I have a 13-year old son.
For those of you who have ever had one of those, you know how loaded that statement truly is.
For those of you who have not, be compassionate and kind in how you respond to those of us who do – please.
I love my son, as you would probably imagine. But there are days when I could seriously consider options such as military school, residential care, long-term overseas assignments… you get the picture. My sweet boy isn’t always, well, sweet.
But the other day, a glimmer of hope searched out a crack and shone through like sunbeams through the clouds.
Here’s what happened.
We were all furiously getting ready for a 4-day trip which required nice clothes (always a challenge for 13-year old boys), nice shoes (will he ever learn to keep the right one with the left one?), personal hygiene products (for that wonderful “man smell”) and the like. All of the other kids were scrambling around getting their things together as well as helping to take care of the multitude of other details that needed to be attended to before we left. But, sweet 13-year old boy was messing around, being his usual distracted self.
In my frustration I prayed. “Lord. Please help me to know how to parent this child this morning. It seems like nothing I do or say works to get him to pay attention! I’m about to lose my patience with him, which I know won’t help anything. Give me wisdom, Lord, I need it desperately. I know you have plans for him, but right now, he needs to find his shoes. Amen.”
I then took his face (which I noticed is starting to get a few pimples) into my hands and calmly, but firmly said, “Son, there are jobs that need to get done this morning and you’re not doing any of them. I’m going to give you one job at a time. I expect that you will QUICKLY go and get the job done and then QUICKLY come back to me for your next assignment. I don’t want to be upset with you this morning and I’m pretty sure you’re in agreement.”
While my hands were still embracing his cheeks, he nodded vigorously up and down in hearty agreement.
I sent him on his first task – to clean up the breakfast dishes. He started well. And then it happened – another boy entered into the room.
If you have only girls, this may come as a shock to you, but if you have more than one son, you can attest to the truth of this statement: Two boys can almost never be in the same room without coming into physical contact with each other! It’s as if they’re magnetized or something.
Older brothers are especially guilty, I might add, and it was an older brother that I thought would end my son’s one-minute streak of obedient concentration.
But God is a God of 13 year old boys, too.
What happened next stopped me dead in my tracks.
Instead of the usual tussle that normally occurs between two boys in the same room, I heard this come out of my 13 year old’s mouth: “STOP DISTRACTING ME! I’m gonna get in trouble! I have a JOB TO DO!!!”
I almost fainted.
I could not believe my ears. I cried. Those were the most beautiful words I could have heard in that moment.
Not wanting to distract from his focus I didn’t go into the kitchen and let him finish the dishes (which he did), but my heart sang out in thankful praise!
You see, I prayed out of desperation. I needed to know that this daily, grinding, toilsome discipline of this particularly challenging child was accomplishing SOMETHING in his life.
What I didn’t know, was that my son had also sent a prayer up to God as well. He told me later that he prayed, “God, please help me not get distracted so that I can finish the jobs my mom wants me to do without getting into any trouble. Amen.”
And he prayed out of desperation, too. He needed to know that God could help him focus on something that he didn’t particularly want to do long enough to get it done. He knew that he had tried, but had failed. He needed to know that God could succeed where he could not.
And in one fell swoop God answered both of us. And it broke through the cracks of immaturity like my son’s voice through his growing vocal chords – loud and startling and definitely noticeable!
Later in the day, while I was still basking in the warmth of the knowledge of answered prayers, this scripture came to mind and it seems especially appropriate at we disciple our kids:
“And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.” Galatians 6:9-10
Never give up. Never give in. When you grow weary, take your cares to Him and in the ordinary parts of your day, He will not disappoint you, but rather will continue to surprise you with His faithful loving-kindness – even when you’re trying to parent a 13-year old.