We stared at each other, stone faced, both waiting for the other to make the first move as the pressure builds between us. We are standing in that awkward place of not knowing how we arrived at this tense situation and both hoping there is a graceful way out. Stubbornness has entered the room, and he whispers in both our ears.
My 14-year-old son had just told me “no”.
My son inherited sarcasm from his mother. She has said that many times. Unfortunately, if the light is right, he inherited my looks. He’s glad not to have inherited my hairline. He has said that many times. So I am used to his wit, which I don’t always get, but tolerate and sometimes think is funny. He will probably grow into it.
Standing in the kitchen, the scene took place as it might in any household. We had just finished a dinner I prepared, and I told him he was doing the dishes tonight. He told me “no”. He may have been trying out some of his sarcasm on me. I wanted to believe that, but it felt different and silence fell on the room like a heavy weight. We stared. Maybe this was about to be one of those “I think I can take the old man” moments. He can’t. I didn’t want it to be. I just wanted him to say, “Sure, Dad! Thanks for dinner!” I think that happens in fairy tales.
Standing there, he cannot even imagine how much I love him. He does not know the countless hours of concern I have felt for his welfare. He cannot know my thoughts for his future, or the things I do for him of which he may be forever unaware. He has no way of knowing the battles he will and must face as a man. But I know and grieve for the pain he will experience. Some of that pain will come from me. I cannot keep him from it, but I do what I can to prepare him for the fight. Sometimes I don’t do what I should. I want good things for him and will do what I am able as his father to help. I would sacrifice my life for him to live, and in some ways I do – even as I live.
I had no wise words to diffuse the situation. Often words fail me when I need them most. I smiled a tight smile that might have broken my face and left the room. I heard dishes rattling in the sink shortly after. But I felt……….bad inside. Like an evil shadow had passed over my house, the dragon searching for a way in. I feel no fear, because I know how to fight him. But my son is not ready, and that weighs on me. I went into my room and met with my Father. He has a lot of experience turning hot-blooded young men into wise warriors, and I was feeling inadequate as a father. I prayed, “Please, Daddy, do not let my son escape You. I cannot be to him everything he needs. Please chase him down like you did me, and help me to show You to him.”
And in the quiet reassuring Voice I have come to know so well, He said, “Trust Me.”.
And I do. With the peace and confidence I’ve only experienced through the Life and Truth which flows in my heart, I found my son in the kitchen, put my arms around him, and told him how much I love him. Just like my Father does for me. Even if my teenage son doesn’t show it, I can see in his eyes that I’ve passed some of my strength to him. He stands straighter. I leave him to finish the dishes.