Once upon a time, there was a man who had a son. Certainly, the man must have loved the son when he was a child. But, his expectations were high for the boy. And the son tried hard to be loved by the man and gain his approval. Years passed, and as time went by, the man found more and more fault with his son. And the son, sensing the disapproval, moved his heart further and further away from the man. In time, they became so estranged that the man fell out of love with him and no longer considered him a son at all.
Like most men, the son's heart yearned for a father's approval and for a father's praise. But, he would not get it from the man. Perhaps the man's own father did not know how to give or receive praise. Perhaps the man had no role model or perhaps the man simply didn't care about checking his fault finding nature.
Even though the man had rejected his son, he still tried to influence him, to impress his opinions, requirements, and values on the son and to criticize his son's decision making.
For his part, the son put his desire for a father's approval on the back burner and moved forward with his own life. The son made it clear in his actions and words that he would depart from the man's sphere of influence, from his people, his ways and from his values.
The story has two possible endings:
In the first, the man grows old and softens. He loses his arrogance and pride. He knows he will never have the relationship he might have had with his son, but he is glad for what he had and has. He decides to accept the son he has and not insist on the son he always wanted. He stops trying to exert his will on his son. He apologizes to his son, makes peace with himself, and becomes a softer hearted, kinder, gentler, more loving person. Those still left around him benefit from the lessons he learned by the mistakes he made with his son. He is content with what he has.
In the second ending, the man grows old and hardens. He becomes bitter and spiteful. His pride will not allow him to admit his mistakes, let alone sincerely apologize for them. He continues to try to tell the son what to do and expresses his disdain when the son resists his will. The man becomes obsessed with trying to make his son into something he is not. It galls the man that he has no control. He continues to be an angry man and those left around him are worse off for it. He continually strives for what he does not have. Of course, all of this is lost on the man because he is not self-aware enough to realize any of it about himself.
Which ending will the man choose? Will the circle be unbroken?I confess that this tale is somewhat autobiographical. But, am I the man or the son? Or, am I both? It seems a never ending story, which has the potential to repeat itself many times over if no intervention occurs.
Men and their sons. I do know a few grown men who have good or great relationships with their fathers. But, in general, most men I meet don't have much good to say about the men who brought them into this world. This manifests itself in the holidays that are established to honor mothers and fathers. The freeways are impassable on Mother's Day. On Father's Day you can go just about anywhere you want, unhindered. To quote Bill Cosby, “on Mother’s Day you break your back working to buy some presents… come Father’s Day you say, ‘Dad give me some money, I want to buy you a pack of cigarettes.’ then you smoke half the pack coming home… and it’s not even his brand.”It is very unusual for a grown son to pursue a relationship with his father. The reality is that the son sets the terms of the relationship, whether he will stay or leave it. If a father wants a relationship with his grown son the he must pursue him. Who knows how or why these relationships break down with such consistency? Maybe it's simply that we are fallen men. Once again, we acknowledge that Christ is the the true panacea for all men's shortcomings. The way that we allow Him to work through our lives is crucial, though. If we use Him as a mallet we will struggle. If we use Him as a salve, as a healing ointment, we will do well.
"There'll be good times again for me and you
But we just can't stay together
Don't you feel it too
Still I'm glad for what we had
And how I once loved you
But, it's too late baby, now it's too late
Though we really did try to make it
Something inside has died and I just can't hide
and I just can't fake it." Carole King, It's Too Late