Tonight has been a very terrible night, with one of the worst bedtimes ever in the home (“Not that there are ever many good ones,” Learner says). He’s discouraged, as is Mrs. Learner, and their children all went to bed in tears from a plethora of spankings, of which Learner hates being the dreaded provider.
“What’s the difference between children and terrorists?” he asks me.
“I don’t know,” I reply.
“You can negotiate with terrorists,” he answers, sullen.
The thing is, none of this should surprise him, especially after attending the aforementioned welcome reception hosted by the seminary. Somewhat surprisingly, the evening was more than tolerable (though ever a bit cheeseball – in general, professorial humor and timing tend to be one step above that of junior high boys, minus the crude references).
Learner saw many of his classmates – all cleaned up and clean-shaven (Albert took the prize for the best definition of “semi-formal,” coming in a suit with sandals and no socks) – and the desserts were exquisite. But the highlight of the evening (other than Mrs. Learner, who looked very pretty, Learner said) was a very powerful message from the seminary president that stuff like this evening would happen during their time at seminary. Learner and Mrs. Learner were both touched by the gentleness with which such bad news was given, as well as hopeful in somehow fulfilling the challenging call to not rely on anything other than grace for the chance of making it through.
But that’s easier said than done, especially when his four small children – Learner’s version of Luther’s “little heathen” – seem to be functioning as the devil’s own this evening. Learner says he feels like he just used up whatever last bit of grace he had tonight (not that there’s ever much there on a daily basis) and the Storeowner from whom to get more is closed indefinitely.
With fall classes (let alone another 7,000 bedtimes) not even commencing yet, he’s running out of hope that, without some serious voluntary behavior modification on the part of his little ones, his ever-lurking legalistic tendency will fight through his desperate attempts to beat it down and ruin his children, who will grow up remembering him as a father who was only angry, nothing more.
Learner wonders if there really is grace for his anger; for many reasons, there shouldn’t be, he says. And if that were the case, he wishes God would just get it over with and smite him now, so at least his wife and children wouldn’t have to deal with his frustration again.
“At least they could collect the insurance,” he mutters.
As I said, tonight has been a very terrible night…