Sam had just turned 21 the month before. He had a part-time job, a car, went to the local college, and was sorting through the aftermath of his recent move to a new part of town. Sam termed himself as trying to find his way in the midst of a variety of competing voices. The loudest voice seemed to come from Sam’s father who could not understand why Sam insisted on keeping to himself, staying out after his shift at work, and not to mention hanging out with friends from work who were foreign to the family.
Sam and his parents had decided to bring their dilemma into a family integration session with me, to understand what was happening to their family. Their time together meant having to tear the paper ceiling and open up the concept called individuation. The importance of individuation relates to self-realization, a necessary process of human development where a person breaks away from the well-worn path of conformity and allows themselves to get to know how they feel and think. God made each of us to go forward in the Earth and take dominion over the Earth (Genesis 1:26). This transition is meant to be experienced during the late teen and young adult years. If the person doesn’t face this internal conflict during the designated timeline, there will be holes in reaching their full potential, and discomfort when their goals don’t match the wishes of the family.
This is exactly where Sam found himself.
Where can we find an example of individuation in Genesis 24? How about in the story of finding Rebekah, the woman who would go on to become Isaac’s wife. Abraham had sent his servant, Eliezer, to find a wife for his son, Isaac. Once the servant convinced Rebekah’s parents this was God’s plan for their daughter, and once Rebekah had given her “buy in,” Eliezer prepared to leave with Rebekah. Her family, however, wanted to stall and do an uncertain number of social ceremonies before their daughter left, never to be seen again. In the end, they allowed her to cast the deciding vote, and she opted for a quick exit with Eliezer rather than the slow one her family had planned. Surprisingly, the family accepted her decision.
As a result, the entire community and nation of Israel benefited from Rebekah’s decision. There was no trace of this being a unilateral declaration made in rebellion, but a bilateral agreement of independence. In the case of Rebekah, this was not a decision made by a rebellious youth but was a decision made by one on a journey of authenticity.
A mark of a young person who is individuating is displayed when mutual respect is found between the parents and the young person, even when an agreement is not. Genesis points out clearly that although Rebekah’s parents may not have agreed, her family was able to embrace that God had a bigger plan in support of Rebekah’s decision, and were able to leave the outcome to God.
When a person is supposed to move and has been given a time set by God, it is critical that those who have the ears to hear honor God’s timetable and bless their sense of urgency as their newfound voice is expressed with unambiguity and authority.
For Sam, his voice was heard. And now, with renewed willingness, the entire family is learning to take hold of life’s transitions. Leaving that day with a stronger bond to believe God, and with more healthy ways to lessen anxiety and embrace this important part of growing up.