I’ve liked the guy from day one of meeting him. Something about him makes me smile.
He’s really tall. And funny. And cheerful.
He says things like, “It’s an epidemic out here. And it’s spreading.” (In reference to the phenomenon of all of the Tball players playing in the dirt instead of focusing on fielding.)
He sweetly encourages the kids to do their best. And he seems to always have a smile on his face. He’s the assistant coach on our son’s Tball Team.
But tonight, my heart hurt for him as I watched a difficult interchange go down between he and his son.
You see, his son doesn’t seem to have his father’s same zeal for life. In fact, there have been very few games where he seems to be having any fun at all. He doesn’t like fielding. He doesn’t like batting. And he seems to like to make it known to his Dad. Or anyone else that’s watching.
And week after week, I’ve watched this Dad try and have a good attitude with his son. I see him graciously working with him trying to help him get over his reluctance and insecurities when approaching the Tball field.
But tonight, his efforts failed. In fact, you might say they were stomped on repeatedly by the feet of a 4-year-old in cleats.
Because tonight, after several strong efforts to help his son change his attitude, the coach’s son had to leave the game. And as I watched the son be escorted off the field by his mother, kicking the dirt and crying, I couldn’t help but feel sad.
His father appeared to be trying to keep a good attitude. But I knew inside, he didn’t feel so good. I doubt that tonight’s scene was what he envisioned when he volunteered to be the assistant coach for the season.
And as I watched the scene unfold, my heart went out to all involved. The frustrated Dad. The son who was crying. And the mom that was stuck mediating the event with another toddler following closely behind her.
And as much as I saw the Dad trying to smile and focus on helping the other kids in the game, I couldn’t help but feel the only thing he was really thinking about was how disappointed he was in his son.
And slightly ashamed of his behavior.
And embarrassed he was left coaching a bunch of kids without his own child being there.
Does this story sound familiar to you? Have you ever been either one of these characters?
The frustrated Dad who is disappointed in his son?
Or the sad son who has let down his father?
I know I have been both of them at times. But the one I hate more than anything is when I feel I am in the role of the son. Like I am letting someone else down by my actions and it is too late to change the situation.
Nobody wants to feel like a disappointment. But let’s be real, at times, we all feel that way.
Sometimes I wonder if this is what keeps some people from feeling like they can find God? They feel like God is the disappointed father watching them choose to make one bad decision after another. Giving them grace to make the right decision. But after so many mess ups, their chances are over.
Their time has come and passed.
And now the game is over.
It’s too late to return.
And they are stuck in the shame spot of looking back at what they’ve done as their father watches and feels embarrassed by their actions. They want to try and make it right. Have a fresh start. But no matter what, they are at the point of no return.
So why even try? It won’t matter anyway.
It’s been too many years living without God. They’re already 60.
It’s been too many mess-up that are really big deals. Like affairs. Or being an absent parent and having kids that they don’t even speak to.
It’s been too many times they’ve said they didn’t want God. Maybe they chose to deny his existence for the better part of their life.
But the real kicker is, even if they feel they want God and they’d like to change things around. They believe that He just isn’t interested in them. He’s not even affected that they have left the game. Or noticed that they are missing.
He’s just too disappointed. Too embarrassed. Too ashamed for anything to ever be different.
After the game, I really wanted to say something to the coach. But I decided it wasn’t my place since I don’t really know him. But as luck would have it, when I walked up to get Christian, the coach said something to me.
Him: “Well, looks like I need to go see what is waiting for me in my car.”
Me: “Hey, I want you to know. You are a great Dad and I see how hard you are trying.”
Him: Yeah, I just feel like such an A-hole.
Me: You aren’t an A-hole. Sometimes all kids act like that. You are doing your best.
Him: Yeah, and he’s tired. He fell asleep on the way here and that is the only reason he was acting like that.
Me: Yep, I totally get it. He’s a good kid. It’s just parenting isn’t always easy.
Him: No, it’s not.
Me: But the investment you’re making does make a difference.
Him: Thanks. I hope so….
Well, I’m going to go make amends.”
That conversation with him struck a chord in me about the love of a father to a son. A parent to a child. And I’m not so sure I was right about what that father was really thinking about his son during the game.
Yes, his son had messed up that night. But, it was very evident, his father wasn’t done with him.
In fact, it was just the opposite.
He was hurt that his son felt hurt by him. He was looking for reasons to blame his son’s behavior on himself. He was eager to go make it right. He was eager to go make sure his son wasn’t hurting.
And that’s God with us too. Right?
Can we disappoint him with our behavior? Yes.
Can we make mistakes that hurt him and us? Yes.
Can we do things that he is trying to warn us are a bad idea? Yes.
But at the end of the day, is He over us?
At the end of the day, does he want us hurting?
It’s contrary to who He is. And the times when we believe He wouldn’t want us? That is us projecting human feelings onto a God that doesn’t work the way we do.
He is the God who created us. And he is the God of second chances. And third ones. And fourth ones and….so on. And yes, maybe we don’t deserve the second chances. But He doesn’t care.
We can always run back to him. And he’s ready.
And I have a feeling that tonight if the coach’s son decides to have a better attitude, he will be more than delighted to welcome him back to the field.
For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God. Romans 8:38-39
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