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Gone home for the holidays

Family time causes regression of collegiate self.  |  Photo Courtesy of Henning Leweke

 

The holidays, while joyous, are one of the most opportune moments for spiritual warfare to occur. Angry and irrational, our opinions stifled by our parents, we get that text message: the old group from high school is going to the old playground. It is our chance to rebel. Out the window jumps all sense of judgement, in steps insecure, wobbly-faithed teenage self.

Aundrea Paxton, marriage and family therapist at The Guidance Center in Long Beach, spoke in chapel on Wednesday, Nov. 29 discussing the difficulty students face going home for the holidays. She proposes the question: how do we, members of the Biola Bubble, maintain the work we have put into our spiritual growth when we leave campus?

She described the holidays as an occasion that for some, bring up pain. For her, “going home and seeing things [with] a whole different eye” was frustrating. She was hyper-aware of “the weaknesses and frailties of family members... frustrated because [she] had been living on [her] own, and [then] came home and had a curfew.”

Paxton proposed two things that make going home for the holidays stressful and cause us to regress into less mature versions of ourselves:

The first is change. We have all changed throughout our time at Biola. Paxton shared how even for freshmen in their first semester, there have been a cramming of ideas, all an accumulation of independence and stretching experiences. Distance from family, Paxton states, gives perspective on things and enables you to see things in a different light. For some of us, the thought of going home invokes fear, depression and anxiety.

The second is things that do not change. “Families,” she asserts “do not like change.” Therefore, when we come home full of new ideas, opinions and theories—an education they encouraged us to pursue—we feel unvalued, and our spiritual and academic progress feel pointless.

Paxton states, that because change has occurred, conflict is inevitable. “You might get defensive, you might feel shame... all these feelings cause conflict [and like] our holidays did not grow up with [us].”

This restriction causes us to regress into our teenage selves. This is a “conflicting experience.” So, we talk back. We slam doors. Then we lay on our childhood bed, stare at our glow-in-the-dark star-covered ceiling and wonder where the God we met at Biola is. The God of our theology and philosophy classes seems far from our shrunken independence. Our adult spirit is at war with the child our parents still see. Parents carry on their routine, Paxton asserts, because they often cannot see a way to segway their relationship with us from parent to child, to one of friendship and growing equality. We have been debating with professors, Paxton goes on to say, yet our opinions are silenced at home. They keep treating us like kids.

Paxton goes on saying, “Sometimes because we are treated like children, we go on to act like our childhood selves... And you have this identity conflict [saying to yourself] I’m all big and bad at school then... this feeling of defiance that comes up. You want to show them, and make them see how independent you are... That only causes conflict on the inside and on the outside with your family.”

It is this repression of our blossoming adult spirit, along with the combination of being back around friends from high school, that causes us to regress. We are pressed in from all sides, and somehow, our reason and logic and spiritual formational skills fly out the window when our mom asks us to help set the table, or tells us we can not go out because our great aunt is coming over.

 

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