I spent a solid three days mad at him.
I had outlined some property cleanup work I needed done. It would require a chainsaw, a burn pile, and quite a bit of heavy lifting. He reminded me more than once that he's "an adult now" and could handle it, including figuring out how best to get it done. Now looking back, I guess that was a signal from him that he wanted me to treat him like a capable adult, instead of the 13 year old kid I sometimes forget he's not.
But, I didn't get the signal.
I kept after him, telling him how to best accomplish it, and finally he snapped at me.
It wasn't a loud, door slamming scene like is often depicted on teen television dramas, but it was sharp. It was disrespectful. It was unlike him.
I stormed away and busied myself in the house, fuming all the while. That's when I did what I often do when one of my kids has a high fever. I go straight to the worst case scenario and start imagining funeral plans and sobbing over a coffin. (I know! It's a curse!)
I told myself if he could not even take instructions from his own mother without talking back, how could he take instructions from a boss? Or a college professor? Or a police officer holding a gun?
From there, my imagination went wild (as usual) and I imagined him in his twenties homeless, jobless, and in jail. What would his future hold if he couldn't even respect his own mother enough to follow orders without giving me lip?
We didn't see each other much over the next couple of days. He stayed busy working 8+hour shifts at his movie theater job, and I was pulling my usual 24/7 cab driver/nurse/counselor/cook duty.
The third day, I thought we had better talk it out, and I mentally prepared my speech. It contained a fair bit of "I expect you to give me the respect I deserve" and "How can I trust you to be responsible when you don't show me you are?".
I kept waiting for him to get home, and when dinner time came and went, I knew he must be working the closing shift. I headed to bed around 11pm and heard him pull in close to midnight, the usual time he gets home from closing the theater. It struck me then that I never once considered worrying about where he was. He had a job to do that his boss depended on him to complete well, and he always did. So well, in fact, he was offered a managerial position if he decides not to go to college in the fall. I also pondered how we had never considered giving him a curfew since he always lets us know where he is, and there has never been a time we have worried about the places he goes or the company he keeps.
Huh. I guess he's an okay kid after all. I'll give him that lecture in the morning.
Bright and early the next morning I got up to stormy skies and pouring rain. I was the only one awake and I tiptoed upstairs to deliver my well thought out speech. He wasn't in his room. Hmm. I know I heard him come home last night. It's 7:15 in the morning. Where could he be?
I checked the driveway. His truck was there, but he was nowhere to be found. Weird.
Over an hour later I heard the neighbor's tractor pull into our driveway. He was driving it, completely soaked from head to toe from the driving rain. "You're drenched! What have you been doing out there?!" I asked when he stepped inside.
"That load of gravel needed spreading. I knew this would be the only chance to get it done before the road floods again."
Suddenly my speech seemed petty. My grudge made me ashamed.
"I'm sorry I provoked you to anger, Son. I love you. You're such a fine man."
He hugged me tight. "I'm sorry I talked back to you. I love you, too."
It was then that I thought of God's grace for us. Over and over we fall short and disappoint, but our heavenly father never withholds the sunrise, or the rain, or the rainbow after the rain. He never stops calling us to Him and waiting for us to draw near. And I thought that's how it should be with us. No matter how many times our children fall short or disappoint, we continue to hold out blessings and waiting for them to draw near.
We never give up, never tire of waiting, never stop loving. Like the story of the prodigal son, we continually watch and wait for the coming home.
I learned a lesson that day. Talking back to your mother seemed like a major infraction to me at the time. But when I thought about what I could have been upset about, like drugs, drinking, lying, stealing, or promiscuous relationships, I realized how fortunate we were to have that be our only issue. I also thought about how we would never give up watching and waiting even if those issues do crop up with our children.
Just like our creator waits for us.
"For from his fullness we have all received grace upon grace." John 1:16