When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and out of Egypt I called my son.
But the more they were called,
the more they went away from me.
Hosea 11:1-2a (NIV)
Consider the way he runs to the school bus every morning, and infer what it says about his nature. Is it frantic in step and pace, off-kilter, clumsy? Or is it oddly graceful, sure-footed, each step on a rhythm like congas, one-two, one-two? What’s his backpack doing – is it hopping, or is it still? Consider the backpack itself – brightly colored or matte, with clinking key chains – or still? Now, his gait. Close together? Waddling? Trotting? Prancing? Does he smile when you make eye contact or dart away at even a glance? Let’s say that his face looks neutral, but what does it imply? Is it dread or intimidation? Or is he lachrymose or unsatisfied? Or is there nothing going on at all? Does he rush inside the doors when the driver pulls the lever? Does he wait to be last, letting the mound of children ahead of him? If he does wait, is that fearful or chivalrous? Does he empathize or terrorize? Is he terrorized? The truth is that you will worry no matter which way it goes. Anything can be proof of everything. So, you worry, but are your worries founded?
What kind of boy is he and how does he show that to the world?
Now, consider tackle football. He is both tall and wide and at the top of his weight class, which makes him a valuable asset. The coach takes a shot on him and places him at center – he’s a keen listener and follows instruction and does not let anyone through to his quarterback. Every play starts with him, and you love to remind him of that, to mention that to the other parents sitting next to you. The coaches love him – it is his great attitude. He always makes key plays. It must be his parenting.
But the tears always flow on the ride home; he whines endlessly and never lets you forget it. Because you forced it on him, you know he does not want to play anymore. He did, at the beginning, when it was only flags and darting around with friends, when it was merely a social club that involved football. He never wanted to tackle and still doesn’t. He keeps a lid on it during practice, because he has respect for the authority of the coaches. He does not look sideways between the hours of 6 and 9 pm, Monday thru Thursday, and during the games on Saturdays. He keeps his damn gaze straight, because you tell him to. He respects your authority as well. For five years, the balance weighs in your favor, and he plays. He plays well.
Consider your love for him and where it came from. Did he earn it, or did you endow it? He is your creation after all, and he represents you without even knowing it. Is he a reflection on you? Yes. Is that negotiable? No. So you feel the weight of that responsibility, not only for your sake, but also for his. If you see the warning signs, you better damn do something about it. Have the prophets taught you nothing? You are the course correction. His head is your head. That is a part of the love.
But you waited too long, and you have lost your influence. What can your authority muster when he is no longer near you? He does not live in your house or even your state. He gallivanted off to the furthest part of the country; he does not even come home for Christmas. You soften. Was it a mistake? You strengthen. It was your duty. You loved him with all the words and support, and now he balks at it, forgetting all that you have done for him. He is selfish, and you ought to call him out on it. What are his values? Does he even have any? It tears you to shreds. You would rather he dig ditches for a living.
So naturally, you are disappointed. It is more than just your gut reaction; it is strategy. Quiet disapproval works. You don’t bring it up anymore – everything seems fine. Your conversations flow. They are even happy. But beneath everything is a palpable subtext. You are disappointed, and you never say it. You are disappointed, and he knows it.
You are disappointed, and it tears him to shreds. And so you can say that you are doing all that you can.