On occasion after dinner I will recline on my luxurious sofa (as long as there isn't dried cereal stuck to it or the milk spilled between the cushions doesn't smell like feta cheese that has been partially digested). From my pampered position I will summon my beloved children, one by one, to my side...but they won't come. They have learned over the years that I merely intend to yank them onto the couch, tickle them mercilessly, and send them unceremonioulsly down to the floor in a crumpled, giggling heap. Like Pavolv's dogs who drooled at the tinkle of a bell, my children have recognized the consequences of certain behaviors, specifically that approaching a seemingly placid father lying on the couch means ticklepalooza. But every once in a while, carelessly detatched from impending events, one of them will wander near...and I get 'em. Oh, boy I get 'em.
The children are not unique to this behavior; I am certain each of us could conjure up examples of personal behaviors we are well aware to be detrimental and yet... For example, I am painfully aware that putting any hope in the Buffalo Bills will lead to bitter disappointment, yet I watch. I have tasted the bitter gall of telling one's wife that one's mother makes a particular dish a bit better, yet I speak. I have felt the the burn of the searing gaze of a teen-aged daughter when I comment on the location of her most recent blemish, yet my lips move. I am Charlie Brown. I must kick the ball, and so I run, with all my strength, and moments later I am on my back while Lucy howls in laughter.
Today I am feeling very much like Charlie Brown, spinning in the air and awaiting a fleshy thud as I become one with the cold, hard ground. Parenting can be like that...I have a child who can't seem to grow up. This child will not take responsibility, will not commit himself to work, will not recognize that diligence and character define us. He is neglectful of his studies, his faith, and his family. Logical, reasonable, rational people would tell me to give up. They would carefully justify the reasons for throwing up my hands and surrendering responsibility. They would nod in grim agreement if I simply said, "enough". But I can't. I am a father. And so I will rant, rave, cajole, advise, discipline, ground, punish and plead; but I will not give up. Believe me when I say that many days I do want to give up, protect myself from disappointment, and abdicate responsibility for a boy who will take none. It is a struggle. But what of the father of the prodigal? What of St. Monica? What of our Heavenly Father who calls us to Himself despite our unyielding propensity to sin?
Please, God, give me strength. One of these times I will kick the ball.
With my luck it will probably go wide right...