Tag Archives: Teenager

Paying the Price (or Not)

Paying the Price (or Not) [CaD 2 Sam 24] Wayfarer

But the king replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” 2 Samuel 24:24 (NIV)

It was almost cliche. It was the first weekend that my sister and I, as teenagers, had been left alone in the house. My parents headed to Le Mars to spend the weekend with Grandpa Vander Well. I was fourteen. My sister was sixteen. We were given the standard parental instructions not to have anyone over, to keep the house clean while they were gone, yada, yada, yada, blah, blah, blah.

We invited a few people over. I honestly remember it only being a few people. Nevertheless, word spread that there was a party at the Vander Wells, whose parents were out of town. Somehow, the kids kept coming that night. At one point I remember hiding in the laundry room because of the chaos outside. I’m not sure when I realized that things were out of control. Perhaps it was when members of the football team began daring each other to successfully jump from the roof of our house onto the roof of the detached garage.

This, of course, was the pre-cell phone era. News took longer to travel. The parents got home on Sunday evening. The house was picked up and spotless. We thought we’d gotten away with it. I’m not sure which neighbor ratted us out, but on Monday morning Jody and I were quickly tried in a kitchen tribunal and found guilty as charged. I could have made a defense that it was Jody’s idea and the crowd was mostly older kids who Jody knew. I could have pled the defense that our older siblings, Tim and Terry, never got in trouble for the parties that they had when the rest of us were gone. Forget it. I knew it was useless.

We were grounded for a week. I didn’t argue. I didn’t complain. I didn’t whine. I was guilty and I knew it. I gladly paid the price for my sin.

I was struck by David’s response to Arauna, who offered to give David everything he needed to atone for his mistake. David understood the spiritual principle that the price has to be paid for your mistake. David had blown it and he deserved to pay the price of the sacrifice. I had blown it and knew I had to do a week in the 3107 Madison penitentiary as the price for my infraction.

I think almost all of us know when we blow it, whether we wish to admit it or not. I think almost all of us understand that we deserve to pay the price for our mistakes. What is difficult is to accept that Jesus paid the price for me. That’s what the cross was all about. When I arrive at the metaphorical threshing floor seeking to make some sacrifice to atone for what I’ve done, Jesus says “I’ve already paid the price. I’ve already made the sacrifice, once and for all. The only thing you have to do is accept it.

For me, the spiritual economics of this cut against the grain of everything I’ve experienced and have been taught. I want to pay the price for my sin. I need to pay the price for my sin. I can’t believe that my guilty conscience can be absolved in any other way than for me to personally pay the price and feel the pain. So, I self-flagellate. I become Robert Di Nero, the repentant slave trader in The Mission (watch the movie clip below), dragging a heavy sack of armor up a rocky cliff as penance to confront the people he’d been enslaving because I simply cannot believe that forgiveness can be found by any other means than personally paying a heavy price.

How ironic that, for some, the obstacle to believing in Jesus is simply accepting and allowing Him to have paid the price for us.

Today, I’m thinking about the things I do out of guilt for what I’ve done, rather than gratitude for what Jesus did for me when He paid the price and made the sacrifice I deserved to make. And, I’m uttering a prayer of thanksgiving.

  A Note to Readers
I’m taking a blogging sabbatical and will be editing and re-publishing my chapter-a-day thoughts on David’s continued story in 2 Samuel while I’m taking a little time off to focus on a few other priorities. Thanks for reading.
Today’s post was originally published in May 2014
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Note: The featured image on today’s post was created with Wonder A.I.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Refusing to Feed Emotional Fires

source: judy baxter via Flickr
source: judy baxter via Flickr

If a ruler’s anger rises against you,
    do not leave your post;
    calmness can lay great offenses to rest.
Ecclesiastes 10:4 (NIV)

I am the youngest of four siblings. It is said, primarily by elder siblings, that the younger children always have it easier than their older brother and sisters. I do agree that parents tend to chill out as they get older. I don’t know whether this is because they have more parenting experience or because they are simply worn out. Perhaps a little of both. In that leg of my journey, I found that my path was sometimes made easier by observing and learning from the mistakes of my brothers and sister.

When I was young I watched the arguments between my parents and my siblings. Like all families, we had our fair share of them. My observation led me to perceive and understand that there was a consistent pattern in the way arguments escalated between my parents and my siblings:

  • Child asks for something they want.
  • Parent says, “no.”
  • Indignant, child rolls eyes and asks for reason.
  • Defensive, parent plays the authoritarian trump card. “Because, I said so.”
  • Child plays victim card, makes snide remark (under his breath, but still meant to be audibly heard) about never getting his way.
  • Parent takes offense, reacts, and angrily calls child out for his attitude.
  • Child raises his voice and accuses parent of injustice, recounting a string of similar cases.
  • Parent raises voice, recounts their own rap sheet of the child’s offenses, and threatens further punishment if child doesn’t back down.
  • Child screams and accuses parent of running a concentration camp for children.
  • Parent screams back what an ungrateful child they have and grounds him for life.
  • Doors slam.

Having observed this pattern on a number of occasions, I quickly learned that:

  1. Arguing never changed my parents initial decision, it only entrenched it.
  2. Arguing almost always ended with the child in worse trouble and more punishment.
  3. Arguing led to parental defensiveness and mistrust.

So, I stopped arguing:

  • Child asks for something they want.
  • Parent says, “No.” Instinctively sets defense shields to maximum.
  • Child calmly says, “Okay.” He returns to his room (face it, either way it’s where you always end up).
  • Parent scratches head and wonders what just happened.

To be honest, I wasn’t always happy about my parents decisions. My pragmatism didn’t lessen my adolescent anger. I threw some private tantrums back in my room that I refused to let my parents see. It just seemed to me that all the escalation and arguing was a waste of time and energy, and the ultimate outcome threatened to be worse than just sucking up the disappointment at not getting what I wanted. The result? I think my parents were ultimately easier going and more trusting with me because I was an easier going kid.

Looking back, I believe that learning this lesson proved valuable throughout my life journey. Directing my emotional energies where they can truly make a difference and wisely choosing my emotional battles has served me well. As Solomon alluded in today’s chapter, refusing to react to another person’s emotional outburst and remaining calm usually halts any further escalation. Choosing not to add fuel to the emotional fire, the other person’s rage will usually smolder rather quickly.

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Responding (Not Reacting) When the Answer is “No”

9731139389_f244ca7b9c_z“And now, Lord, let the promise you have made concerning your servant and his house be established forever. Do as you promised.” 1 Chronicles 17:23 (NIV)

When I was coming into my teen years, I remember observing exchanges between my peers and their parents. My friend would ask for permission to go here or there to do this or that. The parent would say “no.” My friend would blow up and start arguing. The parent would dig his or her heels in and the argument would escalate. In the end, my friend would  never have won the argument, the parent would be even more pissed off and distrustful of their child than they were before, and nothing of any positive value resulted from the argument.

Mulling this over in my mind for a while, I made a decision not to argue with my parents. If they said “no,” when I asked for something I would not argue, complain, roll my eyes, throw a tantrum, or indicate that I was angry in any way. I would simply respond “okay,” and walk away. It was a conscious choice not to react to my natural emotions but to willfully respond in a predetermined way. Sometimes I would walk to my room, shut the door and vent my frustration in private, but I vowed not to let my parents see me rattled. I’m sure I didn’t have a perfect record with my willful compliance, but I did pretty well.

I remember the first couple of times I did this I could see my mother brace for an argument and the surprise when I simply said “okay.” I could imagine her confusion and wonder, thinking “Wow, what’s up with him?” as I walked away. In the end, I think my strategy had a positive effect in a handful of ways. Things were more harmonious at home without the arguments. Because there was less escalation of arguments there was less of the regular punishments that came from yelling or being defiant with my parents. While I can’t quantify it, I also think my parents became more likely to say “yes” when I asked permission because of the way I handled their “no.”

I thought about that this morning as I read of David asking God to let him build a permanent temple in Jerusalem to replace the tent (or tabernacle) that the nation had used for centuries since the time of their wandering under Moses. David’s response was “Okay.” He didn’t throw a fit. He didn’t get angry. He didn’t rebel. He praised God, he thanked God for blessing him in so many ways, and he went along with the plan.

Today, I’m thinking about my own attitude and response to God when things don’t go my way. I think that perhaps I sometimes act as if I have forgotten the lesson I learned in my youth. I wonder if I’m a more petulant child with my Heavenly Father as an adult than I was with my earthly parents as a child.

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Late Night Conversation

2013 09 27 Late Night Conversation
Canon 6D f/4 1/10 ISO12800

I shot this on a quick whim the other night. It’s far from a perfect shot, but I immediately fell in love with it. I love Suzanna’s awkward teenager stance and the fact that her socks are different colors. I love that Wendy is turned away from her desk and leaning in towards Suzanna.

One of the things I have learned while working with youth and raising teenagers is that important conversations often happen late at night. Perhaps it’s that our guard comes down at night when we’re weary of trying to hold it up. Perhaps it’s that the phone isn’t ringing and there’s no one rushing off to some immediate appointment. Perhaps it’s a combination of things. Whatever the reason, I relish the opportunity to have meaningful conversations with kids who are honestly just trying to figure things out in an increasingly complex world.