Warning: I’m about to tell you a story that is going to make you think less of me. My apologies in advance.
The year was 1997. I was a junior in college, home for the holidays. I had plans to attend a conference that was three hours away and I would be riding with a friend—a male friend.
Plans went awry when an ice storm struck. As my dad and I watched the weather channel together, he said, “Jennifer, I’m sorry. I just can’t let you ride with a teenaged boy in these conditions. You’re going to have to miss out this time.”
I’m sorry. Miss out? What?
I wish I could tell you I humbly submitted to my father’s wisdom, but submit I did not. There was arguing. There was weeping and gnashing of teeth. There was a surge in drama beyond my usual threshold of drama. How dare he! Doesn’t he love me?!
Now, I haven’t been in this exact parenting scenario (yet), but I’m just imagining that I would have none. of. it. I think my response would be along the lines of, “Not only are you not going, but you’re grounded for your sorry attitude, Miss Thing” (spoken with much head weaving and finger wagging).
My dad’s response? He decided to drive me himself.
You would think his graciousness would have broken me. You would think I would have leapt into his arms with a declaration of, “Thank you, thank you, thank you! I’m so sorry I was such a brat. I don’t deserve your kindness.”
I don’t know how to prepare you for what I’m about to tell you, so I’m just going to say it.
I didn’t speak to him the entire trip. For the entire six hours, not three—remember the winter storm?—I stared out the window, punishing him with my silence. He’s so overprotective. I can’t believe he didn’t let me ride with my friend. I’ll show him…
My glare was icier than the roads.
When we finally got there, he took me to a restaurant so I could have a hot meal, his treat. I continued my stony silence. When he dropped me off at the hotel, I took my bags from him—the bags he had just gotten out of the car for me—and I stormed off without a thank you. Without even looking back.
I’ve lost every ounce of your respect, haven’t I? I get it. I deserve all the ugly thoughts you’re having about me right now. Let’s just take a moment for everyone to regroup.
Ten years later—ten!—the Lord brought this story to mind, and I grieved. I wrote him a letter: “Dad, I’m so, so sorry! I can’t believe I treated you so horribly on that trip! Please forgive me.” And he did.
I wonder…what if he had used that car ride as an opportunity to lecture me? To let me have it and call out my ungratefulness, my disrespect, my horrendous attitude? He would have been right. And I would have felt even more justified in my anger. I would have shut down even more than I already had. Instead, my dad gave me grace. He showed kindness, and that kindness led me to repentance many, many years later.
Could I ever be that patient? Evidence would point to no, as I’ve been extra tempted lately to hurry my kids’ sanctification along. I’ve been feeling the pressure of an imaginary hour glass that holds the fragile years of their childhood—a cruel funnel that’s draining away the time I have left to “fix” them before they’re launched into adulthood.
That tone! Gotta get on that.
Work ethic – need to tighten up to get that happening.
Oh dear. This one doesn’t seem to want to submit to God’s plan. What if they walk away from the faith?? I’ll prepare my best speech on why God’s way is best and then pump this child full of theology. That should do the trick.
Tick. Tick. Tick. Time’s running out. Must make holiness happen. NOW.
Maybe you’re guilty of trying to expedite your child’s sanctification too?
As much as you and I would like to speed up the process, it’s probably going to take longer than we’d like—maybe a little bit longer, maybe a lot. Maybe your child’s heart will soften ten years from now, after being in the trenches with mud on his face. Maybe it will be after the weight of life bends her low. Maybe it’s then that she’ll cry out, “Where else would I go? Only You have the words of life.” Maybe it will come after his conversation with someone you’ve never even met, who says the very thing you’ve been saying for ages, and it finally clicks.
Maybe they’ll never be “fixed” at all, and you’ll realize that fixing them was never the point. Maybe the heart change will be yours as you see that the point is learning how to lean in to a Savior who continues to love you and your child through the muck.
Change could come quickly…it could. Or it could take ten years. Or 50. You may not get to see the fruit you long to see in your child’s life before you cross to glory. But God is at work, and He is faithful. Smash that hour glass, because love? Love is patient. And the Lord is the one who makes things grow.