In the daily walk of life, rearing a teenager is a difficult task. Many times, it appears that no matter what you do or say, the lessons of life never seem to enter the sponge-filled teenage mind.
If you are like me, I have a teenager who is very typical. He wants to be accepted by his peers, impress girls and be electronically connected to his online social world. However, many times, these outlets are the very things that get him into trouble.
Recently, my son lied to me the night before regarding his iPod. Our normal routine is to store his iPod at night so that he isn’t up until all hours of the night and gets a good night rest. When I got home from work the next day, my son apologized to me without me having to say a word.
I explained that I was upset but accepted his apology. I asked him for his iPod. He then argued (a bit) and did not comply with turning off his iPod. My wife and I confiscated the device when he blurted out, “Oh there’s a picture of something that I need to delete from my friend.” Immediately, I knew what it was. Without getting loud, I said to myself, “I will be a better dad and not yell.” I turned to him and actually said, “No worries. Just do what you need to do.”
My wife and I were both curious as to what he had a picture of. I got the iPod and started my regularly unscheduled inspection. As I went through the pictures, I didn’t notice anything that was out of place. It was the usual pictures of sports figures, sneakers and snapshots of games that he has played. Nothing seemed to be out of the ordinary. We both thought that we were wrong in our assumption. During the inspection, I accidentally came across an area where a number of web pages were showing open. It was there that I found the picture he so desperately wanted to erase.
I confronted him and told him that he was being cut off from the iPod and would not be able to go onto the Internet unless he was in a “public” place. He knew he had done wrong. The look on his face said it all. I explained to him that I must follow through with what I told him on previous days as I am the dad and am responsible for teaching him how to live life correctly. So far it all sounds good right????
After reprimanding my son, my wife pulled me aside and said, “How could you give him such a harsh punishment when you, yourself have had issues in this area?” I said, “I have to follow through and show him that I mean what I say.” She turned and said, “Okay, but just remember that when you fall into temptation.”
It didn’t take long. That night I allowed sin to be in command of my life. As I sat wondering what was going on, God said to me, “Do you remember the story of the unforgiving servant?” I responded, “Yes. It was where he was forgiven for a debt he couldn’t ever pay yet didn’t forgive his servant who owed him a small amount of money.” Gently the Lord then said, “Do I need to say more? You are doing the same thing to your son.”
Here is the story I was reminded of:
The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant
Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times. “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” – Matthew 18:21-35 (ESV)
God had taught me that night that He forgave me for a debt that I could never repay. No matter how hard I work or how hard I try, the debt of sin could never been repaid by me. God forgave me of this insurmountable debt.
The next evening, I pulled my son aside and said, “Son, God reminded me that sometimes I do the very things that I tell you not to do. That makes me a hypocrite. He also reminded me that He forgave me of my sin, so I need to forgive you. If God disciplined me for every sin I ever committed, my life would be miserable. I am giving you the iPod back with the understanding that you need to work on this area in your life, just like I do.”
His immediate response was, “Dad, I don’t want it back. I don’t feel like I deserve it.” I knew at that moment that he was truly sorry for what he had done. I said, “That’s fine, but when you want it, it’s here.” Later that night, he said, “Can I have my iPod back?” Without hesitation I gave it back to him for a couple of hours.
God showed me over those few days, that I need to forgive my son just as God forgave me. He also taught me that I have areas I need to work on before disciplining my son in those areas as well. I thought to myself, “I’m right because I’m the dad.” This couldn’t be further from the truth. I wasn’t right. God took that opportunity to humble me and remind me of the forgiveness He gave to me.
I am glad that God doesn’t discipline me every time I sin. If He did, my life would truly be a horrible existence. There are times God disciplines me, especially when I am not listening and I discipline my son for that reason as well. However, as a parent, I wonder how many times we do “hurtful” discipline rather than “forgiving” discipline.
In life, disciplining our children is necessary. However, as they get older, I am finding that discipline changes. When they are small a smack on the hand or butt usually does the trick. But when they are old enough to reason, then discussing the situation and finding a solution may be discipline enough. As parents, we need to remember the forgiveness that God gave to us as a gift and treat our children the same way.
Remember, just because we are parents, doesn’t always mean we are correct. God bless and encourage someone today.