The problem is me. The problem is (bitter chuckle) ME.
Only moments before, the problem was my son, or so I thought. Neck muscles taut, veins bulging, I yelled re-iterated forcefully something I had told him over and over, and something he had ignored as many times.
And then it hit me: This is my fault.
How? I am the parent. He is the child. He is intelligent and we both know this. He also understands English. He is ignoring me because he wants to, not because he doesn’t understand. And I, the parent, am not doing anything about it.
This is not his fault. (Wow.)
So, why am I yelling? And why am I repeating myself?
- Because I have a sin nature that rises up out of the deep like Leviathan, but that’s a story I haven’t told you yet, and today is not for facing that monster.
- Because I am a lazy parent and I don’t want to spend the time it takes to do this right.
- Because I have made an idol of my son and I don’t want him to be mad at me.
- And yes, because I love him and want to give him good things, but if I love him, I will do what’s best for him, not everything he wants.
My son can’t do anything about any of this. These are my issues, not his.
During the faceoff, Son put up his hands and said, “I’m sorry, Mom. I’m sorry.” And I kept getting louder and louder, repeating what he already knew. (Exactly.)
Now, standing pierced by realization, I fix it. I erect the fence that should have been put up long ago, but I was too lazy to do the work. Son doesn’t like me in these nano-moments. And suddenly, I feel wonderful.
I feel wonderful because there is rest in taking responsibility for your own end of things and getting down and real and dirty and refusing to blame others for your junk. There is rest in knowing the honest truth (however painful) instead of clinging to what you wish. And there is rest for me right now, in this.
I’m sorry, Father. I’m sorry.
Next, we walk to the car, Son and I, and (washed clean, like the rain) I accept Son’s anger as natural, and realize it is his end of things, and not mine. I let it go. He’s God’s child, too. I know the Holy Spirit will show him and lead him in time. That’s called trust—something I’m not good at. But in that moment, God helps me. (Oh, thank You.)
We drive to the country, to piano lessons. Son scowls out the window, but I still breathe relief, like the deep sigh after sobs are done. Silent, I pray it out, lifting with each word…joy returned, muscles easy. Snowy cattle egrets jog a few steps and rise slowly (flap, flap, flap), one above the other in staggered formation, as we crunch-roll down the road. I honk the cows away. Summer’s breath pushes the grasses around, and the little pond glitters, sun-flecked. The radio sings:
“So take me as you find me…all my fears and failures…fill my life again.”
God is bigger than I am, bigger than this, bigger than so much more.
“I give my life to follow…everything I believe in…”
He’s mighty enough to save marries and heal surgeries. I can leave all of this with Him and walk away, because it’s going to be okay.
“Now I surrender…”
The cows amble off as I inch forward, throwing disgusted glances over their shoulders, gnawing as they go, taking their time. Son still stares away, in speechless camaraderie with the cows. But it really, really will be okay. I know it, and I belt it out with the next song:
“How can I keep from singing your praise? How can I ever say enough? How amazing is your love? How can I keep from shouting your name? I know I am loved by the King, and it makes my heart want to sing.”
My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed: I will sing and give praise.
Psalm 57:7, KJV