Thursday, April 27, 2017

Like Father, Like Son Vol. I

How much do you trust God? I mean really?

Not theoretically; practically. And I'm not talking about just believing in Him - I mean true dependence. It took an interaction with my son to show me that I didn't trust the Lord as much as I thought I did and that He's still working on me, in that regard.
I had just returned from picking up my two kids from school when my 5 year old son seemed especially moody. He didn't want to listen in the car. It was an ordeal to get him to stay seated and he cried and screamed most of the way home. When we finally arrived at home, he had the freedom to take his frustration to the next level. I don't remember what he did-it was something trivial, but he ended up being in trouble. While I do not recall the catalyst to his discipline, I certainly recall his reaction. He was both irate and slowly becoming belligerent in a way only a 5 year old can; finding new ways to show his discontent while storming around the living room. No toy was safe and no individual left unscathed from his deliberate, tiny person wrath.

This was an over reaction of a brief verbal chastisement. Obviously, something else was wrong. I reached out and asked what was going on. My 5 year old then begins to say this one line that knocked the proverbial wind out of me.

"Daddy, sometimes, deep in my heart, I feel like you guys want to kick me out. I don't feel like I'm a good son".

I was literally dumbfounded.

Internally, I began to process. Where did this come from? How could he think this?!? How is this kid only 5 years old? I knew he doesn't understand the magnitude of what he was saying, but I couldn't just ignore this; this thing that obviously ran deep.

I inquired further. "What do you mean 'kick you out?' Like, out of the house", I asked perplexed. "No. Out of the family".

This made my heart ache.

Every. Single. Day.- I shower my children with love and adoration - not the "narcissistic, you're so great" but the sustenance building variety that should take root and prepare them for a world that would tell them otherwise. I tell them how proud I am of them because of who they are- my children, not contingent on performance.

Every. Single. Day.- I'm active in their lives and ask them to share their thoughts and opinions on just about everything. They are taught that it is normal to make mistakes and they have the freedom to be children and child-like. I make sure that they are aware that no object, career or material possession is more important to me than them.

Every. Single. Day.

And yet - here we were, at an impasse.

He wasn't in a mood to talk and he was still visibly upset. So, I gave him space as I also had to leave the house for an appointment. As I began to pull out of the garage, I saw the door of the house crack open. It's my son peering through the door with eyes far less consumed by rage and more filled with sorrow. I stopped so we could talk.

He ran off a laundry list of apologies and I apologized for loosing my cool and raising my voice. After the mutual atonement session, I began to share with him that there are two crucial tenants that will determine the depth and breath of our relationship:

1.) He has to know that I'm a good dad and I want the best for him. I would not intentionally guide him in the wrong direction.

2.) I'm going to love him, no matter what- That's not negotiable. It's not contingent on what you do or don't do. It's literally because you are mine and I choose to love you. No other lessons will sink in; nothing else will matter unless he understands this with his whole being.

And that's when it hit me.

In that brief, singular moment, I realized the gravity of the conversation Nathan and I were having. Two things were painstakingly clear: The first was that my son, while hearing all of my words of affirmation and support, believed that I loved him in his head but not in his heart. Secondly, and more worrisome, was that I stood in the identical position as my son in relationship with my heavenly Father. I believed Him but I didn't fully trust Him- believe me, there is a difference. That shook me to my core.

Had the essence of my son's unbelief somehow come from me? The conclusive, decisive answer was a resounding yes.

I realized, in that moment, that God was ministering to me and healing a wound I was completely unaware of; a wound that was beginning to fester. In that exact moment, Nathan and I swapped places, as I looked up at my Father and uttered similar words - "Deep down in my heart, I feel that you should kick me out. I deserve it". The truth was, at times I struggled with fully understanding, and accepting, the love Christ has for me - not others, but me. I know the Word; I know the person of Jesus and the sacrifice He made to reconcile us, once and for all, to the Father. But honestly, there was a place, deep down that rejected the fullness of His love and hindered its ability to permeate through all of me. There were parts of me, hiding behind fear and shame, that I thought I gave to Jesus long ago. Through the spiritual authority I have over my household, my insecurities became my son's insecurities; my sin became his sin. These roots of unbelief ran deep.

As much as God has told me of His love, I struggled to accept it. He knows all of me and still loves me? There were times when I failed to be obedient; willfully defying His commands out of doubt - doubt masquerading as a lack of confirmation or a desire to get it perfectly right. I began to wallow in places where I missed the mark and implemented a deformed spiritual practice of emotional self flagellation; denying the grace of Christ. The wounds ran deep. I now saw a similar practice in my son. I've had my own tantrums with God - mostly out of fear. I was afraid to get it wrong; that fear gave way to doubt, which ultimately led to slivers of unbelief.

I had to let go of my fear; because that was truly the root. Fear I wasn't good enough. Fear I couldn't provide for my family. Fear that I would mess up again and that I would make Him, indirectly, look bad. I needed to allow my entire self to be bathed in His love - from head to toe.

1 John 4:18 (ESV)

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

Just like me, my son felt that correction was a sign of his disapproval. He was allowing the wrong metrics to gauge his worth; he couldn't fathom the possibility that he was already and forever loved.

He is my son. Period.

And now - there I was; at an impasse with myself.

It was time to let go of my fear and unbelief.

I had to ask God for forgiveness.

Somewhere along the way, I believed that a part of me was not worthy of love. That I had fallen short and a semi-separated state from God was a just sentence for my guilt. I was still bound by Legalism. The belief that I was an unfit son, undeserving of love, were all lies. In rejecting the truth of Grace, I denied the power of the Cross and the death of Christ as full payment for ALL my transgressions. I had to repent of unbelief- not just mine, but any in my lineage that may have lingered. Anything that may have made it's way to my 5 year old little man. I had to repent - turn away - from the lies and curses I took upon myself and I laid them at the feet of Jesus. He gladly took them and began healing
me through His lavish love.

Consequently, I've decided to let the Holy Spirit search me in places where darkness tries to hide. I've decided to recite His verses on love as I rise in the morning and before I lay my head down at night. I've decided that I will love my son through his doubts and stints of unbelief. I've decided to be completely honest in my prayers and tell my Father what I'm feeling, since he has given me the assurance that His Love and open arms will never turn me away. I've decided to show my son the rich love my Father has shown me. And as I accept the entirety of God's love, my prayer is that my son will receive the overflow of my abundance of trust in the Lord.

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