“No one is above the rules,” said this imperfect dad.

I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. “Haven’t the kids learned anything from me?” I wondered in frustration. And in my frustration, I lost control and intentionally dropped the radio. I heard the smash, but I didn’t care. I stormed off, leaving a confused and broken family. Just like the radio.

It had been one of those “good” Saturdays, before I got stupid. You know, one of those Saturdays when you get things done, and you get them done with power tools. I was trimming some disorderly trees with my “Chainsaw on a Stick.” The Chainsaw on a Stick may be the perfect power tool, as it is loud and it extends your power a good 12 feet up. I’m all goose-pimply just writing about it.

Big piles of defeated tree limbs fell from the sky and lay conquered at my feet. Faithful sons dodged the aerial barrage and dragged branches to the pile of the vanquished. With victory secured, I shut off, cleaned, and stored my powerful friend. While my sons toiled to catch up with my progress, I went into the house for a drink.

While I was inside— and I’m sure this never happens at your house—my boys got distracted from their work. Instead of hoisting logs, they began throwing a stuffed “Curious George” doll in the air. Apparently George got curious about a tree and stuck about 15 feet up, higher than my Chainsaw On A Stick would reach. (Yes, I did consider that.) We threw footballs at George, but he wasn’t catching. I gave up on George and went back into the house to get my iPod radio.

It really was my iPod radio. I mean, I bought and paid for it to listen to podcasts from my iPhone. Except—and I’m sure this never happens at your house—my kids “borrowed” my iPod radio, and I rarely saw it. But today, it was mine. My favorite podcasts would play triumphantly as I cut and loaded the beaten timber into the back of the truck.

When I returned outside, I found my daughter, Scout (16), had returned home from work. She bubbled with joy as she stood under George’s tree. I wondered why she was laughing so hard. Scout looked back at me, giggled, and pointed a bow and arrow at George, hoping to dislodge him as Robin Hood would. I pictured that arrow embedded in somebody or something other than George, and I lost my head. I should have seen Scout was joking, but I didn’t. My teen daughter needed cool wisdom from her father, not a “freak-out” father. She got the freak.

In frustrated disbelief, this imperfect dad stared at Scout and dropped the radio, my radio (I wanted to throw it). True (10) ran over to pick up the radio and gather the scattered parts. I told him to stop, as guilt and shame were already seeping into my irrational mind.

God Sees All in This Imperfect Dad

When I sin in Technicolor, the Lord often brings a picture to my mind, and it is never a pretty one. My son, Ever, was three years old when he “borrowed” (there we are again) the expensive family camera. As his older, wiser sister attempted to rescue the camera, Ever became enraged, throwing a tantrum and the camera at the same time. Well, Sony hadn’t tested this telescoping-lens camera for toddler-tossing. After bouncing once or twice off the hard floor, the telescoping lens stuck in the “on” position, which was funny, as the camera never actually turned “on” again.

Romans 14:19 is scrawled on an index card that sits by my bed. I read it each night, but you’d never know it by the way I behaved. “So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.”

Maybe I was tired from trimming for a couple of hours. Maybe I was right to be appalled at my daughter’s careless archery, but I was wrong to react like an angry three-year-old did with a camera.

Scout and my wife Belinda didn’t say anything to me. Later on, Story (12) told me he was “shocked” at my behavior. True told me he had a lump in his stomach. Ever (6) knew Daddy was mad. It was time to pursue something that would make for peace and build others up.

I’m sure this never happens at your house, but the Lord reminded me of something I’d conveniently forgotten. Years ago Scout and Story had broken a floor lamp that Belinda cherished. The rule around here is if you break it, you replace it, so the kids got to spend their money to buy a new lamp for Belinda.

Fun Day Turned into Lesson Day

For a couple of months, I’d been saving for a “fun day.” 50 dollars was all the fun I’d managed to sock away, but it would do. My fun money and I journeyed to Wal-Mart and bought another iPod radio. Funny how it cost right about $50. I gave the iPod radio to Scout and apologized to the family. Later on, I asked Scout what she thought about me replacing the radio. She replied, “No one is above the rules.” Bingo!

As human dads, we will mess up with our kids. We don’t want to, but we do. I am an imperfect dad, yet I serve a Perfect Father. He established the biblical principles my kids should learn, and He creates unique opportunities for them to learn them. Sometimes He even uses despicable me to teach those principles through humility and apologies; the Lord is so powerful He can work through a broken man.

The broken iPod radio now rests in my office, a reminder of my moment of foolishness and of the Lord’s grace in that moment. The radio doesn’t work quite right, and the iPod connector is loose. But if you jiggle that connection just right and support it, the radio serves just fine. Funny how that’s like the connection between the Lord and me.

If you have a moment, please send an email to ImperfectFather@Gmail.com. I’d love to hear about your favorite power tool.