One day my dad showed me a verse from the Bible. He didn’t crack open a Bible to do it, he just did it. He showed me one day and made me cry harder than I ever cried from a spanking or being ‘grounded’ or any other form of ‘discipline’.
I was young but not little. It was back in the days before cable but after Pong and when a home was doing well to have one T.V. and a friend of mine was still watching his in black & white.
We had one TV for our family, which some would consider third world living today, and we all sat in the same room together to watch a show. One Saturday I got into it with my dad about who was choosing what we watched on the TV. He wanted to watch a football game or baseball game and I needed to watch something else. Could’ve been Saturday cartoons (for my younger friends, there once was a time when cartoons were on ONLY on Saturday morning, no YTV, no Nickelodeon) or it could have been re-runs of Star Trek, or something else that was my version of must see TV.
I yelled, I pleaded, I accused.
I suggested he could just read the papers tomorrow and see who won the games. His watching it couldn’t possibly affect the outcome.
My basic theory of communication at that age was: if the other person doesn’t agree with you, just get louder. So after Dad disagreed with my suggestions and my clever, 12 year old insights (yeah, I was a nerd o.k.? I watched cartoons until I was, uh, uhm, ahem, well, last weekend) about 10 times I had cranked up the volume to 11 on the Tufnel meter. Dad, on the other hand, didn’t get loud, he just got mad and he got up, walked out the basement door into the garage, got into the car and left home.
I stood there, in the basement, alone, full of righteous indignation and tried to make sense of what had just happened. The first thing that occurred to my little selfish consciousness was, “I won!” In light of my intellect and morally superior position my father had given up. I was master of the TV. I switched over to my program and sat back to enjoy.
But I couldn’t.
Into my tiny, little, grey matter questions started popping up like mushrooms in manure. Where had my dad gone? Would my dad come back? What would I tell my Mom? “Sorry Mom, I’ve driven Dad away from home but, on the upside, I get to watch whatever I want…”
For two hours I got sicker and sicker inside. Then it got worse.
Our driveway at home was cement but for about 6 feet from the road to the cement it was rock and gravel. I’ve described this elsewhere. When a car came into the driveway you would first hear a loud crackly sound as the car came over the small rocks and gravel. It was distinct, a sort of ‘early warning system’. I heard the sound of my Dad coming back and that day, I swear it sounded like thunder.
My heart started to pound. Payback time. I was really going to get it. I bravely stood and ran as fast as I could to my room, slamming my door and jumping on my bed, face firmly planted in my pillow. And I waited. Minutes felt like hours. I waited.
I heard Dad call from the family room for me and my brother. I slowly got up and walked out to face the music. I was so focused on the world of pain I was about to enter that I never even wondered why my brother Brad was coming too.
(I need to add that the ‘world of pain’ was what I imagined was coming, what I thought I deserved. My dad did not beat us or abuse us but discipline was not a stranger in our home.)
What I saw in the family room was confusing. It was Dad and a cardboard box which he started opening as he explained to us that he had just bought us our own portable TV set we could share.
Have you ever felt your heart break? I think that was the first time I ever felt mine. But it didn’t just break, it felt more like it shattered.
I ran back to my bed again, back to my pillow and my hiding place and I cried and cried and cried. Inside I was devastated. My selfish rant had been met with generous kindness. I was getting exactly what I didn’t deserve and a wave of bigheartedness cut my self-righteous legs right out from underneath me.
Dad was the one who was confused now. He sent Mom in to see what was wrong. He didn’t expect my reaction to my own TV would be me running away crying. Mom sat down on the bed and asked me what was wrong. Between sobs all I could get out was that he bought us a TV. I’m sure they both thought of taking me to a psychiatrist but I eventually settled down though never forgot.
I probably could’ve done with a psychiatrist (still could), but I’m really glad I had my dad and all of his unintentional lessons. He set me up, without meaning to, for a relationship with a God who constantly melts my heart with mercy when I “fight him for something I don’t really want, instead of take what He gives me that I need.”
“In kindness he takes us firmly by the hand and leads us into a radical life-change.” – Romans 2:4 MSG