When I was a young man, I had all the answers. In fact, I still have most of the answers, but they changed. Now I am not so sure of these new answers. One of the reasons for this lack of surety is because of those very changes. Why should I think that I would stop and settle on “the truth” as I know it now? I’m pretty sure I’ll keep “adding to” and “taking from” as long as I am breathing in and out.
Being the father of four teenage daughters at the same time was a challenge. I envisioned myself as the stoic leader of my family. the one with the answers and the rules. Of course, I expected them to believe the truth as I knew it and to live by the same rules that I was trying to live by. I was mostly unaware of how little they were interested in following those rules. I thought it was a phase and they would eventually come around. Rules are created to prevent pain, which is a good thing until the rules become the point and we stop feeling pain because we don’t feel anything. When the kids were living at home with us, I felt the need to be the example for them to follow. After all, If I broke the rules, how could I possibly expect them to follow the rules?
Now that they are all out on their own, the scales begin to fall from my eyes. I realize now that I do break the rules and no one knew that better than my daughters. In 2004, I went to France to play music with LaClef. The group was mostly people my kids’ ages at the time (late teens early twenties). I kind of became “the dad” on the trip. I remember hearing their stories and on one occasion in particular, several of them were sharing their painful family stories. As I listened to them talk about their parents shouting and how it frightened them, I cried with them. I was angry that anyone could do that to such great kids. Later when I had some time of prayer and reflection, I thought about the pain they felt and related it to my own pain. I remembered how I too shouted where my girls could hear. I remembered one of them coming to me in tears asking if her mom and I were going to get a divorce. It hurts to write that. In that moment I realized that I was not only the recipient of pain, I was also the giver of pain.
It is humbling to realize that finger-pointing works both ways. I want grace for all the dumb things I do. I want to be let off the hook for my mistakes. I think the best place to start is by giving grace. Giving it to others and to myself. Letting others off the hook and me too.
Over the years, I have always thought it was silly when I heard people say, “If only I could go back and do it over with what I know now.” It’s goofy to think you could win the lottery or buy Microsoft (even though it makes for a pretty fun movie). As I step into a new understanding of graceful living, I find myself wishing for the first time every that I could go back and do some things over. I wish I had understood grace better and lived it better rather than so much rule giving and following.