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Three Years Of Puzzlement

Discussion in 'General Discussions' started by Theophilus von Hohenheim, Jul 5, 2013.

  1. This has no category into which it seems to fit, so I'm posting it here. It is, I suppose, positive, and perhaps encouraging, but only in a curious way. I will try to show mercy, and keep it brief.

    Due to a series of events, including a death and other circumstances beyond my control, my small business recently lost all its help. Since it all coincided with the 2009 crash, business suddenly came to a standstill, so it made no sense to hire even one new person full time. It wasn't long, however, before I got talked into hiring, just for occasional help, a 17 year old home schooled girl. Being a married man in my 50's, I entered into this with considerable reluctance, but at the time I did need additional help, and she lived nearby. Then it wasn't long before her sister started working for me. Then word got around, and other girls thought the work sounded interesting, so when one of the sisters went off to college, I started occasionally employing other girls. Mind you, I have tried to employ some boys, but none of them have shown lasting interest in the work, and have drifted off. When summer came this year, all the girls who have worked for me in the past wanted to work this summer. That would have been a crew of six or seven, ages 17-22. I have ended up employing "only" three of them full time this summer. The work is unusual in itself, involving lots of woodworking, and lots of work in churches and universities. This means I have to travel some, even doing overnight trips, to accomplish the work. All the girls are believers, so often, particularly if it's just two of us, the conversation turns to spiritual matters, and, of course, girls of this age want to talk about boys, marriage, dating, etc. For hours at a time, we'll talk about such subjects, me trying to offer occasional advice when it seems they might be veering off the rails, either emotionally or theologically. Never having had a daughter, it has been a sometimes terrifying experience, because once girls of this age get comfortable and open up, they tend to tell me anything and everything. Of course, it just as often is endearingly hilarious, and many an evening I come home with so many funny stories that my wife and I laugh until we are nearly sick, as I recount some of the funny, off-the-wall anecdotes.

    I never sought this out, and for a full year, I found it pretty scary. One fear was lack of conversation: what on earth could we talk about? It has turned out that, without exception, the problem has been getting us to shut up long enough to concentrate on the work and get something done. As my wife has said, though, when she was 18, the idea of traveling around with, and working with, a 50 year old man was singularly unappealing and kind of creepy. I concur. When we are traveling and stop to eat somewhere, we usually have animated conversation over lunch or dinner, laughing and talking non-stop, until the inevitable question comes from a waitress, "So, is this your daughter?" When I reply, "No," I can always see that look in their eye, "Oh-creepy old man". At this point, all the girls say I should either just lie about it ("Yes! This is my lovely daughter!"), or respond with something totally inappropriate ("Well, not as far as I know"). So it has become an old joke by now. Worse than the fear of lack of conversation, though, has been the underlying fear that I am doing something which risks great moral hazard and is just totally inappropriate. Yet, all the parents have been encouraging, and seem to have no qualms about it at all. I find that totally weird.

    My friends, both believers and non-believers, seem to fall into two camps about all this: 1) It seems a little odd, but it's great that it's working out; 2) This is highly scandalous and I think you should stop right now. Oddly, many of the non-believers fall into the latter camp.

    My attempts at getting some counsel from any clergy who will listen, including my own pastor, has so far resulted in a blank stare. After three years, I've sort of given up. My only fear now is that I haven't a clue how to handle it if something actually did happen. What if one of the girls were to develop a crush on me, for instance? Would I even realize it? One of my closest friends thinks I might be too clueless to recognize the signs until they became extremely obvious. She might be right. However, I try to keep in touch with the parents a lot, at least during the first 6 months to a year. Thankfully, email makes this quite easy.

    Well, there is lots more to say about all this, but it has gotten too long already. Hope everyone is enjoying the long weekend. But, anyone who has ever been in a remotely similar situation, I would appreciate any feedback.
    Theo von H.
     
  2. I try very hard to not ever be in a situation like the one you describe, but most of my reasoning is about accountability and the whole "appearance of evil" thing. I don't really care so much what people think. I'm married to a much younger woman, who looks even younger. She could easily pass for my daughter because she looks so very, very young. The fact that she likes very bright and pretty dresses and is unfortunately addicted to Glee doesn't help matter any. When we were courting, I was never in a room alone with her...even at the church. I was very deliberate about it, and I'm still very deliberate about being alone anywhere with a woman, though I tend to be much more deliberate when it comes to children or teens.

    Now, there really isn't a problem to me that you have employed so many young women. The only problem in any of it is being alone with any one of them. In general, when we look at this type of situation, it is best not to be alone with a minor, but most of them aren't really minors. Still, I generally try to apply the same rule to myself. In cases where I have to counsel a woman, I make sure someone else is around and available and I use an office with a window and try to meet during public hours.

    The example I was once given was about a pastor who saw a woman waiting outside a church in the pouring rain one night. I pulled in and let her sit in the car to keep dry until the rest of her group arrived (maybe 10 minutes later at the max). Think about what that looks like from the outside, and then recognize that people see a pastor as a Christian leader. It sounds like you are also working and advertising as a Christian, so whether you are a pastor or not is academic. That pastor has sacrificed some of his accountability for the sake of Compassion. The thing is, she could have later claimed that he tried something. Perhaps someone from his congregation could have driven by and saw the scene and jumped to conclusions. They may leave the church without ever saying a word and he would never know. Should he have helped? Sure, but was sitting in the car alone with a woman the only way to help? He could have at a minimum asked her to sit the back seat, or even offered her the car while he stood outside.
     
  3. Hi

    Fact 1: You are a lot older (but then 50 is the new 30 ;)) and I assume a Christian for many years?
    Fact 2: You are alone with girl /s and though older, male = male.
    Fact 3: You are not deviously recruiting girls / You are hiding nothing from your wife.

    I conclude that God is using you to reach these girls and test you at the same time. The testing side is yours to affect. If you are feeling like you are getting attracted to these girls or vice versa you need to put practical barriers in place. I would think you should even if not as attraction is inevitable. Especially when alone and sharing the word!

    I cannot recommend what you need to do but I am sure if you prayed God would show you.
     
  4. My wife is not much younger but recently when I went to the video store they called her my daughter and me 'sir' :D.
     
  5. Well, I tried replying, but it disappeared from the screen suddenly. Here's another attempt. In short, MY prayer has been that God would deliver me from the endless procession of girls coming through my door. Instead, last year he sent one in particular who shows incredible proficiency in the work, and is determined to learn it all from top to bottom. SHe has quickly become my right hand.

    The father of the two sisters who have worked for me a lot got tired of my complaints about it, and said to me one day, "Hasn't it occurred to you that God has a ministry for you with these girls?"

    OH! Such a reputable sounding ministry! "Here, give me your daughter. We will travel together out-of-state and have lots of spiritual discussions". Yeah. Right. And I have a real deal on a big bridge to sell you. Yet, one girl last summer told me explicitly that God put me in her life to tell her hard things she needed to hear. That discussion had involved a lot of tears and difficult prayer together, and I was highly reluctant to even get into it. But my hand was forced.

    Being alone together was quite terrifying the first year, but here I am beginning the fourth year, girl number nine, and nothing questionable seems to have yet happened. None of the parents of these mostly home-school girls are concerned about it. I ask them repeatedly.

    So, if it is a ministry, I am a very reluctant and skeptical servant. Not as reluctant as Jonah, but with three girls all working full time this summer, there are days I feel like walking out of the shop, locking the door, and driving away. Mostly, though, it's funny and delightful, and they are all good workers. When 5:00 comes, though, I am ready to go home to peace and quiet.

    It seems the replies are falling into the same bi-polar reaction I have gotten elsewhere. Either I should not ever allow myself to be alone with any girl ever, or, maybe it's alright and God, despite all the received wisdom about such things, is actually at work. Honestly, I think if someone had come to me with this story four years ago, seeking advice, I would have shouted, "Flee!" Yet, here I am, pretty calm about it, but still bewildered. For the record, I try to spend little time alone with the 17 year olds, though several months ago I ended up traveling out of state with a new one on a very long day trip. That came about kind of inadvertently. She was an absolute full bore extrovert, and by the time I got back, I was exhausted by all her cheerful talkativeness. Still, she is very bright, and hopes to work for me more this fall when the other girls head back to college. Better check that birth date of hers again. (Sigh). Just as long as I don't get dragged into yet another conversation about wedding dresses. Apparently, this is a popular subject of discussion with girls of this age, and my face must have written on it, somewhere, "Tell me everything! I really want to hear it all!" (Another sigh)

    Well. Must head off. As my wife has humorously dubbed the whole flock of them, I have to meet with one of the twinkies so we can talk to a construction contractor about a job. There is a move afoot to petition me to stop calling them twinkies, but then one of them turns around and does something so completely vacuous and funny that the name still sticks. Some consider it slightly demeaning, while others realize it's a pretty accurate nickname for themselves.
    Theo von H
     
  6. Well my friend. If you want the truth, IMO read on. If not and you do not want the advice......STOP here and read no more so that we can be friends.
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    Unfortunitly we live in a world that sees what it wants to see.. I was a business man for a long time in retail. As a supervisor I never ever placed myself in the position you are describing, never. I never even had lunch with a female employee for any reason. The opportunity is just too great.

    If a well meaning pastor went in the ABC bar to speak with the bar tender about salvation and coming to church, and walked out the door and was seen leaving the bar..........how long do you think it would be before it was all over town that the pastor of the 1 st. Assembly Church is a drunk?

    I have no idea whatsoever to challenge you on the proof of your explination. But I do find it just a little troubling that you could not find any young men that would want to work in wood crafting as you explain, but females are jumping to be your employee. It kind of looks like you are wanting some kind of approval for what you are doing and this is not really the position of anyone here to do that.......IMO.

    I am sure some will disagree with that, but that always seems the case any way.

    2 Thess. 5:22
    "Abstain form all appearance of evil".
     
  7. Major,
    Well, this is certainly a point of view I have heard from some. However, I have to take exception to your example about the pastor going into a bar. Sounds a lot like the kind of place Christ himself would have gone. ("Look! He eats with publicans and sinners!). For that matter, Christ sat and talked alone with women, which was an enormous cultural taboo. That being said, I am not sure my situation is likely parallel to either.

    As for seeking some sort of approval: that would be silly since no one really knows me. Finally, if it's not the place of anyone here to provide approval, is it for some reason perfectly alright to provide disapproval? Just asking.

    I honestly don't see the attraction older men have to young women. I am very fond of each of these girls, and want to see only good befall them, but the thought of getting involved with someone so young is pretty nauseating. Funny story: two years ago the two sisters and their father were all three in the shop working, and at the time I was still trying to make sense of things. Over lunch we all four had a frank discussion about it, and I said to their father that a friend mutually known to both of us had expressed some disapproval. The Dad, in obvious puzzlement, asked, "Well, how come?" I replied that our mutual friend greatly feared that one of the girls would develop a crush on me. At that point, the two sisters looked at each other, then both looked at me, and in unison said, "YUCK". Then we all four laughed at the whole conversation. I thought their unfiltered reaction was exactly right and very healthy.

    So, anyway, the received wisdom among many is that no one, in any case, ever should be doing this. I'm just wondering if this received wisdom is really Biblical. If I avoid all the activities which might lead to something ultimately bad, i wouldn't do much of anything, perhaps.

    Here's a partial explanation for why part of the problem exists. This generation of girls is apparently much more willing to dive in and build things with their hands, yet they can find no place to get an opportunity to do that. We build pipe organs, which requires employees who are musically literate as well as mechanically inclined. The culture has such a warped view in many quarters now of "manhood" that many parents feel that the study of music or the arts is not appropriate or desirable for young men. So finding a young man who plays piano fairly well is difficult. By the same token, the organbuilding world is totally male dominated, so any young woman, like my fine apprentice, who wishes to learn the trade, must of necessity learn it from a man. I got a very impassioned diatribe from her early on about how many things she had been blocked from in the past, just because she was a girl. By the end of her rant, both hands were clenched and she said with great passion, "It's just not fair that I can't do stuff like this just because I'm a GIRL!" I had no good reply, so I decided to seriously train her, which I am now very glad for. She has mastered skills in literally hours that took me months and years to learn.

    But i digress. It is worth noting that most of the girls ended up working because their parents called and asked if they could work for me. This summer, two of the girls are working because their Dad felt working for me was a safe place where he wouldn't have to worry about them. None of this is presented as some sort of rationalization for actions that some see as questionable; it's just the story of how things have happened. Part of this process is that I have had a wonderful experience being accepted into these girl's families. It's a lot of fun to get to know the parents (something I consider highly important), the siblings and even aunts and uncles.

    Some people are convinced that my motives have to be, at some deep level, completely bad. To those people I have no answer, except that probably none of my motives for doing anything at all are completely pure. Again, if that were the litmus test for why I do anything, I wouldn't do much at all.

    Mostly, I was hoping I might find someone, somewhere, who has dealt with something like this before. Even though so far everything seems to be fine, I don't wish to putter along completely on my own, assuming I can handle anything that comes up.

    Theo von H
     
  8. Can your wife be made present-more visible in the work environment? (Or another neutral relative of the female persuasion? )
     
  9. She actually used to help some, but it's completely outside her field of skills and interest. Now she has gotten busy with several part time jobs. Being an accountant, she goes over all the girls' time sheets and writes all the checks, balances my checkbooks, figures the taxes etc. So she knows what's going on financially more than I do.

    The oddest thing from the very start is how free and unconcerned these otherwise strict homeschooling parents have been about this. I've asked some of the parents I've gotten to know why they were so trusting, but the answers are always kind of vague. "Well, you seemed like someone we could trust". I told one of them, "Yeah, that's what parents told Ted Bundy." They just laughed.

    The problem is that organ tuning requires only two people: a key holder and the tuner. A third person is completely unneeded. Another problem is that boys, and even men, are so hyperactive, that they can't sit perfectly quiet and still for hours on end while holding keys. I always hated tuning until I started hiring girls, because I have to let males off the organ bench every 45 minutes just to let them run off some energy. Most girls can sit placidly, completely still and quiet, for hours, and not only that, most females can multi-task at the same time, so they don't get bored. So I have discovered quite by accident that girls are far better at this job, and most actually kind of like it. Some of the boys got to where they would only work for me if it didn't involve tuning.
    Theo
     
  10. Theo: I have no problems at all with your situation (other than musical jealousy! I love pipe organs and have sought them out in churches around the world! Virgil Fox rocks!) and the fact that you have sought the advice of others shows me a good heart.

    Folks with dirty minds will always see any situation like yours in a bad light, IMO.

    I agree: I also find young women have much more skill and attention to detail than young hyper men. This is a generational trait, not an American one per se. Asian girls excel in English and science. Once I taught an entire class of young girls off campus, yet no one here raised an eyebrow. Granted: I didn't travel with them.

    I was once the district leader of a student exchange program involving many young French girls. I wasn't a Christian then, so I had no qualms about what folks thought....but I never heard any gossip. Would I do that again? Not without God's direction, no.

    However, it seems you DO have God's direction, parent's approval, spouse's understanding, and the Official "Yuuuck!" of the ladies....so I wouldn't worry about what waitresses or self-righteous church folks think.

    Since Jesus ate with publicans, forgave prostitutes, and touched lepers.....I think He would approve of your teaching a valuable skill to young ladies.
     
  11. I suggest you make a card that reads:

     
  12. Rusty:
    Thank You! Thank You! That's very encouraging. I like the card, though maybe it's just a bit snarky.

    "the Official "Yuuuck!" of the ladies" I love that!

    A couple days ago I had a college organ professor troop through the shop with six students and five adults. They had been touring organbuilders across the country, and the older women were absolutely enthralled to see women working in my shop. It was the first they had seen of it, after touring five previous builders. One of them said to me, "Oh, I wanted so badly to do exactly this sort of thing when I was their age, but no one would teach me!"

    I'm not fond of feminism, but on the other hand, I sometimes feel that many Christians have a view of women that owes more to the 19th century than it does to scripture.
    Thanks Again.
    Theo

     
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  13. Ok! So there's another witness for you about your mission...and from a totally unsolicited and unexpected source: the older lady!

    As for the card: Hmmmm...just ditch the "Is that OK with you?"* bit and it could work fine.
    Maybe something like "I'm sure you understand." or some such.

    Trust me: few ladies wait tables as a solid career choice. No insurance, below minimum wage, subject to the whims of cheap customer's and those that leave Christian tracts instead of tips. Clashes with cooks, no respect from much of anyone.

    So a waitress would fully understand your willingness to save young ladies from having to resort a hash slinging, trapped lifestyle.

    * I just realized that that expression carries a different tone in the West, unlike here in Asia.
     
  14. A BIG "amen" there!
     
  15. I don't really know what to say since you have not broken any laws or comandments. I think you just have a sensitive conscious.
     
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  16. Yep...That I agree with!
     
  17. A sensitive conscience? Is that a good thing or a bad thing?
    Seriously, I'm not so sure about the sensitive conscience, but I do know I have been beaten over the head with the mantra, "No man should ever do this! You are in grave danger!" mantra a hundred times by now, many times by believers I particularly respect who often dispense very wise counsel on most issues. The number of my friends and acquaintances who have registered even cautious optimism (note I didn't say "approval") about the likely outcome is small. Three years of that gets a fellow down. Then there is the large number whose only opinion on the matter, even when their counsel is sought, is total silence. Maybe they are the wisest ones of all, come to think of it.

    Maybe I just need more friends and aquaintances...
    Theo
     

  18. That can be not a lie …. Timothy, also worked with younger women, … here is the advice of Apostle Paul:
    1 Timothy 5:1-2
    "Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity."

    *hmmm it was supposed to be sister?and not daughter?... but the idea/rationale is there.... : )
     
  19. Well, over a year ago one of the relationships veered into something that felt scary, but the two of us survived it and are now very close. She has become the daughter I never had, and she told me that I was like her second father. People who watch us together are either alarmed or intrigued, because there is apparently a lot of unconscious affection we show toward each other, affection which is entirely non sexual. I have watched her fall madly in love a with a pretty special guy, and it looks like they may likely marry. We had many conversations about him, last year, discussed proper pre-marital behavior, and the tendency of males to be wired way more sexually than girls. It was stuff she already had heard before, but she very much wanted to hear it from someone besides her parents. So for days at a time, she would bring these subjects up, and we would talk while we worked. Or sometimes we would just sit down and talk, because work was hard to concentrate on when discussing some of this stuff.

    Again, I tried at first to avoid talking about such things, but she and several of the other girls seem to have a need to talk about it. Considering how much the culture militates against what they have been taught about chastity, sex and marriage, I suppose it's no surprise that they want to corroborate that other people besides their parents hold to the same moral standards. I'd still rather discuss this stuff as to talk about various wedding dress designs. That really is close to torture...

    Thanks to everyone for your comments on this. Getting advice from anyone around here has been a very dry well for three years.
    Theo
     
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