About sixty seconds later we all heard a blood curdling scream coming from the other side of the house…
While we were Youth Pastors in a church, we became friends with a family who had recently become Christians. The family included a mother, a father and their five year old son.
The father and I began to spend time together and soon I became a spiritual influence in his life. One Friday night this family had a little party at their house and invited my family and another couple. He wanted us to bring our son Jeff, who was seven at the time, so their son Shawn would have someone to play with while the adults visited in another part of the house. When we entered the house, introductions were made and Shawn showed everyone the new pair of cowboy boots that his parents had just given him for his birthday.
After dinner we sent the boys into Shawn’s bedroom to play. We had been visiting for some time and I looked to my right and there was my son sitting quietly listening to our conversation.
I said, “Jeff, why are you in here?”
He responded, “Oh, no reason. I just wanted to listen to what you were talking about.”
Knowing that Shawn’s father really wanted my son to play with his, I said to Jeff, “Why aren’t you playing with Shawn? Come on, I want you to go into Shawn’s bedroom to play with him.”
Jeff leaned closer to me and whispered, “But I really don’t want to dad. I want to stay here.” Well, I convinced him and made him go into the bedroom to play with our host’s son anyway.
But a few minutes later there was Jeff sitting quietly beside and behind me taking in our adult conversation again. I turned and whispered to him, “Jeff, why aren’t you playing with Shawn? I want you to get in there and play with him.”
This time my son pleaded, “I really don’t want to dad. Can I please stay here and be with you?” I told him no and made him go back into the bedroom.
But within a few short minutes there was Jeff sitting back in the chair behind me and this time he looked stressed and seemed to be out of breath. However, I quietly ordered my son to get back into the bedroom and play with Shawn.
He responded, “Please dad, don’t make me go back in there.” That should have been my clue. By now you have probably discerned I wasn’t the most sensitive of fathers at the time. A third time I shamed my son back into the bedroom to play with our host’s son.
About sixty seconds later we all heard a blood curdling scream coming from the other side of the house. In response, all of us adults immediately abandoned our conversation and rushed into the bedroom. When we arrived, Jeff was standing on one side of the bed, with his chest inflating and deflating as he breathed fast deep breaths. His face looked exasperated and angry tears were coming from his eyes. He looked up at us and was seething with a murderous look on his face. But Shawn was nowhere to be seen.
I demanded, “Jeff, where is Shawn?” But he couldn’t answer. He just looked at me, seething and continuing to breathe deeply.
Finally, we heard a slight muffled whimpering sound coming from what seemed like an enclosed space. We looked around following the sounds and finally found Shawn crying and wedged between the bed and the wall. We carefully removed him from his predicament.
When all the dust had cleared, it seems that each time Shawn had gotten Jeff in the bedroom he proceeded to kick him in the shins with his new cowboy boots. But Jeff wasn’t getting a kick out of it. And though Jeff warned him, Shawn still kept kicking.
Now understand Shawn was a great kid. But there was just something about that first pair of pointed cowboy boots that made him want to test their effectiveness. After all, he would be using them to make horses giddy up some day. However, at a certain point, Jeff could stand no more. He picked up the tyke by an arm and a leg and hurled him across the bed. That was what produced the scream. Shawn bounced off the bed, hit the wall with a thud, and dropped between the bed and the wall unable to move.
I could talk about several lessons from this story, but the one that I felt the most convicted of was my own insensitivity to my son’s plight. I was so concerned about my own needs and my son doing my ministry bidding; I wasn’t alert to his needs.
We have laughed about this incident many times. But honestly, Jeff could have really hurt Shawn by the way he responded to the boy’s shin-kicking, or been injured himself. And it would have been my fault.
Ephesians 6:4 says, “Fathers, don’t provoke your children to anger. But bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” Jeff was already frustrated, but I pushed him beyond his limits by my insensitivity and my demands.
Father, help us to give our children the same attentiveness you give to us, Your children. Amen.