For several weeks we’ve been working with our Smiling Son on a particular issue (The actual issue doesn’t matter, and I don’t want to confuse the point of this post by getting into it in detail. Last night at dinner the issue arose its ugly head. We stopped and I told the above mentioned Smiling Son that we weren’t going to eat until he obeyed.
Of course this led to whining, fussing, begging, and pleading – not to mention his reactions!
All four of us became consumed with this issue. I invited him to sit on my lap and I sought to encourage him, while explaining why this was important. The food got cold, my Darling Daughter and Wonderful Wife were amazingly helpful. But we were all hungry.
Eventually I took my now not so Smiling Son into the bedroom so his Mom and Sister could eat. He and I began to work on the issue. Unfortunately, his first reaction was to go into full-blown meltdown tantrum mode. He tore the blankets off the bed, through the pillows, and pounded on the bed. I sat on the floor hoping he wouldn’t hurt himself, and praying.
Soon, his tantrum ran out of steam and he flopped into my lap and we talked. He wasn’t actually being naughty – but he was very shaken and disturbed. He absolutely did not want to do this thing. I was shaken and disturbed by his reaction, and seeing the long-term implications of this issue, I’d decided I wasn’t going to cave. I prayed more.
I’ve long thought that there is a place for spanking, but it is rare and seldom necessary. Increasingly, I’m coming to the conclusion that I don’t want to spank my kids. I still have that tool in my box, but I’ve not used it in several years. Although, I have given a soft swat across the bottom to make my point
If last night was 50 years earlier, I certainly would have gotten a spanking and I would have obeyed. But, I don’t think it would have helped. Physical obedience is not the same as character development. My issue with my Son is his character. I need him to obey because I want him to have the tools to finish well. I want him to be a man of character and purpose, not a robot.
And so, we struggled last night. Amazingly, he stayed close to me – usually in my arms. He was frustrated, but I made it very clear that I was on his side and I wasn’t going to force him.
As we struggled, we had periods of calm and I told him stories – stories about me, stories from the Bible, and stories of success. We prayed together, we sang songs, and I held him. A couple of times we physically struggled – like Jacob and God on the banks of the Jordan River. He shed tears, I shed tears, and it was horrible and exhausting.
At one point, as I prayed for wisdom and insight, I received an epiphany. My Smiling Son was acting just like I do when God asks me to obey in certain areas. I shouldn’t ask my Son to do anything I’m not willing to do. We struggled some more. Emotionally, physically, and spiritually – we fought together.
Like Jacob fighting God, I learned something deep, but something I mostly knew. That is, God was always on Jacob’s side and Jacob’s hip was broken because God loved him so – not because of any untoward intentions. Last night, more than I’ve ever been in my life, I was on my Son’s side. I wrestled with him because my love for him was too deep to walk away.
We talked about how I helped him learn to ride his bike and how I would do anything for him. He understands this, but he was unwilling to yield. We talked about being rebellious and being willing to be changed. He wasn’t even willing to want to do this thing – he simply refused.
Finally, I lay on the bed and asked him to cuddle with me. I prayed with him and asked him to be willing to be willing. I talked to him about compromise. I talked to him about my great love for him. Then I told him how I would be willing to let us both go eat dinner (we were starving!) if he would be willing to be willing. After some thought, he agreed.
I prayed and he agreed with my prayer. Then we went to eat dinner.
The most amazing thing about this whole ordeal is that we were still close. During dinner he climbed into my lap. I wasn’t angry with him, he wasn’t angry with me. There was no shame. There was no threats or terror. Our relationship was intact – and that is something I’ve rarely witnessed. In fact, I don’t think I’ve pulled that off very well in the past. It was amazing!
I have to admit though, I was exhausted. Emotionally and spiritually, I was spent. Indeed, i am humbled by the whole event. I realize lately how actually selfish and broken I am – and how much my personal rebellion affects my relationships with God, my family, and others. I hate it, and I’m ashamed.
As I realized last night, I can’t expect my Smiling Son to do something I won’t, can’t, and don’t. I have much to learn.