A Nine-Year-Old, a Rainstorm, and the Grace of God

rain-122691_640I heard my wife clearly say it. “Don’t get wet!”

And then I heard the door going outside to our garage open and close. Somewhere in the back of my mind I thought, “That’s not good.” I wish I could say I responded well to what came next.

To set the scene: imagine the borderline chaos that boils up at the Tiemeyer household each morning shortly before I leave to take the kids to school. While I’m getting ready for work, my wife is usually shepherding our kids through all the necessary steps. Shoes need to be put on. Lunches packed. Backpacks accounted for. Fights interrupted. Bless-your-heart attempts at dressing changed out. And so on.

On this particular morning, my oldest had either gotten all his things together already (unusual) or he was forgetting the need to do so (more likely). And so out the door he went. His loves to be outside, and his current near obsession is throwing a tennis ball against our garage door. On this morning, however, it was raining. Not sprinkling. Raining. Fairly hard. Thus my wife’s instruction.

And so, what did I see when I raised the garage door as I went out to my car?

My nine-year-old son standing there, like a wet puppy oblivious to the rain, with an overall posture that communicated volumes. If you could put it into words, it would read something like this: “What?”

Now again, I wish I would have handled this better. Every good parenting book tells us that we need to be willing to apologize to our kids when we blow it. I’ve got that part down. I’m beginning to wonder what I’m supposed to do if/when my kids start rolling their eyes after the gazillionth apology. But I digress.

As I remember it, I told my son, with an irritated voice and a frustrated wave, to get inside the garage. In a minor gesture of protest, he began to walk very slowly toward me. I escalated my efforts, and he responded by saying he hadn’t heard my wife’s instruction and it wasn’t a big deal to be in the rain anyway. I got more frustrated: “Get. In here. Now.” His final rebuttal: “Dad, I’m not like you!” Roughly translated, this meant, “I don’t mind being in the rain. I even like it. In fact, I’m the kind of kid who gets a petition of elementary-age kids together so they’ll let us outside for recess when it’s raining.* You, on the other hand, must think you’re going to melt if you get a drop on you.”

All this brings to mind a few observations:

  1. My son may not always believe it, but I’m not in the habit of telling him to do things because I want to rob all the joy and fun from his life. Like most parents when compared to their young kids, I usually have more variables in mind than he does. For example, I’m considering the possibility of him being uncomfortable thirty minutes later as he sits, soaking wet, in an institutionally cooled classroom. You might even say I’m thinking of his best interests.
  1. While this kind of thing is easy to see in my son’s life, I often overlook it in my own. After all, God repeatedly tells us that he’s in a better position to know the best course of action than we are. And if he leads us down a difficult path, or forbids us from doing something we desperately want to do, it’s actually going to be better for us in the long run. He’s actually giving us grace. That’s why you see his instruction and commands regularly associated in the Bible with things like gold, wisdom, light, and life. You might even say that the one who created us, who knows exactly what will make us happy, and who has demonstrated his love for us to the degree that he sent his own son to die on our behalf, is thinking of our best interests.
  1. But there’s a big difference in this comparison. The love and concern I have for my kids is regularly obscured by my own lack of patience, irritation, self-absorption, etc. And God? “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.” He never blows up when he shouldn’t at his children. His actions are never out of step with his love. Rather, they always grow out of it. And boy, am I glad that’s true.

*True story.

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