I was sitting on the bedroom floor in the dark, my back against the bed, staring straight ahead, trying to sort out what had just occurred...
"If you've never listened to me before, you need to listen to me now!!" my wife, Gwen, had said. "You need to go down to his room and talk to him right now!! You need to apologize and ask him to forgive you or you'll lose him too!"
She was talking about our son David. David had driven his date in our shiny, red BMW to his high school prom. There had been a minor accident on the way. No one had been hurt. I thought I had handled the initial hearing of the story well. But, as time went by, I started to have unanswered questions in my mind. Gwen and David and I eventually were in the living room talking about the accident. I started asking my questions. I wasn't hearing answers that I liked. My voice became more strained. The questions came faster. My impatience and anger were rising. I was frustrated because I wasn't understanding the sequence of events, which car was where, who might have been at fault. "How could it happen that way?" The message I sent to David was that I didn't believe him; that I thought he was lying to me. Finally, exasperated and angered by my interrogation and the fact that I wasn't accepting his answers, David's eyes filled with tears and he fled to his bedroom.
"...You need to go down to his room and talk to him right now!!"
I resisted. Why should I apologize? I didn't wreck the car! He should be upset! He was careless. He wrecked the shiny, red Beemer. Was he going to pay to fix it? Only much later would I think about how his whole prom night had probably been ruined by the thought that he would have to face me.
"...you'll lose him too."
I'd already pushed our oldest son, Jon, away. I'd lost all credibility with him. Jon (rightly) thought I was a hypocrite. His disdain for me and for Christianity was plain. I was so callous that I wasn't responding to that situation.
"...you need to listen to me now!!"
I had recently heard that I was to change my attitude towards my wife and see her not as the enemy, but as help. She was truly better at understanding relationships than I was. David didn't have a track record of lying that should cause me to suspect him of doing so now. I needed to value him and our relationship more than the thing (BMW). My anger and impatience had always gotten me into trouble. I needed to change. I needed to do something different. I needed to go to him.
But, what would his response be? I wouldn't forgive me if I were him. If I were him, I would be pretty angry myself. I realized that I was afraid that he'd cuss me out and kick me out of his room. I was afraid that he wouldn't forgive me. I was afraid that I'd already lost him.
I went into the kitchen. Gwen watched me as I got a glass of water, waiting to see what I would do. I set the glass down and set off for David's room. I opened the door and found him laying on his bed, face down into his pillow. I sat on the bed. "David, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have questioned you that way. It's just a car. You're more important to me. I know you've never lied to me..." David sat up quickly and lunged at me...threw his arms around my neck...buried his face on my shoulder...and burst into tears. His whole body heaved as big, gut wrenching sobs came from his throat. My eyes filled with tears as I stroked his hair and back and said "It's OK....It's OK, Dave...."
I don't even remember how I left that room or how I came to be sitting on the floor of the darkened bedroom. The door opened and the light from the hallway pierced into the black. I kept staring ahead, but I could see the silhouette of Gwen's legs and feet come into my teary peripheral view. "Thank you, Gwen. Thank you for telling me what to do. I had no idea...." It was the first time I'd ever really thanked her for her help. But it wouldn't be the last.
This was re-posted to L.L. Barkat's On, In and Around Mondays on 11.15.10