“I should consider my own sin before I accuse my children of theirs.”
As I walked into the kitchen, I saw our table covered with schoolbooks and papers. Now, there was nothing unusual about this sight. Over our years of schooling, I’ve learned to take comfort in coming home to a kitchen table surrounded by pajama-clad children with books. I imagine most of you dads also have to push aside the history, biology, and math texts to make a place for your dinner plate.
However, the books and papers had a brown tint. That was unusual. Also, one of my precious heirs was on his knees, cleaning the floor. This focused act of cleaning was so tremendously rare and unusual that dual emotions of joy and shock welled up within me
It was my ten-year-old son’s countenance that capped the scene. “I spilled my root beer!” True blubbered. I felt the devastation of True’s loss as he pressed his face into my chest and sobbed.
My wife Belinda recently replaced our ancient plastic drinking cups. I don’t think she fully appreciates the simple, affordable beauty of the lovely plastic goblets I bring home from my favorite barbeque joints. Mysteriously, these inexpensive vessels make their way into the garage to host science experiments and become dog food scoops.
Anyhow, my queen found a deal at Costco, Land of
Affordability, and captured a ninety-six-piece set of multi-colored cups. The large cups hold about seven or eight gallons, so no complaints from me as they prevent those pesky trips back to the kitchen if I chug my grog too quickly.
In my “just got home from work” stupor, I assessed the scene of large cups, root beer, brown books, and a child cleaning the floor. I’m no Sherlock Holmes, but even I could deduce the crime. “That lecture” began to build up inside me.
In our community theatre, cast members share gifts with each other as a sign of friendship. A couple of nights earlier, True received his most precious possession, a two-liter bottle of root beer, and at least one of those liters was now a memory. Just the night before True refused to share root beer with his older sister. As you fathers of teenage daughters can attest alongside me, not sharing with your sister is a felony offense in the home.
After the Hazmat team finished its clean-up work, Belinda and I took True into a separate room to talk. “That lecture” warmed itself up and prepared to launch from my mouth.
Occasionally I listen to the Lord, instead of just telling Him what I want. Recently His quiet voice encouraged me to speak to fathers who have gone before me—those who have watched heir children graduate and move into the world. One of those dads told me his greatest regret: he had been too harsh in scolding his children. That wisdom inspired me as I disappointed “that lecture.”
“True, what happened in there?” I inquired. “You knew you weren’t supposed to have root beer tonight. And why did you refuse to share your root beer with your sister last night?”
True choked back a sob and responded, “I don’t know; the root beer took over me.”
“That lecture” muscled its way back to my throat as my outrage considered True blaming soda pop for his actions. Then the Lord quickly reminded me of His words and actions in John 8 (you go look it up). In that moment I remembered how many things “took over me.” I recalled my own tearful confession to my family about a month earlier, of how I was addicted to sugar. That addiction has wrecked my health, taken my money, and driven my actions for most of life.
I tell my kids, “It’s OK to own things, but don’t let things own you.” Yet I see the homage they pay to Facebook, iPods, texting, and video games. The Second Commandment sobers me as I realize why the Lord gave it. There is a real danger we will abandon Him for our satellite TVs. “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator.” (Romans 1:25a)
True’s repentance was evident, and I sure didn’t have any stones to throw. I hugged my precious son, forgave him, and flushed “that lecture.” It had no place here that day.
Recently I asked my boys to write down how I could be a better father. In his typical jolly way, True wrote, “Dad, you’re my hero!” Maybe today I moved a little closer to his vision.
If you have a moment, please send an e-mail to ImperfectFather@Gmail.com. I’d love to hear about what your kids are teaching you.