A Patient Father
On a school night, in a slow paced burger joint, I see an all too familiar scene play out. This 40 something dad has picked his young teenager up from practice and sits across the booth from him. It’s just the two of them. Initially, neither one is paying attention to the other. Both are looking at their phones. An occasional smirk or slight grin, but it’s to themselves, in response to a message on their device. Neither really notices the other as they sit waiting for their order. The food in this place is good. It’s greasy, large servings. A place I bet they love coming together because I imagine the women in their family cringe when it’s suggested. The wait is a little longer than most dives, but the greasy plates are well worth it. Eventually, the dad sets his phone down and I see he’d like to talk, about school, sports, his son’s friends…anything.
While he patiently waits, the son keeps staring and responding to his phone. He is so engrossed the dad gives up asking questions and just watches him. Their order is called; the boy doesn’t hear it, so the dad gets up, muttering something under his breath and retrieves their food. He’s frustrated, desiring companionship with his son. They sit through the meal eating quietly while the boy is distracted by what I can only guess is a myriad of conversations happening in cyber space.
Can you sense the father’s frustration? Can you feel his disappointment? This didn’t appear to be a special meal or place or date, it was only another moment where the dad, now old enough to know, sees precious time slipping through his fingers.
This boy isn’t the problem. I’m sure his friends are funny, the pictures and messages he sees are clever. There may even be a girl in the mix, who no doubt is beautiful…and interested in him. It’s exciting to him, even intoxicating as he waits for the next message to come across the screen. These aren’t bad things. These people, things, thoughts just compete in this boy’s mind for time with his father. As I watch this scene, I understand the real trouble isn’t this boy, one of my children or one of yours. It is that though we are parents, we are exactly like this child.
Our Father is like the dad once his phone has been set on the table. He is waiting. He desires communion, companionship and we’re so busy, looking at everything else, offering half-hearted one-word responses to His questions. Just like this boy, we’re truly thankful for the meal, the ride home and the security of Him being present, but we’re not engaged with Him. We may not be chasing one bad thing. Every distraction is a worthy cause, conversation, relationship, beneficial to our future or our family.
I cannot help wondering as I watch them, where would an engaged conversation between these two have led? Would a great conversation lead to a decision to go together to a game they’d both like to see, or go on a hunt that would be appealing to both of them? I think if they had connected, it might’ve led to something better than the son could imagine.
This I know; the One who promises He is always with me offers more than I could struggle to pull together. His Word tells me He is always present, full of compassion, slow to get angry, filled with unfailing love, grace and truth. These two are a reminder to set my phone down and savor the time with my Father.
“That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what GOD has prepared for those who love HIM.” (1 Corinthians 2:9 NLT)