It's been a bittersweet weekend. The sweet part was our second annual camping trip to Babler State Park. Last year, Megan and I had officially decided that, since I am finished at school by noon on Friday of parent/teacher conferences each September, we would plan an annual fall camping trip that weekend. This year, being our second time around, we knew a lot more of what we were doing, had assembled a few extra pieces of equipment that came in handy, and really had a good time. Though we only stayed out one night due to the weather, we had some great time around the campfire and even got a memorable rainy (but not too wet) hike in before coming home Saturday afternoon.
Camping is something my girls absolutely love. Here are some pics to illustrate:
Good time had by all…until, that is, we got home. The relaxation and enjoyment of the previous twenty-four hours somehow evaporated later in the afternoon thanks to a room re-arrangement/clutter explosion (two things that absolutely drive me up a wall). This culminated in my own explosion at one of my daughter's blatant acts of disobedience (there had been several already), and I totally went off in anger before eventually shutting down emotionally.
To her credit, she came to me to ask forgiveness five minutes later, which I did not grant at the moment – partly because I was up to my eyeballs in putting together a set of bunk beds, but mostly because I was still very, very angry. New tears as she left the room told me I was being selfish, but I hardened my heart. Thankfully, later that night (and again of her initiative), we were able to reconcile the shared tension caused by her disobedience and my overreaction to it. But then, another daughter, who was lying in the bunk above and listening to our conversation, asked a very convicting question:
"Daddy," she said, "who do you obey?"
"What?" I asked, fighting my defensiveness.
"Who do you obey?" she repeated. "We're supposed to obey our parents. Mommy's supposed to obey you. Who do you obey?"
I was dumbfounded. Though I don't think she was trying to make a point, the power of her question was not lost on me. I paused for a good twenty seconds, trying to come up with anything I could say that would not betray the hypocrisy I felt surging through my body. I awkwardly rattled off the best list I could come up with: God, our church's session, my headmaster and department head at school, the President and our elected authorities, etc., but it felt so fake.
Was she asking for the list of who I was supposed to obey, or the list of those I really did – that is, doing what I was asked, with the right heart attitude, and in an immediate manner (which is what we've taught our girls make up true obedience)? I was so shaken by the question that, as I went to bed and rehashed the events of the day, I wasn't sure I truly obeyed anybody. Even this Sunday morning, I'm still not sure.
Earlier in the week, yet another daughter – one who was to directly benefit from the aforementioned re-arrangement of her room – said to me at bedtime:
"Daddy, I promise I'll get my room picked up so you can put the bunk beds up. Or at least I hope I promise."
I've thought about her statement for days, as it seems to sum up the worst of my blackened and unfaithful heart: "I promise…or at least I hope I promise." How often is an unsure, wavering "promise" (rather than the true, unfailing variety) really what I mean when I use the same words…in my prayers? in my vows? in my parenting? "I promise…or at least I hope I promise." Could I be any more despicable as a Christian? as a husband? as a father? I am so ashamed and in need of the gospel of God's grace.
I confess that, after this week and weekend, I feel like Philip the evangelist, who the Bible says, "had four unmarried daughters, who prophesied." My daughters are teaching me so much for which I'm too often only grudgingly grateful; I am embarrassed and humbled there is still more I need them to teach me. Though I've yet to hear from daughter #4 this round, I'm wondering – albeit somewhat fearfully, given the lessons from the other three this week – how God may choose to speak through her.
Whatever happened to the days when my children were simply cute and cuddly and not really aware how broken, immature, and needy their father was? And what's up with God actually using my children more in my life than me in theirs?
God, who do I obey – really obey? For the sake of my children (among others), teach me to obey you – doing what I'm asked, with the right heart attitude, and in an immediate manner – in response to your mercy and love. I am so wretched and needy. Forgive me.