I knew the instant that I saw the car that my plans were not going to work. My plan was to have my parents drop me off at the movies. I would wait until I was sure that they were gone, and then my friends and I would head off for a couple of hours of fun. We might drive around, make some new friends, and maybe even grab some ice cream. We would be back in plenty enough time for my parents to pick me up. I even studied the movie reviews so I could talk intelligently about the movie. It was the perfect plan.
The car, a cherry red dodge, was not my friend’s car. The driver of the car was not my friend. In fact, I didn’t even know the driver. My friend was sitting in the back seat. She had a “I know this wasn’t the plan, but please get in the car” look on her face. Now what?
It seemed like I stood outside the car for a month. I wasn’t sure if I should get in, but didn’t see how I could back out now. If I didn’t get in, I may miss out on a ton of fun. I would be leaving my buddy hanging. I may even look like a coward to everyone else. It seemed like a week ago that my parents had dropped me off. My plan was a distant memory.
I decided to get into the car. My face wore a smile, but inside I was afraid. My heart was beating a thousand miles a minute. I had no clue where we were going. I had no clue what the plan was. Worse yet, I wasn’t even sure if I would be back in enough time to meet my parents. What have I done?
We cruised around to a couple of places. I’m not sure what, where, or why. I cannot even remember the names of the places. The driver of the car drove like she was running from the police. It was fast, and I wanted so badly to scream out “STOP THE CAR,” but I couldn’t. I couldn’t.
We arrived back at the theater. The first thing I did was scan the parking lot to see if my parent’s car was there. We had made it back in time! I was happy, but happier about the fact that I was out of the car, and back at the theater. I didn’t realize it, but I had sweated through my clothes. My forehead was drenched with sweat, and my skin felt cold. I walked into the theater and headed into the rest room. Once inside, all I wanted to do was cry. I wanted to go home and lie in my bed and forget that the last 2 hours had ever happened. I looked at myself in the mirror, and I didn’t like what I saw.
Out of the bathroom, I almost instantly came face to face with my parents. They did not ask me about the movie. They looked at me and asked: “what’s wrong?” could they have known? Did they stick around at the theater long enough to see me leave? Did they see me in the car at one of our stops? Did they know?
I decided to call their bluff. I managed to work up enough strength to respond. “Why do you ask?” my mother grabbed my hand. “Your face is flush. You are sweating. Your voice sounds like you just ran a marathon. If something is wrong, please tell me.”
There was a very long and uncomfortable pause in our conversation. I wanted so badly to hug my parents and tell them the whole story. I wanted them to give me a hug and tell me that it was okay. I wanted them to tell me that they loved me in spite of my bad judgment. I wanted to be their kid.
But I couldn’t. I knew, no matter how much they loved me, that I had broken their trust. I knew that they would think twice about allowing me this much freedom. I messed up really bad, but did not want to pay for it. I stuck with my answer. “No, I am fine. I’m just a little tired. On the ride home, I thought about all of the things that could have gone wrong. We could have had an accident. We could have gotten into a fight or gone someplace and found trouble. Or even have been a “wrong place; wrong time” innocent victim of a crime. I began to feel worse.
When I finally made it to my bedroom, I broke down and cried. I buried my face in my pillow to muffle the sounds. I thought for a minute about a Sunday school lesson from a year ago. The lesson talked about the need to honor my parents. It promised that honoring them would lead to long days; a long life.
I know that today I didn’t honor my parents. I know that what I did was wrong. I had planned to deceive my parents. I had found myself into a situation where I had no control. I had lied to my parents about the whole thing. I had gotten away with it, but somehow it felt worse than any punishment that I had ever received. I could not shake the “what if’s.” I could not help but think of how wrong this all could have gone.
The choices I made were bad ones. It would have been really easy for this story to have had a sad ending. I could have ended up in the newspaper, or worse. Sometimes, what we want to do is not what is best for us. Sometimes, it’s best to do what you say you will. My story is repeated everyday in the lives of a young person somewhere. Some of these stories end with a car accident, or a missing person, or worse.
It’s my choice
From the eyes of a parent
At some point, you have to trust. You have to pray and trust, pray and discern, and then pray some more. It’s all you can do.
When my kid approached me about the movie outing, I was full of emotion. I know kids have to grow up, but you always wonder if they’re ready, what they’re ready for, and what they’ll need to be ready for. Still in all, I supported the plan, with a review of the rules. I need to trust that you’ll do what you say you’re going to do. I need you to be where you said you’re going to be. I need to know that this will begin and end as it is supposed to. That’s not too much to ask.
I think, like any parent, certain thoughts creep into your mind. You think about the coupon papers you get in the mail, with an endless list of missing children. You think about child prostitution rings, and date rape drugs. These days, you even have to think about sex offender registries and your next door neighbor. It’s has nothing to do with my kid, only to do with the prevailing element around them.
Still in all, I choke down all of my fears, and agree to drop off my kid at the movies. As I leave, I am passed by a very nice looking car, with a kid that looks suspiciously like my kids’ best friend in the back seat of the car. The driver of the car, however, is not a parent. Should I worry?
I move past my fears, and head out to run some errands and enjoy another God given day. In my travels, I see the same car stopped at a traffic light. I pull up alongside of the car, and see the same young ladies, only the car has one more passenger; my kid. Should I worry?
I turn my head, in an effort not to be seen. I don’t want my kid to believe I don’t trust him, but I am a bit troubled by what I’m seeing. The light changes, and I turn and head in another direction.
I pull over at the nearest store, shut off the car engine, and just sit. I almost wish I hadn’t seen that car, so I would not have to deal with it. I know that my discussion with my kid will ultimately lead to an argument about trust. I am at a loss for words, so I sit in the car and pray:
Father, I ask for your help. I know I have to deal with this, but I don’t know how. I want to love and protect my kid, but want to be a good father, just like you’ve been a good father to me. I know I need to punish my child in some way, but I don’t want to ruin or tear down our lines of communication. Help me, I pray..Amen
I am reminded of the times when I was up late a night, thinking about something I had done wrong. It was the spirit, convicting me of wrong doing. It would not stop until I addressed the issue, either by asking God for forgiveness, or by apologizing to someone. It was then that I decided that I must say something to my kid. I would not be a good father if I didn’t say something. It was that simple.
I arrived back at the movie theater, just in time to see the red car driving away. I went inside, and came face to face with my “angel.” I instantly knew, by the look on her face, that the trip wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.
Seeing my kids face on the brink of crying a river, I began to have second thoughts about the conversation, about the punishment, about the impact on my trust for her. I was reminded of the times that God “hugged my pain away,” and thought that love may be more appropriate than a lecture. I saw in her face a lesson learned, but wasn’t sure if it was enough.
I thought about David in the Bible, and the trouble he had gotten himself into with Bathsheba. Even went he fell on his face and begged God for forgiveness, (Psalms 51) he still had to suffer the consequences of his actions. My decision was not about how I felt, but more-so about the correct thing to do. I imagined that God felt/feels the same pain when he chastises His children. He still does it; but he does it in love. My conversation has to be saturated with the same messages of critique, of scorn, and of love.
Once in the car and now pointed towards home, I knew it was time to have the conversation. I prayed for words, and began……
We have the ability to give our children the gifts of experience and perspective. We have a responsibility to train them up; a responsibility to chastise those we love.
There is no celebration in heaven when God has to chastise His child. It is a necessary duty! While the pain of a “bad experience” may help to cement a message; they are not enough b themselves. We are called by God to raise His children. It is not always going to be a trip to Disney World.
1. Pray about
2. Share a story from our past
3. Demand honesty
6. Move on
Our children will need every bit of honesty that we can muster.