Words go on consequence journeys, just like actions do. This week, the word “No” went on a journey – from our home, to defining a weekend for one son, to church on Sunday morning, to Sunday lunch. It went on a journey growing and becoming much more than it started out to be.
“No!” My little guy said, 7 a.m. Thursday morning. It was picture day at school. I’d asked him to wear a light blue and white checked shirt, button down with khaki shorts. He wasn’t balking at the shorts. He balked at the shirt.
Typically, I don’t make a big deal over clothes – well, except for Sunday morning. All I want on Sunday mornings is khaki casual and a nice shirt (like that blue and white checked, button-down shirt). You’d think I was asking them to wear pink boas and tap shoes to church!
I digress, though. It was 7 a.m., and I had a “No,” not-gonna-wear-it response trying to stare me down. Here was my littlest, almost 12, already exhibiting verbal fronds of teen rebellion - 7 a.m. on picture-day Thursday. This was the first picture day I had remembered before the photo in a couple of years. I wanted a couple of nice, shiny, smiling, smartly-dressed sons in a photo.
It was 7 a.m. I needed a cup of coffee. I didn’t need rebellion.
After a few intense moments, he agreed under duress. He did wear the shirt. He did look terribly nice. When he and his brother got out of the van for school, I thought, “Shouldn’t they look like that everyday – without a verbal war?”
Some of you might say, ‘You shouldn’t fight over what they wear.” I agree to an extent. However, they need to know how to dress appropriately for appropriate occasions, like weddings, funerals, graduations, Sundays, job seeking, and, well, picture day.
My little guy, he suffered for a few days. He had to tell his dad later that night what he’d done – and he was grounded from t.v., video games. As he was walking out his punishment, he uttered these awful words, “What is there to do without t.v. and games?” Did I say he was my saucy one? Who smiles while yanking my chain?
I told him we may turn off the t.v. after words like that. I suggested he read, create a little art, play his guitar, find his friends in the neighborhood.
He did – all of it, peppered with a few moaned words, “I’ll never tell you no again.”
Some of my sons obey easier than others. I call it being more “coachable.”
Today, the minister preached on believing God. He talked about how Eve didn’t really believe God when he said, “Don’t eat of the Tree” – because she did eat of the tree. She didn’t really believe He meant it – or she wouldn’t have eaten the apple. She didn’t trust what God said enough to obey – and she created a heap of a problem.
The Israelites had a problem believing, trusting, and obeying, too.
“But you rebelled against the command of the LORD your God. You did not trust him or obey him” (Deut 9:23)
When God tells you to do something, we are to trust him and do it. That’s a hard lesson to learn – even harder to learn if you cannot do it with your down-here, earthly father (and mother).
With a house full of boys to men, “No” opportunities happen more than I like – some verbally, some behaviorly – not just on school picture day.
During the sermon, I passed the following note down to another teen. Yes, I am that mom!
“If you neither trust nor obey your parents, how can you trust or obey God.”
He sent a typical teen note back, trying to out-smart my note. I penned back, “Don’t out smart your common sense”(Song, “Love Like Crazy”) .
Later, over Sunday lunch at Cracker Barrel, we discussed Neil Armstrong, booms and earthquakes in California – and how if you cannot trust and obey your parents, how can you trust and obey God.
Each son, since we’re down to just 3 – each has signed up to do the dishes 2 nights a week. Each son knows his day. Each son hears us remind. Each son makes a choice to obey or not.
If they disobey, the brother doing the dishes the next night has a bigger load. The relationship experiences conflict. Chaos evolves.
When children don’t obey, problems pile up, seemingly little problems like dirty dishes. Like saying “No” to a parent might result in down-time, relaxation activities being taken away and one moment turns into 3 uncomfortable days.
“If you neither trust nor obey your parents, how can you trust or obey God.”(Blue Cotton Memory)
“But how can people call for help if they don’t know who to trust? And how can they know who to trust if they haven’t heard of the One who can be trusted? And how can they hear if nobody tells them? And how is anyone going to tell them, unless someone is sent to do it?”(The Message, Romans 10:14)
Holding my sons to accountability, to hear, to obey – even at 7 a.m. in the morning on picture day – it is not a comfortable thing. Sometimes, it makes me want to slam the door to a room. Sometimes, it makes me want to go into a quiet place and cry. Because some things are not as simple as shirts on picture day. Some children are not as easily coached.
If we are to teach them how to listen to the Father, hear what He tells them – and, obey it, then we need to teach them how to listen to us, hear what we say, and obey.
If you neither trust or nor obey your parents, how can you trust and obey God?