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Daughters-in-Waiting: Adult Daughters at Home

Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. Matthew 10:28-31

Facing the truth about spiritual abuse and emotional abuse is hard, especially for daughters ~ even years after the fact. Years after we are safe, loved, and growing in the Lord. But what about when it isn't years after? When it's right now? Today?

An adult daughter's "role" at home

Once I assisted an instructor with an important project. He repeatedly criticized my work in front of other students, belittled me, and treated me with condescension to the point that others asked, often, "Why are you still helping him? Why do you put yourself under that?" Although the situation made me sick inside, I could only reply, "Because I am trying to be a good student. It's about who I am, not about who he is." 

When we try to do all things as unto the Lord, we aren't bound by the behavior of others. We can still treat them with integrity, respect, and honor because we are respectful. We are women with integrity. We are women of honor. We are women who love the Lord, and want to walk worthy of the calling with which He calls us. This includes our positions as friends, employees, students, wives, mothers, teachers, writers,  missionaries, doctors, hairstylists, chefs, and daughters.

If you are an adult daughter still living at home, you probably hear from "outsiders" that you need to move out, get a job, or go to school. But from those "likeminded", you hear that such ideas are worldly, unnecessary,  unbiblical, and that you need to remain under your father's headship until he transfers this authority to another man ~ specifically, your husband. In a future article I will address this issue in light of courtship and marriage, but today I want to talk about "the meantime."

For the adult daughter at home,  in the meantime . . .

"In the meantime" really does feel mean sometimes. For many adult daughters, it's the 'in-between' ~ your home education is complete, and normal family life continues to bustle around you, while you wonder what God has planned for your life. For some, it seems to stretch without end, without hope. The purpose of this article is not to devalue family life or to suggest that one way is better than the other, for truly, I can't say what you should do. Move out? Stay home?  Start a home business? Get a job? Take a class? Will a young man enter the picture? The options are overwhelming, especially in light of mixed messages and your own emotional, spiritual, mental, and physical struggles. I realize that many of you do these things already, but as you seek the Lord's will, may I humbly offer some encouragement?
  • Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. (Romans 12:17-19)
While you wait upon the Lord, do everything within your power to be at peace with your family. Not to defend sinful actions, but to understand ~ it's hard for many parents to see their little girls grow up. They often react out of fear, pride, and other issues that they themselves might not realize. For some families, this might be a love of power and control. Or they may truly believe that you are going to hell and yearn to stop you. Ask God to give you compassion for your parents, brothers, and sisters, even when they react in an unChristian manner to your walking in obedience to the Lord's calling . 
  • But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. (1 Peter 3:15-17)
Accusations, when unfounded, are violent words that break peace and sever relationships. Do everything you can to ensure that before the Lord, you live righteously and in love. Notice that even angels do not accuse the ultimate Accuser: Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” (Jude 1:9) Live your life in such a way that when others blame, scapegoat, revile, and accuse, their words are meaningless. The Lord knows the truth. Trust Him and rest in this.
  • but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. (Eph. 4:15-16)
As a Christian family, your parents are your brothers and sisters in the Lord. Sometimes we need to speak truth and exhortation unto them. However, we must do this with the goal of edification in love. This means that we must speak to them in ways that show kindness, gentleness, longsuffering, and humility ~ even when we are right. So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath;  for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. (James 1:19, 20) Unfortunately, you may not always be heard. Your thoughts, ideas, and beliefs might be ridiculed, criticized, and you might be cast aside. But hang onto the Lord, and Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one. (Col. 4:6) Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. (Eph. 4:29) Perhaps you will help bring grace unto the graceless, and in so doing, so fulfill the law of Christ.
  • Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. (1 Peter 5:5-7)
It is important to be clothed with humility, for like an old saying goes: "Make your words sweet, because someday you may have to eat them." But even more importantly, when we are humble we make ourselves like Christ. We need to understand that humility doesn't equal allowing your personhood to be maligned, but rather states the truth of who we are in Christ ~ both to yourself and to others. 
  • “Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with promise:  “that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.” And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord. (Eph. 6:2-4)
Much literature is devoted to children obeying parents, and for adult children to honor parents. Unfortunately, not so much is written to parents who exasperate, provoke, discourage, or defraud their  children. However: the fact that one does not do their part does not excuse the other. Colossians 4:6 suggests how and why: And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men,  knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ. So for adult daughters, what does this look like? How can an adult daughter honor a parent who discourages her? Who exasperates her? Who perpetuates a lifestyle that quenches the work of the Holy Spirit in her life? Who provokes, defrauds, and stands between her and her Lord?

Honoring the dishonorable

But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. (James 3:17,18)

Adult daughters who walk in obedience to God and who seek the Lord's will inevitably become faced with choices. Sometimes they can be confusing, especially in an authoritarian environment. The core of authoritarianism is self-seeking, and James says, But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. (James 3:13-16) Coming into adulthood can be convoluted enough without adding authoritarianism, spiritual abuse, emotional abuse, and other stumbling blocks to the dynamic. Whether or not you are called to leave the home is between you and Father God, but choosing to respect the non-sinful wishes of another  person is an important fruit of wisdom, even when you are disrespected and mistreated in return.

Regardless of your living situation, remember that a parent is honored when you obey the Lord, even if it isn't in a manner they wish. A parent is honored when you love the Lord and stand up for righteousness. A parent is honored when you seek truth. When you put the Lord first in your life, your parents are honored, which means that when you take your eyes off your parents and place them on Jesus, this brings them honor.

I want to humbly offer a difficult but important reminder for adult daughters still living at home, who struggle with oppressiveness or depression, with trying to hear the still small voice of the Lord and to follow His commandments. Just as we respect the home of anyone we visit, even in things we think are unimportant, certain things must be honored while living under your parents' roof. A parent's sinfulness doesn't release us from God's commands to love others, to put others first, or to be kind ~ and these are things we can do wherever we are. But its another matter when your home is unsafe. If certain things make you contemplate death or destructive behaviors, please find someone safe, some place safe, and take steps to seek the healing life offered by Jesus. You can love others from a distance, if necessary. Even Paul knew when boundaries and separation were needed. (Acts 15:38-40) 

But if, for the moment, you are called to remain at home, rest knowing that He who sees a sparrow fall does not forget you ~ and is even now making "intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose." (Romans 8)

Take heart; it may seem like the "meantime" draws on for eternity, but  trust God that He sees you and cares for you. Keep listening to His voice ~ whether He calls you to leave, or calls you to stay. He will make known His will for you. As you spend your time seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, seeking His will, purpose, and plan, He says "All these things will be added unto you." In the meantime, take care to remain above reproach;  "be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless." (2 Peter 3:14) Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. (James 3:13)
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In a recent sermon (view "God the Father" from 5/16, starting at 28:30), Pastor Ira Hall expounds upon Eph. 6:4 NASB: And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. He reminds us that "bring them up" means to rear them, to cherish, to train. Rearing, training, and cherishing as bringing up teaches others that they are valuable.  In Greek, discipline means "education, training, and correction." Instruction means "mild rebuke or warning." Col. 3:21  states, Fathers do not exasperate your children, so they will not lose heart. To exasperate is to provoke. The Greek word for "lose heart" means broken spirits. Essentially Paul is saying, "Don't break your child's spirit. Don't crush them." Fathers provoke by not providing cherishing training, mild rebuke, education or correction. "This is not the same as making your child mad," Hall says. "But they should never not feel cherished."

19 comments:

  1. Thanks for reminding me of this. Even though I'm not home right now, I still have interaction with those at home. I want to be gracious even when I need to set boundaries.

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  2. Good thoughts. Thanks for taking the time to work through this balance while always pushing for grace and love.

    ~Luke

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  3. I love this! Very balanced and Christ-focused for any situation. Thanks for sharing it.

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  4. Hillary, this is an EXCELLENT article and worth sharing with teenage children as well. My teens have some close friends who are Christians, but their parents are not. Just Sunday, they asked me how they were to honor their parents when they were not always giving them Christian advice. Your article hits the nail squarely on the head and I'll be sharing it with some lovely young ladies.


    I am so blessed by your love for the Lord and ability to communicate His love to others.

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  5. This is an excellent, excellent piece. That last sentence really stirred me.

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  6. Thank you for posting this.
    I'm still at home, but I've often wondered if there was something else I could do, other than wait. Those were encouraging words, and your blog has helped me a great deal. Although I'm only fourteen, I can relate to some of the things you have written. I'm an oldest daughter from a family of nine, and I have six siblings. Now I think I am coming to the point where I can also understand where my parents are coming from. Actually, recently my parents have been making some changes, and I have been "freed" somewhat from the rules that I'd been living by for so many years; it's been difficult adjusting to this, but I think It's for the best. There have been changes regarding dress, music, books, movies, hair, and other things. And I know that it's all because my parents found your site. Thanks again!
    ~Kylie~

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  7. "A parent's sinfulness doesn't release us from God's commands to love others, to put others first, or to be kind ~ and these are things we can do wherever we are. But its another matter when your home is unsafe. If certain things make you contemplate death or destructive behaviors, please find someone safe, some place safe, and take steps to seek the healing life offered by Jesus. You can love others from a distance, if necessary. Even Paul knew when boundaries and separation were needed. (Acts 15:38-40)"

    This is exactly what my pastor advised me that if it's a matter of like and death to find a safe place and love from a distance. Thnx!

    Also, a great reminder that we are to respond in love to others regardless of their behavior towards us.

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  8. I'm humbled that this post has touched all of you. Sharon, Luke, Tammy and Lois ~ thank you for your kind encouragement! {{hugs}}

    Billy Coffey ~ I am beyond honored that you stopped by. Thank you.

    Kylie ~ do you know that your words brought me to tears? Thank you for taking the time to leave a note and may the Lord bless you and your family as you seek and serve Him. There is a book that you might like, and that your family might like, called "Families Where Grace is in Place" by Jeff Van Vonderen. It blessed me tremendously. {{hugs & blessings}}

    Frogla ~ praying for you as you navigate the issues of abandonment and boundaries.

    Emmanuel.

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  9. Hillary, thanks for always reaching out to people who are starving for the grace of God. I can't wait to see what He's going to do with your book.

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  10. Written like a true woman of the Word, Hillary, and so true. May I offer a brief perspective from one who recently lost a father to death? My father was a national hero, and he was my hero for a brief period when I was young. But by the last year of his life, we were very distanced from one another, both geographically and emotionally.

    I did not consider my father a good parent, but now that he is gone, the anguish of my heart is that I was not a good daughter. I had to admit, that when it came to my father, I did not acknowledge the Lord in all my ways so that He could direct my paths. And that was a painful fact for me to face. Dad was gone; there was no going back. I couldn't change a thing, and oh how I wanted to!

    I may be a bit emotional because the timing of your blog is just a few weeks short of the first anniversary of my father's death, and I still deal with my failures. His really don’t matter anymore. I had no idea how much I loved him until he was gone.

    Hind-sight is 20/20. And I know it is easier to think about what we should and could have done after our parents are gone than it is to deal with difficult parents while they are still alive.

    I don't know if I will ever see my father again. I have no idea where he was at with Christ. During his final days, the onset of dementia prevented any meaningful communication. "...it may seem like the "meantime" draws on for eternity," .... But trust me, in regards to our family relationship, eternity, unless they belong to Christ, only begins after they are gone.

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  11. This post required an incredible amount of discernment and maturity. Maturity and understanding that may not be possible except for someone who has lived through the oppressive side of this ideology. Plus, a good handling of the related Scriptures.

    Thank you.

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  12. I've lived through this experience..being an adult daughter living at home while suffering years of abuse at the hands of supposedly Christian people...To the extent that it resulted in my physical and mental health deteriorating. (Complete with a psychiatric diagnosis..and being legally, totally disabled after years of indentured servitude, and homelessness at the hands of my tormentors...my late father and his wife.) It's amazing how the Lord can take what man means for one's destruction and use it for something good. If not for the years of abuse, I wouldn't have been prepared for what He has in store for me- as a Certified Peer Specialist, and as an advocate for people with mental illness...If anything, this entire adventure since my Dad died three years ago- has reminded me that it wasn't the religious Jesus came for...it was the least, the last, the forgotten, the forsaken, the abandoned and the lost. HE has been there for me even when my own family turned his back on me...HE has been my strength...If HE's holding my hand, I can get through anything this world throws at me!

    Nita

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  13. My family intended me to always be a "daughter in waiting" because I have Asperger's Syndrome (a higher functioning form of Autism.) They believed me incapable of holding down a job so they wouldn't let me leave the house, yet the expected me to singlehandedly do all of the chores in the house down to the point of cleaning their bedroom as well.

    They didn't believe I could make it on my own, or that I should marry anyone except someone of their choosing. The man they chose for me was 40, I was 20. Needless to say I couldn't do that.

    I met the love of my life when I was 21, and for five years we struggled to get to a point where we could marry since he was disabled as well (which to my family meant that he should never be a husband since a husband must provide all the finances for a family). I was sent away from home to live with other relatives in order to be apart from him. Eventually, my other relatives wouldn't comply anymore, they found I had no other place to go but back home, and once in the same area, he and I decided that we needed to leave and trust that God would take care of us.

    We started out our marriage homeless. But God is faithful; we were homeless for three and a half months before we had a roof over our head. It's been a year since then and we've moved three times but each place has been better than the last.

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  14. Hillary, would you say it would be wrong to leave the side of such a verbally abusive professor?

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  15. Jennifer, of course it wouldn't be wrong, as in morally wrong, unless God had specifically directed one to remain. Circumstances vary; in the example I used there was much at stake, much behind-the-scenes. Prayer and wisdom are so important in all of our decisions and as aware adults, we can make healthy, godly choices in the midst of both good times and difficulty.

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  16. Thanks for this post. It rings true.

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  17. You know, sorry to be a naysayer, but--this advice did not work for me when I was living in an abusive Christian home. It did not.

    Instead I ended up with major depression, unable to remain employed or go to school.

    What worked was having a friend outside the home who encouraged me to get my life straight. It was a huge risk to move out and have to pay bills but it was worth it for my mental health, despite all the losses and compromises moving out like that entailed.

    Just remember, once you are 18, your parents can threaten this and that but the civil authorities will not force you to return to the home. You are free. You need to cultivate a friend who will let you crash until you can land a job and can contribute to household expenses. I temped, which meant calling the temp agency daily. Not easy, but the self-esteem of having a job and being around people who valued my work and respected my boundaries (unlike home life) was astounding.

    As for your professor, I learned too late that sometimes you have to cut your losses and just cancel the class. YOU ARE PAYING TO BE THERE. Eff him. I know someone who changed her major because her instructor, who was bipolar, started picking on her. She grew up with boundaries and refused to be victimized. She went right down to the provost's office and changed her classes.

    Part of BEING AN ADULT is realizing that you ARE responsible for what happens to you. You are NOT a child and should not act like one, and if you allow someone to victimize you, other ADULTS are going to tut-tut and turn aside because they believe that on some level you must have wanted to be in that situation. As an adult you MUST be an adult. Big-girl panty time. Even if you were abused and neglected. Nobody--right on up to the family court judge--is going to give a flying fig about your excuses.

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  18. Robynn,

    What an inspiring story. I, too, have close friends with Asperger's and know that autistic adults are very capable of living independently and providing for themselves.

    In fact, I have a friend whose autistic son got heavily into QF/P, moved to AK with his wife and intends to have a brood. He makes very good money (he's a mathematician). For the record, my friend, who is Catholic and came from a big family, does not approve. (I just thought that was interesting because it was a man--a deacon in his church--saying that. He isn't all, well, at least I'll have so many grandkids and I don't care how they got there.)

    Back to the point, Robynn, I think we can forgive how parents fear for their children, but I don't think we can forgive when they attempt to crush our spirit. Human beings have an incredible spirit to survive. You and your partner are survivors. Also, I would recommend you find a support group for adults with Asperger's. Even small towns now have one because it is such a common disorder. People with Asperger's have a learning disorder, not a social disability. You CAN learn how to be more effective in social situations, which will hopefully ease your anxiety and frustration in dealing with the outside world and hopefully will translate into better outcomes career-wise and a more enriching life.

    As Aspies we will never quite think the way everyone else does, but we can learn new habits that will change the way we interact with the world. For example, I used to look at mouths, not eyes, when talking to people. I've retrained myself to look at eyes. The deal with looking at the mouth is that you're missing half the conversation!! I never knew that! Aspie support groups can really help, even if you only attend for a short time.

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