Very few times in my life have I wheedled and whined the way I wheedled and whined to my dad that day. At the age of twelve, I was very full of my own recent accomplishments - another excellent report card and several end of school-year awards. At any rate, something compelled me to push my father further than I normally would have pushed.
My dad was not a big man, but I always thought he was. I suppose his troops thought so, too, for he did very well in the military. His twenty-year career, which started infamously in the 1960’s with the draft, did not end until he had become the Command Sergeant Major of the prestigious US Army’s 101st Airborne ‘Screaming Eagles.’ I was, and am, extremely proud of him.
Not long back from Vietnam, Dad was sitting at the dining room table in our modest base housing. He had been taping all of his record albums (remember albums?) onto new reel-to reel tapes (remember reel-to-reel tapes?). He was painstakingly entering each song into a large, green, hard backed ledger with an expensive fountain pen (remember those?). I flittered around him after I had presented my report card, hoping no doubt to gain a little more attention than the four siblings I considered underlings.
As I hovered, I began to ask Dad whether he had ever realized that my handwriting was excellent. Had he ever really noticed how beautifully I spelled, or how well I handled a fountain pen? Wouldn’t he like to have me make those entries in the ledger, because his writing was, well, just barely legible? Didn’t he have other, more important things to do?
At first, he glanced up and acknowledged me with a nod. Then he quietly mouthed, “No,” and concentrated on his work. Nervously, I noticed his frown deepening as he ignored my continued pleading but I just could not seem to stop. Finally, he had had enough. Right about the time I was on the fourth, “But Dad,” he slammed his new fountain pen on the table and stood up.
I doubt that he truly raised his voice, but in my heart, the sound was deafening. “Fine. You want to do this, and you think you can do this better than I can? Do it,” he spoke grimly through clinched teeth.
“But you have to show me what to do, Dad…” I cowered, realizing what an awful mistake I had made. “I don’t know your system and I might…”
“No. You said you could do it by yourself; you wouldn’t leave me alone about it. You win. Have at it. Sit down.” With that, he turned on his heels and went outside. The expression he wore was not his usual pleasant grin.
I gulped. I took a deep breath and squared my shoulders. Deftly, I swept into the offered seat and purposed to do a better job than my dad on this project. With great false bravado, I fingered the shiny instrument and completed his half-finished entry.
It was probably all of 60 seconds before the tears began to fall onto the fresh, blue ink. Seeing his bold handwriting followed by my childish flourishes was more than I could bear. What I thought would be exultant victory was instead bitterly painful shame. All I could think of was the expression on my father’s face as he had succumbed to my incessant pleas. Desperately, I searched my mind for the emotion that strong face I so admired had revealed. It was not just anger, it was not just frustration, it was disappointment.
I had disappointed my dad.
No amount of pre-teen reasoning could hide the fact that his disappointment was crushing me. As much as I tried to swallow my sobs, the tears flowed unheeded. Winning was supposed to be fun, but getting my way was giving me anything but joy! It was supposed to be wonderful to out-smart your parents. What went wrong?
The memory of my father’s disappointment in me that day is amazingly fresh 36 years later. I wish I had known then, or that my father had known to teach me, to admit my wrong and ask forgiveness from my dad so that our relationship could have been restored. He could not teach me what he had not been taught himself. We got past the event. Nevertheless, I am not sure our connection was ever the same. He died twenty years ago and we never had that conversation.
Sometimes I find my Heavenly Father at the table working on a project. I look over the situation and decide that I can handle things on my own. I wheedle and whine in my prayers much as I did at the age of 12, until the Lord becomes weary of my pleas. He says, “Yes,” when His best answer would have been, “No,” or “Wait.” He lets me have my way.
It is no surprise that it is always a shallow victory. However, there is a surprising difference in the way this Father responds to my immature demands. When He surrenders the chair, it is with a gentle hand that He hands me the pen. It is with tenderness that He looks on as I falter with the project He knew I could not do alone. Moreover, it is not frustration, but compassion, that I see in His face as He stands close by – ready to respond when I call.
My Father God has done a work in me that my human father could never do. Through Jesus Christ, he has forgiven me and reconciled me to Himself forever. Our relationship is safe, secure and eternal – resting not on who I am or what I do, but on who He is and will always be. He does not leave the room – ever.
Wow, that stung, as it was written with such emotion; I could feel your pain. It's amazing how time often does not quell certain feelings, but the Lord can quell our fear, sadness and pain...always. Blessings, Kay