It was a wintry Tuesday night. I had counseled clients all day and then taught a seminar for three hours in the evening. Needless to say, I was exhausted - physically, mentally and spiritually.
As I drove home around 10pm, my heart focused on one thing: relaxation. After all, wasn't I entitled to it? I reasoned with myself that I had served God and served people faithfully all day, so surely the Lord would agree that I had the right to clock out from life!
I began to envision, with delusion, the perfect end to an exhausting day: for some inexplicable reason, my whole family would have gone to bed at nine o'clock. The house would be silent, the family room empty, and the television unclaimed. I would pour myself an ice-cold glass of Diet Coke and decompress from the high and holy burden God had called me to as a counselor and theology professor.
(If you haven't picked up on it yet, I was approaching my home with a selfish and entitled attitude!)
Someone Is Awake
It didn't take long for my delusion to be exposed. I quietly opened the door, and for a moment, my heart had hope - the lights were off! But I had only put one foot across the threshold when I heard an angry voice. It was Ethan, my teenage son.
I'll admit it, because we've all been there as parents: my heart sank. I wanted to pretend as if I didn't hear him. Or, I wanted to leave the house and close the door behind me and sleep in the car. I didn't want any part of what my calling was that night as a father.
I couldn't run away, but while I was there in physical presence, I struggled to be spiritually involved. I wanted to say to Ethan, "Don't you know what my day has been like? Don't you know how tired I am after serving God all day? The last thing I need right now is to deal with your teenage issues. Just leave me alone."
All these thoughts raged in my heart, but I didn't say a word. I just listened as Ethan poured out his "teenage issues" to me.
It turned out that Ethan was angry with his older brother. He was cursing the fact that God had made him the second oldest boy, because the eldest son seemed to do nothing but "trash his life."
The issue that started the brotherly argument was petty, and I was tempted to tell him to just deal with it. After all, didn't he know about all the "bigger issues" I had to deal with that day in counseling? But in that moment, something else gripped my spirit: this was an unremarkable conversation, loaded with divine opportunity. It was a mundane moment of parenting, one that happens multiple times each day, but ordained by a loving and sovereign God where the heart of my teenage boy was being exposed.
This was more than another unremarkable Ethan and Dad conversation. This was a God conversation, a dynamic and unique conversation of redemption where God was continuing the work of rescue he had begun years ago in my son. The only question in this unremarkable 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 need so that I could do what he was calling me to do in the life of my son? Or would I believe the lies of the kingdom of self, accepting that I was exhausted and entitled to check out from my parenting duties for the night and make my life all about me?
I asked Ethan to sit down at the dining room table and tell me what was going on. He was hurt and angry; he put his heart on display, unknowingly. 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's grace 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, and while my body was depleted, my soul was actually energized! Why? Because what first appeared to be an unremarkable and irritating conversation over a petty brotherly dispute had in fact been a wonderful opportunity of ministry, ordained by a God of love.
Your Parental Calling
I chose to write about this moment because it was one of those unremarkable conversations that not only happen daily, but many times a day. Each of these conversations is loaded with opportunity, and they must be seen as something more than hassles that get in the way of your otherwise enjoyable life.
These are the conversations God designed parents for. You are God's agents on the watch. You have been given an incredibly high calling, much more important than the work you do in your 9am-5pm job, or your 8am-10pm job! You are God's instrument of help and preparation as your children mature out of the home and into God's world.
These 10,000 unremarkable conversations make your life worthwhile. Here you will make a contribution that's worth infinitely more than any career or financial accomplishment.
And God will give you everything you need for each of those conversations.