There is a television commercial I see now and then where everywhere a man goes is a message, whether on the side of a bus or on a scrolling electronic sign, that tells him exactly what he should do. There are times when I wish I could flip a switch and have that happen, the specific answer to the challenge I am facing blinking in front of me. At the least I wish there was a light that flashed YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG or YEP, YOU HAVE IT RIGHT.
We all know none of that exists.
Some might say that God does work that way. The God I know does not. I think there are times God does provide a specific answer, but I think He knows it is best for me that I simply listen and learn on my own, using the guidance already there for me.. along with a bit of prayer. I think it’s foolish when someone mocks God for not responding the way they think God should respond, the whole big voice from the clouds thing (a reason I will shut off one of the funniest shows on television, The Simpsons). When someone mocks God for not being who they think He should be or respond in the way they want Him to respond, it smacks of immaturity, a child wanting to show up their father, not mature enough to understand his reasons or ways or that what he is doing is best for them, maybe even trying to teach them.
I understand that. I am the father of teenagers. Even more so, I am the father of a very strong willed 13 (almost 14) year old boy. He is a boy who doesn’t want to accept discipline, who has invented in his mind a cruel father who is/has committed a multitude of sins, who withholds all things good from him. My son expresses a lot of very cruel insults to me, threatens me both verbally and physically. His immaturity is so crystal clear to me, clear in a painful sort of way. He hurts me, attempts to crush me, daily.
I understand a little more how God feels when I and we try to take him down. If you knew me, you would know that physically I am a very powerful man. Strong. When my son challenges me in the ways that he does, I could very easily hurt him back, both physically and emotionally. I don’t retaliate. I even try not to yell. It even amazes me, because not all that long ago my anger would have gotten the best of me. Somehow, to this point, I have been able to keep a reasonable calm with him. I know that he has problems that go a bit beyond maturity, but I also know that a lot of his reactions are due to being a teen, that confusing cloud of this period of his life refusing to let him see me clearly. He wants what he wants and is angry that I don’t seem to be doing it for him. I know that some day he will look back on this time of his life and see all the good his father brought to him even when he does not deserve it.
I also appreciate God’s ability to act like He has a short memory. That is so, so, so difficult.
My birthday on Saturday was a good day, but it ended on a rough note. Mir and I went out to a movie, a rare treat for us, while Alyssa took Nate with her to church youth group. The boys in the group invited him over for basketball afterwards. At 9:30, he walked through the front door, told me he had a good time (from the hall) when I asked, then went right out the garage door, jumped on his bike and went to visit his friends a block over. When Mir went out and brought him home, we had a very unpleasant time with him, one where I had to take things away from him and retreat as he punched me, threatened me. I spent the night on the couch just to stay away from his general area. I didn’t sleep.
Yesterday the drama continued and he went after me again, this time knocking the glasses from my face and punching me repeatedly in the chest. I wanted so much to teach him a lesson, punch him back. Instead I got up, distanced myself, told him what the consequences of his actions were going to be. He was angry, so much that Mir took him away from the house in our van. Even then he jumped out of the car to come after me. I hadn’t yelled at him, had not given him reason to be angry with me. I was prepared to give him back the things I had taken away the night before, gave him the conditions that the privilege of returning those items would bring, but he needed to agree to those conditions first. Instead, he chose to be angry and abusive.
So I left. I packed up my tent, my mountain bike and a few things, wrote a note explaining that I was leaving for the night in the hope that Nate would have a chance to calm down, left money for Miriam to buy food. I distanced myself because I needed to, not because it was the best choice.
I wonder if God does that? I don’t think He does.