My teenage son sat at dinner and told me he’d walked to the bus that morning in the slush and rain, soaking his shoes right through. He felt just mediocre about how his classes had gone and then said,
“Coach was yelling at me a lot during practice.”
“What about?” I asked.
“Keeping my back straighter.”
My son is a novice rower, and learning the correct technique is what this year is all about.
“Was he disparaging or encouraging?”
“Mmm. Encouraging,” he admitted.
“He wants you to get better?”
My son nodded.
“And did he single you out, or was he yelling at others too?”
“He was yelling at others too.”
“Right. I see. You know, I heard on the radio today that the average American has 60 bad days a year. That’s slightly more than 1 per week.”
My son looked up from his plate and gave me a begrudging grin.
I left it at that.
Sometimes we need to hear a few well-placed questions and a relevant tidbit to help us turn our perspective slightly, from a jaded to a more positive point of view.
The same is true in the spiritual life. If I consider all my trials as personal attacks, I will become disheartened.
But if I recognize that in my human condition I am not alone in my suffering, I can take a step toward seeing things more clearly.
There is Someone Who is willing to carry my burdens for me and give me His strength in return for my trust in Him. I can draw new strength from Him to carry on, and someday He will show me the reasons for my trials.
Cast your care upon the Lord, Who will give you support. God will never allow The righteous one to stumble. (Psalm 55:23)
I was prepared to make my case to him, but he surprised me completely when he said,
“It goes against everything I know is right.”
Even if I could, I would never go back to his tender age – fourteen – to face the challenges of adolescence once more.
He’d been issued an invitation to see a movie with friends, and before I talked to him about it I’d watched the trailer online. The premise alone suggested the film would have few redeeming qualities: colleagues trapped in a skyscraper are challenged to a game of kill or be killed by an unknown voice blasted over the company’s intercom system. Call me ‘chicken,’ but the plot, music, and outtakes told me all I needed to know: there’s no way I’d want to watch this movie, and knowing my son, it wasn’t going to be good for him either.
If you’re a parent you know this hard truth: We cannot perpetually shield our children from a world bent on destroying their innocence and the values with which they were raised. But we try.
Lately, my relationship with my son has consisted of more challenging moments than warm fuzzy ones. We irritate one another. I remind him to do tasks I feel are essential (study for that test, be clear in your plans with friends, limit your XBox time, etc.), while he pushes back (I’m ready for the test, my friends know what’s up, and your limits are unreasonable.) It’s standard teenage fare. But I don’t like feeling like a mini dictator, and he chafes under restrictions which simultaneously curb his freedom and protect him.
Day after day, we do the dance, and I must say, he is a responsible, well-mannered, and thoughtful kid -most of the time. But then I wonder – when faced with a tough decision, what will he do?
The movie was a simple case – I wasn’t going to allow him to see it and I figured there would be alternative plans made in the event he couldn’t go. But before I let him know that, I wanted to hear his thoughts. Opportunities like this one are rarer than I’d wish.
I approached him as he played a video game and told him to pause it – that we needed to talk. Then I told him the facts without offering an opinion: the invitation was to see “The Belko Experiment.” Did he know this movie?
He let out a big sigh and gave me that shocking answer.
“It goes against everything I know is right.”
The coldblooded murder and gore for gore’s sake, the deceit, the lack of heroism (as far as we understood) – it was all troubling. We talked about this and I understood what he was seeing. There seemed to be no fight between good and evil – and not one where you know in advance that good will triumph. We stand firm in the knowledge of the Promise: that the war between good and evil has already been fought, and good has won – for all eternity. It’s imperative to remind ourselves and others of this when the world’s real-life events already cause enough doubt, dismay, and despair.
Where did this child of mine come from?
I wish there were some way to ensure that he would never go astray, that he’d always reach such lofty reasoned conclusions, borne of efforts (both his and mine) to adhere to a higher moral code. But there are no guarantees.
The only thing I can say is this: I have prayed for this child, and I will keep on praying for him, and no power on earth can touch the One to whom I entrust my son entirely. I am confident that my appeals are heard, and that the Lord who has gifted my son with life and begun a good work in his soul, will carry it on to completion in life eternal with Himself.