He sat across the table from me at the local luncheonette. It was a time for just the two of us, a lunch for my second-born son and me.
He was barely nine months old when he first crossed his arms, stuck out his bottom lip, and drew a defiant line in the dirt. I knew instinctively that teaching him to honor his father and mother would be at the heart of many of our confrontations. Sometimes I wanted to declare, “This house just ain’t big enough for the both of us, Partner.” And there were many times that we engaged in a face-off, each daring the other to make the first move. Yet, even I was startled when my five-year-old son gave voice to match his obstinate body language.
It was high noon. Peering up at me from behind his turkey and cheese sandwich, he made the challenge, “You know, Mom, I know I can do anything I want to do and no one can stop me.” I mentally stepped a few paces back and resisted the urge to fire back with my “Oh no you can’t just do anything you want to” pistol. I was tired of that argument anyhow. It never seemed to work and as I sat pondering my next move, I had a Holy Spirit moment–the kind where words start flowing out of your mouth and you recognize they came from a power much wiser than yourself.
“You know Ben, you’re right,” I hesitantly agreed. “You can do anything you want to do and even I can’t stop you.” But my next words came like bullets in rapid fire, only pausing enough to cock the trigger and take my next shot. “You can steal a piece of candy from the store, but I’ll make you return it. You can say something nasty to your little brother, and I’ll make you sit on time-out until you’re ready to apologize. You can…” The list of bad choices and consequences continued until I nearly ran out of ammunition. I took one final shot. “Ben, you can do all of those things, but there is one thing that you have no control over and that’s my love for you. I lowered my pistol into my holster. My opponent sat speechless. He had met his match.
The showdown ended. Oh there would be many more to come, with a strong-willed child that is one thing that is for certain. But the Holy Spirit would continue to be there to give me the words of wisdom and in the end, my son and I would both be left standing.
Father, you care deeply about each conversation we have with our children. Help us to listen for your wisdom. Amen.