something God showed us through Adam and Eve.
Thankfully our story didn’t end with the eating of the apple. God meted out justice, but He also had mercy on us. Consequences don’t mean we’re not loved. They usually mean just the opposite.