“But this is what you concealed in your heart, and I know that this was in your mind….” Job 10:13 (NIV)
A couple of weeks ago I sat with my daughter and we had a very frank discussion about life and relationship. We talked about a myriad of things. It was one of those intense and emotional conversations that, once it is over, is hard to recall in anything but bits and pieces. It was time to clear the relational air over which a fog has existed for some time. I recognized that it was a conversation that happens to provide clarity and definition between parent and child when a child is transforming into an adult. It wasn’t a pleasant conversation, though I believe that it was both healthy and necessary. Clearing the air is sometimes a prerequisite to making progress in life. It provides necessary focus to answer the questions:
“Where have I/we been?”
“Where am I/are we at?”
“Where am I/are we going?”
In the midst of this event I was reminded of a truth I’ve come to realize and embrace along life’s journey. Most conflicts can be traced back to miscommunication. The miscommunication can be an incorrect assumption about what another person thinks, believes, or perceives. The miscommunication can be confusion over the meaning and intent of something that was said. The miscommunication can be confusion over what was said and what was heard. Conflict can almost always be traced back to miscommunication.
I was struck this morning as I read Job’s diatribe how many assumptions he makes in his conflict with God:
“But this is what you concealed in your heart” (I know what God thinks)
“I know that this was in your mind” (I know the mind of God)
“If I hold my head high, you stalk me like a lion” (I know God’s intention)
“You bring new witnesses against me and increase your anger toward me” (I know that my sufferings are an execution of your misdirected justice)
That’s a lot of assumptions to make, especially about the Almighty.
Today, I’m thinking about my own penchant for making assumptions about what others think, believe, intend, and feel. I am seeking forgiveness for my foolish pride, which motivates and is at the root of such assumptions. I am seeking to make a little progress in the area of actually communicating with others rather than assuming I know what is in their hearts and on their minds.
The house is quiet this morning. Wendy is still asleep. I will likely be leaving the house before she wakes to have coffee with a friend. Across from my home office is Madison’s old room. The bright orange and deep purple walls have been muted by a more gentle color as it has been transformed from teenager’s cave into a guest room. Around the corner, Taylor’s bedroom of Tiffany blue is preparing for its own overdue coat of paint. Another single guest bed is there, but it has become largely a transitional storage room for things we’re not sure what to do with. Her tiny walk-in closet has become storage for seasonal clothes for which there is no room in our own small bedroom closet.
There will be no rumbling and rustling this morning. No muffled fights of two girls fighting over the bathroom, or clothes, or schedules. Mid-afternoon as I work in the office there will be no streak across the hallway as a teenager goes to her room to shut the door and get on their phone with friends. No mumbled “Hi dad.” No family dinner tonight.
The nest is empty. It has been for a few years now. Some days I still find it hard to get used to. Yet, it is good. It is the way of things. It’s all part of the journey.
Those who know both Taylor and Madison can attest to the fact that they are very different ladies who have struck out on very different paths. One still in Iowa. The other in Colorado. One is into art. The other has found an entrepreneurial spirit for business. One married early. The other is single. It has been fascinating to watch our girls strike out on their own respective paths, but they have both been a source of great joy. What emerged out of those teenager-cave bedrooms are sensible, capable and amazing women who are each seeking God’s path in their own way. They both stumble. They both struggle. They face their own unique obstacles. They both make mistakes.
The experience of becoming an empty-nester has revealed to me two unexpected truths:
I experience far more emotional stress and anxiety over my adult children then I ever did when they were teenagers living in my house. I realize now how much I appreciated feeling like the ever present dad who could fix anything for his little girl. I struggle now with feelings of being the impotent father who must look on from afar as they struggle with broken cars, broken hearts and life wounds that are not my place nor in my power to fix.
I experience far more joy than I ever thought possible as I watch them become the women God intends. The first truth is tempered by this one. I read the proverb above this morning and felt it in my soul. My heart whispered, “I know that joy.”
For parents of young children, let this old man share with you one more truth I’ve understood as I now look across the hallway from my office at an empty bedroom. The adults your children become hinge upon the time, love, and attention you invest when they are toddlers and young children. Do not wait. Do not believe that someday you will make up for lost time. Take them on dates. Take a personal day and lay on the couch with them when they are sick. Go to their games. Be patient when they want to avoid you like the plague and be present when they actually want to talk to you. Once they are gone, so is your opportunity.
The Lord looks down from heaven and sees the whole human race. From his throne he observes all who live on the earth. He made their hearts, so he understands everything they do. Psalm 33:13-15 (NLT)
The other night we were at our friends’ house. Wendy and I had brought the gift of books for their two young boys and enjoyed watching them unwrap their gifts. It was fascinating to watch as the older child spied to see what the younger child got (“Did he get a better book than me??!”), then attempted to grab little brother’s book right out his hands for inspection. We then watched as the younger one played the victim card with pitch perfect precision: screams of rage and crocodile tears turned on with an invisible switch on his brain. Back and forth the sibling rivalry and angst flowed. The adults watched with patient understanding and the parents did their best to navigate the bubbling cauldron of childish emotions.
God reminds us time and time again that our relationship with Him is that of parent and child. To God, we must all be like little children acting out. Even as adults, our emotional tirades and self-centered actions must seem to Father God as the acts of a toddler to us.
Today, I’m glad that my heavenly Father knows my heart, even when this grown up child is naughty.