See It Through to the End

Morning Glory

A few weeks ago, I experienced a ‘moment’ with my son. His response to a challenge he was experiencing created some tension in our family that was affecting everyone and I just needed it to end. This went on for a few days and was incredibly frustrating for me. I was struggling with how to handle it. After a couple of frustrating mornings, I knew I had to change my approach because what I was doing was not working.

In the kitchen one morning, I was anticipating what was going to happen. I had a plan. When he got up, I felt ready. I even prayed: “God, I want to handle this well. Please give me the grace to get through this situation and help me to be a good father and husband.” I felt like I was in a good place and ready to face the challenge.

However, as the great philosopher Mike Tyson once said: “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”

Looking back, it was laughable. My mental boxing match with my son lasted one round more than usual (maybe) before I lost my cool. The end result was my son yelling at me, while slamming the door to his room as I barked back up the stairs while putting on my coat to go to work.

Surely appreciating the state of affairs I was leaving the house in, my wife gave me a look that rightly suggested there may have been a better way for me to handle the situation. Just to make things a bit better, I made sure to share my opinion that the whole situation with my son was partially her fault. Then I left for work.

All this to say, it was not my best morning.

Questioning the Process

As I drove to work, I was fuming. Frustrated at the situation and how I had responded, I got mad at God. I had prayed after all. I asked for His help and still failed miserably. I spent the first half of the car ride justifying my feelings and convincing myself that I was right to feel this way. While I was stopped at a red light, there was a brief pause in my inner rant and one thought emerged:

This isn’t about your son or your wife. It is about you.

Ouch.

As soon as I thought it, I knew it was true. I paused the music in the car, took a breath, and invited God to lead me and show me what I was missing. To shine light on the situation and help me to see clearly.

The anger melted away and I was left with an opportunity to press into an uncomfortable place within. A chance to not only learn from my mistakes, but to understand how I had ended up there in the first place.

In this case, the truth was that the situation my son presented me with was something I did not feel equipped to handle. I like things in well-ordered straight lines and he was forcing me to step sideways. In response, I tried to force him back in line and experienced little success. I was seeking control, but what the moment was really asking of me was to engage with my son.  To jump in the mess and work together to find a way out. Ultimately to be ok with uncertainty and trusting the outcome to God.

Be Relentless in Pursuit of Truth

When we encounter uncomfortable truths about ourselves, there is always choice in how to respond. One option is to disregard them and just carry on in our feelings. In my story, I could have ignored the moment of clarity and continued being angry. By the time I got home that night, the morning would likely have been a distant memory. The anger and frustration would have subsided, but I probably would have repeated the episode the next day.

Alternatively, we can accept responsibility for the truth about ourselves and work through whatever discomfort it brings up. For me, that meant talking through the situation with a trusted friend, which was quickly followed by a phone call to my wife. It was not just to apologize but also to own what had happened that morning and walk through what I had learned.

On the way home from my son’s soccer practice that night, I pulled over just before we got home and had the same conversation with him. It was important to me that he understood that I did not feel good about what had happened and was sorry for it. It was also important that he understood that I, like him, am learning every day and encountering new challenging situations. Situations I sometimes struggle to handle well.

Without a doubt, that conversation with my son strengthened our relationship. It is humbling to ask an 8-year-old for forgiveness, but where we ended the day as a father and son was a better place than where we were before the day had started.

I share this story with a deep sense of gratitude. I screw up as a husband and father far more than I would like to admit. The times I do succeed, it is mainly because I have committed to staying in the moment and not giving up at the hard part.

The Payoff

I started the day with an earnest prayer and then became frustrated when my prayer had not been answered.

Sometimes God answers our prayers in different ways compared to what we ask for. If things had played out the way I would have preferred that morning, my son would have listened to me and done what I was asking of him. God would have equipped me with patience to endure any pushback and the yelling and slammed door would never have happened.

Unsurprisingly, what God had in store for me that day was much better than what I had asked for. From a moment of frustration and anger, He was able to lead me to a truth about myself. This truth enabled me to build understanding with my wife. It led me to a stronger relationship with my son.

When I was frustrated in my car, I could not yet see the big picture containing the entire day. I was too focused on my feelings in that moment, and I was angry that God had not answered me when I needed His help. When I got to the end of the day, I was able to see how the all the dots connected.

God did answer my prayer. I had asked for a bit of patience to white-knuckle my way through a tough situation. Instead, He gave me truth, perspective, and the opportunity to grow closer to my wife and son. In His goodness, He heard me and gave abundantly.

We cannot always explain or understand the challenges that we face. The story I share with you is not one of life and death or any grave hardship. It is an important story though. It helps me trust the Father more and when those tough moments of life do come, I will be able to look forward in hope that when the last chapter is written, the end will be far more glorious than what I could have asked for.

– Sean

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