I Refereed My Parent’s Fight
One night when I was fourteen I was sitting in my living room with my mom and dad watching a TV show; probably Gunsmoke, or Maverick, or Leave it to Beaver, (or for a kid) the dreaded Lawrence Welk Show! What can I say, I was alive back then.
My mom had drunk about one third of her cup of coffee and because it was now cold, she was going back to the kitchen to pour it out and get a fresh cup.
My father, on the other hand, always drank all of the coffee in his cup whether it got cold or not. He did it on principle. He was not a wasteful man. And for some reason, that day, he got on a high horse about his frugality and started poking fun at my mother because she always wasted so much coffee.
My father wouldn’t let it go. And so, his poking fun turned into criticism which turned into shaming my mother over this totally insignificant issue and my mother started to cry. To make it more difficult for my mother, my father was looking at me as if he was expecting me to be on his side in the issue and agree that there was something wrong with her wastefulness.
I watched this whole ridiculous scene until something rose up within me. That is when I stood up and scolded my father, “That’s enough, Dad! If that’s the way mom drinks her coffee, then for heaven sakes let her. There’s nothing wrong with her getting a warm cup of coffee. Why are you making her feel so bad for it?”
My father was so shocked at my support of my mother and my boldness to speak to him that way, he said, “Well, I’m sorry.” And feeling like he was the outnumbered one, he got up and walked out the door in a huff. A few seconds later I heard the car engine fire up and the car squeal out of the driveway.
He didn’t come back for an hour, but when he did he pushed through the front door, walked to the couch and plopped onto it in the posture of a sulk.
You need to understand, my father was almost an invalid at the time. He was dying of emphysema. He couldn’t walk more than thirty feet without leaning over on his knees to rest and catch his breath. That may be why I felt emboldened to challenge him. Since this was the case, I felt bad for hurting my father’s feelings.
So I sat down in a chair next to him and said, “Listen Dad. I’m sorry for yelling at you and I love you but.…”
I was set to scold him for making fun of my mom. But I never got to finish. He interrupted and said, “I love you too and I’m sorry too.”
I don’t remember what he said after that because I was so shocked to hear the words “I love you” from him, that I became oblivious to anything he said after that. That was the first and the last time I ever heard my father say “I love you.” He died a few short months later when he was sixty four.
I could site other uncomfortable behaviors from my dad. He wasn’t a perfect parent. He hardly ever attended any of my activities at school. He wasn’t the best at fathering, husbanding or leading his family. However, when he was about sixty, just a few years before this incident and before he died, he surrendered his heart fully to the Lord. I didn’t know this until my mother told me about it after I had become a Christian.
When people become Christians they become new creatures in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). But they don’t become perfect instantly. On the day people make decisions for the Lord, Jesus begins His perfecting work in their lives. But the Holy Spirit has a lot of work to do to get us looking more and more like Jesus. His work to make us like Christ takes a lifetime and probably isn’t fully completed until we see Him face to face.
When my father told me he loved me that day, I now believe it was the result of three years of God working on him. God was conforming him to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). My dad wasn’t there yet, and had a long way to go; but just like all of us, he was drawing closer.
How is God’s refining process working in your life? Are you looking more like Christ than you did when you first came to Him? Or maybe you haven’t begun yet. Maybe you haven’t yet opened your heart to Him. Could this be the day you do?