It was a wintry Tuesday night. I was counseling all day and had taught for three hours in the evening. I was driving home about ten o'clock, dreaming about an hour or so of relaxation before I hit the bed. I silently hoped that for some inexplicable reason, the whole family had gone to sleep at nine o'clock. Or if they hadn't gone to bed, I hoped that they would instinctively know that I was tired and not to be disturbed.
I reasoned that I had served God faithfully that day, so surely God would agree that I had the right to punch out from life. I dreamed of an empty family room, a well-iced Diet Coke, the newspaper, and the remote control. I was totally exhausted and convinced I had the right to relax. (You can see that I was approaching the house with a selfless attitude of ministry!)
I quietly opened the door in the vain hope that I could sneak in unnoticed. The living room lights were out and the house was quiet. I was filled with hope. Maybe my dreams had come true; an evening of relaxation all to myself! But I had only put one foot in the door when I heard an angry voice. My heart sank! I wanted to act as if I hadn't heard it. It was the voice of Ethan, my teenage son.
My disappointment soon gave way to anger. I wanted to grab him and say, "Don't you know what my day has been like? Don't you know how tired I am? The last thing I need right now is to deal with your problems. You're going to have to solve this one yourself. I wish for once you'd think of somebody besides yourself. I do and do for you and this is the thanks I get. You can't leave me alone one night?"
All these thoughts raged within me, but I didn't say a word. I listened to Ethan as he poured out his complaint. He was angry as he'd ever been at his older brother. He was cursing the fact that he had an older brother who seemed to do nothing but "trash his life." It was after ten. The issue that started the thing was petty. I was tempted to tell him to get a grip and deal with it, but another agenda gripped me. Here was one of those unexpected moments of opportunity, one of those mundane moments ordained by a loving and sovereign God where the heart of my teenager was being exposed.
This was more than an Ethan and Dad moment. This was a God moment, a dynamic moment of redemption where God was continuing the work of rescue he had begun years ago in my son. The only question in the moment was whether I would pursue God's agenda or my own. Would I believe the Gospel in that moment, trusting God to give me what I needed so that I could do what he was calling me to do in the life of my son?
I asked Ethan to sit down at the dining room table and tell me what was going on. He was hurt and angry. His heart was on the table. We talked through his anger and he became ready to listen. A petty argument with his brother opened the door to discussing things that were far from petty. God gave me strength and patience. He filled my mouth with the right things to say. Ethan saw himself in new ways that night and confessed to things that he had never before recognized.
It was approaching midnight when I said goodnight to Ethan. We hugged and went to bed. What first appeared to be an irritating moment over an obviously petty issue had in fact been a wonderful opportunity of ministry, ordained by a God of love. It became very clear that God wasn't only working to change Ethan; he was working to change me as well.
The selfishness of my heart had been revealed that evening, the same selfishness that causes parents to lash out in anger at the very children who need them. My need of Christ, too, had been exposed. There was no way I could function as his instrument without his strength.
I chose to write about this moment because it was one of those unremarkable moments that not only happen daily, but many times a day. Each of these moments is loaded with opportunity, and they must be seen as something more than hassles that get in the way of an otherwise enjoyable life.
These are the moments God made parents for. You are God's agents on the watch. You have been given an incredibly high calling. You are God's instrument of help and preparation as your children mature out of the home and into God's world. These moments make your life worthwhile. Here you will make a contribution that is worth infinitely more than any career or financial accomplishment.