The Field

Yesterday’s yesterdays jumble and pile.
I wake,
and walk —
again.

I shuffle with leaden legs in numbing rhythm,
rousting a sacred cloud that accompanies
my tracing of Hope’s path.

Spent flora, trapped in brittle nests
offer silent tribute to
by-gone seasons of life.

With dulled eyes skimming
the frustrated landscape,
I plant with wobbly resolve.

And wait.

I return
to this Field of Promise
a beggar —
again.

Dank grayness surrounds me;
I’m chilled —
from the inside out.

Hushed tormenting sameness
tensions my faith
toward thinness.

A violent tumult of
what is, what isn’t, and what should be
usurps all cognition.

Dear God, Sower of this Field —

Wrestle life from
the starved soil
of this bewildered soul.

Rake, pull, tear, and burn
my prideful thatch.

Plow the deadness
into furrows of grace.

Water and Light,
come nourish my anguish.

Release in me a joyful submission
and patience’s fruit.

Call forth a sprig of green.

For tomorrow I’ll wake,
and walk to this Field again.

Copyright © 2015 Chris De Man. All rights reserved.

Hot Pursuit

Nearly twenty-two years of the same stealthy preparations. A pre-dawn routine executed with precision. On this particular morning, I sought extra discretion. My mission was to slip away unnoticed. Avoid interaction or confrontation. No words. Simply brush her cheek with a kiss and leave her sleep undisturbed. Gently close the bedroom door, descend the stairs, and traverse the minefield of aging floorboards without setting-off a creak or groan.

My destination: the office. The goal: a quiet morning of coffee, reading, prayer – you know – the litany of good, noble, and righteous things that are fodder for humble tweeting.

I wish there was something tweet-worthy in those moments. My morning maneuvers that day were a cover-up. A ruse. An attempt to distance myself from the week’s tension. Tension with what, I’m not sure. I can’t pinpoint a particular issue or conversation or event. Life just felt like a slow plodding through fog and a 45-degree drizzle. I don’t enjoy being wet or cold and those days gave me feelings of wet and cold. I responded with observable annoyance and emotional withdrawal. And as I began that day in question, my aim was continued retreat…to somewhere…alone.

I slipped out the door and was soon bunkered in my dimly lit office. My escape seemed assured. The coffee was poured, email checked, and Bible open. I was alone, and it was quiet.

Until my computer loosed a tinker bell chime. A new iMessage. From my wife.

My cover was blown.

Here’s our brief exchange:

my wife
    Are you meeting someone for breakfast?
me
    No. I’m in my office studying. I meet my mom at 8.
my wife
    Can I come up and have a meeting? 🙂
me
    a meeting?? about what?
my wife
    Just a couple things I started to write but are complicated. Easier to talk.
me
    ok

Ugh. She was on to me, hot in her pursuit. I was hemmed-in. Trapped. She was coming to crash my pity party. What did she want to talk about? “Complicated” is code word for “you’ve got some ‘splainin’ to do, buddy!” I found small consolation in her use of a smiley face emoticon.

I sighed, then slouched in my chair. I was upset and disappointed. Not with her, but me.

I didn’t want to see her. Well, I did…and didn’t. I was seeking escape so I could spend time floating like deadwood in the mental whirlpool of ‘woe is me.’ I wanted to craft my case for why I deserve better. That morning I wasn’t interested in reason or rescue. I didn’t want to chat.

But she did. And she’s my wife, so we talk.

She is also the person I fear the most. 

I fear her, not because she is unkind, but because she knows too much — too much about me. Marriage necessitates deep, personal revelation. A sacred vulnerability brought forth through committed trust. With transparency comes risk in our engagements because neither she nor I are free from mistakes. We misjudged and misinterpret. We make assumptions. We say things we shouldn’t and cause each other pain. This reality can be frightening. Sometimes distance seems a safer choice. It did for me that morning.

But marriage is a covenanted oneness. A relationship that pursues and protects and breaks into early morning darkness. It brings warmth to a cold heart. It protects from the mist that dampens a spirit. How wonderful is it that someone who has experienced the most offensive, disgusting, repulsive things about you makes the willful choice to seek. To find. To confront. To love.

My wife has heaps of grace and saintly patience for this stubborn man. I am blessed, and grateful.

I really did hope to escape that morning. On occasion I need some time by myself to get straightened around. My wife knows that and gives appropriate space.

She also knows when to track me down.

Perfectly Scripted

For one hour each week, everyone in the room had to acknowledge my amazingness. For sixty minutes I lived in celebrity. Elevated and set apart from every other classmate. I was a fourth-grade prodigy. Not of math or music or English, but penmanship.

I was the King of Curves. The Sultan of Script. A veritable Michelangelo of the big fat pencil.

My mastery bought me exemption from those monotonous, mind-numbing exercises of tracing-out row upon row of alphabet soup. While my buddies toiled, their hands cramping from the perplexities of capital ‘Q’ and lower case ‘b’, I sat aloof. Distanced by my special skill, I contentedly surveyed the hoard of scribblers, peacefully counting the minutes until recess.

I remember those moments with satisfaction. An appropriate pride in something I could do well. I felt special, distinct, unique. And those feelings were legitimized through peer review and an authoritative declaration from Mr. Olthoff. I had achieved success!

Now here I sit, thirty-five years later, reliving tales from fourth grade that mean…nothing? The spotlight is gone. My calligraphic skill has atrophied. And the memory of my triumph lives only in the annals of my mind. But those elementary school experiences affect me still. Through those recollected scenes I interact with what’s true and good about me.

I’d like to dwell there.

But juxtaposed against my scripting finesse is a string of disappointments and embarrassments. Frustrations and regrets. Moments of remorse and shame. And a collection of caustic words that cling to me like hot tar.

Is there sense to be made of life’s dichotomy?

In his Institutes, John Calvin said, “…we are impelled by our miseries to reflect on the Lord’s good gifts, and we cannot sincerely yearn for him until we have first begun to cease being pleased with ourselves.”* I would enjoy walking around this day, acknowledged repeatedly for my neat handwriting. To hear from random strangers, “Hey! I’ve heard you can craft a sweet lower case ‘z’!” Instead, reality is a blend of good coffee and dirty diapers. Sunset walks and orthodontics. Birthday parties and chemotherapy.

Why? Because both grace and misery lead us to majesty.

Calvin reminds us that we were made to live for more than accomplishments or accolades. Certainly, it is right to celebrate beautiful handwriting. But such things should be not an end, but touch points that propel us higher, and farther, and deeper into our desire for God. After all, what’s pleasurable about my penmanship is sourced from Who is truly pleasurable. And through enjoyment of Him and his generous gifting we learn to love Him. To trust Him. To give back to Him as we persevere through frustration and sickness, discouragement and tragedy, name-calling and lies.

I’ve never learned so much by not doing schoolwork. Don’t tell my kids…


*John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, translation by Robert White, p.1

Pinch Me

Reality can be a Vulcan nerve pinch. A painful, paralyzing squeeze.

A few weeks back, I intruded upon my daughter and her friends in the midst of a hairstyling frenzy. After twisting and tying and combing and spraying they digitized their artistry via an iPad camera. I perceived this as ripe opportunity to enhance my ‘super cool dad’ image. After asking for an appointment to get my hair done, I weaseled my way into their photo shoot. I felt youthful and cool, expecting to ‘wow’ with a smoldering mugshot. Of course, my intense self-absorption blinded me to their collectively raised eyebrows and silent thoughts of, “Ummm…he’s, like, weird!” Reluctantly, they took my photo.

Mouth-covered giggles bounded among the young ladies as my photo was viewed. I pensively reached for the iPad, expecting to see an unappreciated GQ-like mugshot. I neither giggled nor grinned. I gasped. Shocked, I was, at my visible scalp-to-hair ratio. I was losing population in my hair metropolis (and I’ve been such a good mayor!). The ego-deflating snickers continued as I relinquished my attempt at ‘cool.’ No longer can I deny that my steps are firmly plodding on the ground of middle age.

Confronting the truth about who I am is a curious engagement. A tenuous mixture of pride, fear, expectation, denial, longing, and disappointment. It’s a collision of questions unanswered and uncomfortable truth. It’s thinning hair alongside relational complexities.

It’s easy to dwell on what I lack. What I don’t like. What I wish was different. How I desire more ‘this,’ less ‘that.’ Accepting my finite self is difficult. Frustration and sadness and anger can swell in discontented moments. And when I brush against my limitations, I often hear the burdening lie of inadequacy and respond with passivity and silence. At times, I do laps around the pool of self pity or fret away hours coveting the skill or ability or circumstance of another.

But I must live in my reality.

Pinch.

I am what I am. A special blend of the spectacular and deficient. A moldable soul, ready to be shaped – shaped divinely by the tool of grace.

Grace that can sting as it transforms through corrective words, firm nudges, providential circumstances, difficult choices, loss, and gain. In those moldable settings, when confronted with my incomplete humanity, do I reach for bricks and a trowel to build a wall of defensiveness, or submit to the all-wise care of the Gentle Shepherd? Do I embrace my short-comings and yearn to be shaped more and more into a humble, patient, grateful follower of Jesus Christ?

I’m a weak, imperfect creature. So are you. But we’ve been crafted to flourish. To enjoy and promote the good, true, and beautiful. To bask in the benevolent and powerful grace of our Creator, who lovingly shapes us with life’s grace-filled pinches.

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9, ESV)

A Passion for Paint

“But he gives more grace.” A provoking phrase, purposely placed in the midst of a discourse on desire and passions.*

Something I’m passionate about is a smooth, clean, well-painted wall. Crisp lines. Deep color. Vibrant contrast. In such rooms I long to linger. However, my passion is not shared by all in my home.

Some have lesser affinity for the beauty of walls done well. Instead, walls are seen as objects for tactile exploration.

For example, consider the Albatross Glide. Picture a child, arms stretched wide and fingers extended to the tip such that both the left and right sides of a stairwell or hallway can be touched. From this posture the child glides birdlike from floor to floor or room to room, their fingers leaving shadowy entrails on the painted surface. The walls of my home are marked by migratory patterns flown by my nest of ‘birds.’

For teen boys, high-fiving the bulkhead is popular. A good slap, high up the wall, confirms an increasing stature. Those high-fives have left a dirty, and unwelcome, “hey, dad!” greeting on the second floor overhang.

Other versions of painted wall abuse include the pin-balling backpack, the shoe shake-and-launch, and the momentum saving turn-the-corner hand grab. Left behind are divots, dings and rubber streaks – evidence of happy children who have passion for things other than pretty walls.

Such are the skirmishes with desire that weave their way through the warp and woof of today. We are passionate people. Lines will be drawn on many fronts beyond latex paint.

So as I ponder chapter four of his epistle, I observe James arguing toward grace. Grace for what? Our misplaced desires. Desires that result in anti-God allegiances and destructive behaviors. Passions that can metaphorically, or literally, kill. Passions and desires that usurp God’s proper place. In a word, idolatry.

And we are all guilty.

Yes, more grace, please.

Grace for when I can’t get what I want. Grace to drown my discontent. Grace to unwind me when tangled in selfishness. Grace to reveal that my desire for perfectly painted walls is a log in my vision that obstructs my view to all but the spec of fingerprints.

Many times I’ve stumbled or slipped or even rushed into a tyrannical lecture on the value of a fine paint job. My desires aren’t necessarily wrong. Discussion about the walls in my home should include the issues of respect and stewardship and reasonable behavior. But grace must be the ever-fresh principle that leads to a first place love of God, and a care-filled love of others.

Humility. Submission. Gentleness. Forgiveness. Holy antidotes to misplaced passion. The moments of today will be strung between opposing desires.

Will I give more grace?

* “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” (James 4:1–10, ESV)

Are You Listening?

Strong coffee. The smell of a campfire. A well-tensioned film. Belly laughs. Cutting with a sharp chainsaw. Crickets at dusk. Old books with cloth covers. Wrestling with my boys. Fresh-cut grass. A clever sentence. Candle-lit rooms. Shade trees in hot breezes. Neck nuzzling with my girls. The rhythmic roll of breaking waves. The flip-flap of Cottonwood leaves. My wife sneaking her hand into mine. The fragrance of springtime Lilacs. The dark quiet of morning. Weathered barns. Bacon.

All delightful to me. Satisfying. Pleasurable. Comforting. Restful. The tightness of life unwinds when I receive even staccatoed moments with such things.

Delights are divine gifts. Blessings for our human experience. In our image bearing of God, we delight because He delights. For certainly, God has much to delight in.

I wonder at the vastness of His created universe. We grapple for the edge of the expanse and close our fingers around more of the same void. Our place in it all seems miniscule, yet inspiring and wonderful. Unfathomable and delightful.

Still, with all that we see and have yet to uncover, the epicenter of God’s delight is not supernovas or Saturn’s rings. Jupiter’s spot or a shooting star. It’s not constellations or continents or crustaceans. It’s not anemones, butterflies or Redwood trees.

It is us.

We are His delight. We are the objects of His affectionate gaze. We dwell under the friendly sky of the Father’s love for His Son, Jesus. A love so strong and pure and holy that the Father and Son wanted to share it – with you, and me. And by grace, through faith, we can. It’s a wonderful, delightful envelopment. It’s also mysterious. Perplexing. Illogical. Incomprehensible.

Why, with all in which He could find joy, does God delight in me?

Didn’t He hear how I spoke to my daughter last night? Or observe how I was stingy with my time? Didn’t He notice how I received those compliments too proudly? How about the thoughts that exploded in my mind as ‘she’ walked by? Or the running list of selfish excuses? My retreats into silence? Those times I avoided conversation? Walked the other way? Looked away? Pretended not to hear?

God – how can I be delightful to you?

Even before the echo of this question wisps away, my doubts are chased by melodious tones. Soft, pleasant, peaceful sounds. Unearthly sounds. Divine sounds. Sounds that swell to a rapturous song. A song of delight. A song for, and about me.

“The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17, NIV)

My head can’t piece it together. Delight and love and joy and singing.

For me.

Me?

My life seems quite uninspiring. At times, undelightful. Still, the Mighty Warrior sings and saves. He releases heavenly strains that cascade upon my soul. My task is to listen. And believe. And rest. And feast on joy so graciously offered.

Despite my fledgling faith, I must do the hard work of seizing the truth and power of God’s delight in me. To be true to His joy-filled crafting of who I am. To acknowledge my worth through His Son. To respond in love, gratitude, and whole-hearted giving.
  
Our souls respire on our delights. We seek them. Work for them. Treasure them. Replay them. I yearn to accept and understand more of God’s love and enjoyment of me. His delighting not just in what I do, but who I am in Jesus. Delight that traverses moments when I’m a passive husband. An absent father. A neglectful friend. I’m a man who makes mistakes and messes and missteps. But Someone is always singing my song.

He sings yours too.

Are you listening?

Heaven Moves

Perfect love.

Pure community.

A vision for expression.

Empty. Dark. Barren. 

Generative speech.

Creativity tramples the void.



Water and warmth.

Light and life.

Plants and beasts.



Man. Then woman.

Perfect partners. 

Wonderful wholeness.



A question posed.



Word against word. 

Doubt and decision.

A fateful fulcrum.

Hiding. Shame. Sorrow.

Death is born. 

Pain rides death’s wake.



Yet, a promise.

Hope’s seed.

Divinely sealed.

But not now.



First a flood.

Then a tower.

And bondage.



Wild wandering. 

Conquest and settling.

Cycling generations. 



Judges. Kings.

Captivity. Release. 

Remnant. Rebuild.



Courageous voices stir atrophied hopes.

To remember.



Oh Lord, how long?

The silence is deafening.



In time…

Heaven moves.



Angelic pronouncements.

Startling words. Heavy words. 

Fantastic words. Terrible words.

Ancient, but fresh words.

Life-giving words.

About The Word.

To a priest. 

A girl. 

And a man.

Great expectation initiates unexpectedly. 

Perfectly timed.

Unassuming, yet shocking. 



Man. Woman. Spirit. 

A mystical incorporation.

Fragile, but unbreakable.

Their faith – steadfast.

Their contentment – inspiring.

Their obedience – courageous.
 


Hope’s seed.
Sprouted and growing.

Setting roots in a maligned cove of Palestine.

Human life.

Flesh and blood. 

Crying. Dirty. Bloody. Helpless.

Beautiful.

A birth for our re-birth. 

Our rescue.

Our redemption.



First a child. 

Then a man. 

Always God.

Jesus.

A promise fulfilled.

Hope made real.

A crush to the curse. 



He cried at birth.

He would cry in His death. 

Again dirty. Bloody. Helpless.

Alone.

His life for ours.

A fantastic swap.

We crowd His Cross to wash in grace.

Salvation, sprung from a manger.

Profoundly simple.

Mysteriously complex. 

Soulfully wonderful.

What selfless limiting. 

What sacrifice.

What love.

What joy!

His joy.

Our joy.

He is our ransom. 

He is our God.

Who is with us.

Emmanuel. 


Getting Personal

Things are getting personal in our home. Personal, as in personality tests.
It started when one of my children and his circle of friends became intrigued by the Myers-Briggs test. A free online version of the test fueled their ongoing discussion, analysis and comparison. Sometimes they refer to each other by their type indicator, like ESFP or INFJ. They enjoy speculating what other people might be. My son pegged me as an INTJ.
Assessments like Myers-Briggs, DISC, Strengths Finder, Kolbe, et al can be instructive. There’s value in understanding how and why we behave in natural and adapted ways. It can be enlightening. Fun, even. As a parent, insight into the hard wiring of my children can lead toward the development of better and more effective ways of communicating and nurturing. In the workplace, assessments can go far toward crafting efficient, productive, unified teams.
Contrarily, assessments offer temptation. To use results as a shield or wall to hide behind. To legitimize negative behavior. To respond to confrontation with a flippant, “Well that’s just who I am.” It’s also tricky to stay away from categorical labeling such as, “Well, she’s an INTJ you know” or “Yep, he’s got his hands full with that high-D child.”
I’ve fallen prey to some of those temptations. I’ve jumped to conclusions. Pigeon-holed. Sold people short. And when I do, I discount their uniqueness. My assumptions close the door to enjoying the beauty and strength of each personality type. Unfounded judgments choke the possibility for relating in a way that brings honor and glory to the One who made all of us.
Jesus is our best example of how to live with all types of people. He burst upon our human experience “full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14) He’s Lord of the introverts and the party animals. The entrepreneurs and the dutiful. The controllers and the drifters. The dependent, the self-righteous, the compulsive, the brash and the misunderstood. In all His relationships Jesus gave, and continually gives “grace upon grace.” (John 1:16) I am called to do the same by softening interactions with ENFPs, high I’s, the unorganized and the chatty (did I mention I’m an INTJ?). I’m to have a graceful disposition that absorbs misjudgment of things I did or did not do. Said, or did not say. Grace that gently guides to the truth and love of Jesus Christ.
Whether shy, decisive, free spirit, analyst, artist or strategist we are all worthy of dignity and respect. We all bear God’s image and each of us is responsible to harness our entire being – strengths and weaknesses – for God’s glory. The Westminster Catechism states it this way: “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” Bringing glory to God involves shedding sin. It demands loving God and loving people. (Matthew 22:37-39) It should result in ways of living that align with the clear instruction of God’s Word. It means allowing room for differing personalities, styles and strengths recognizing we are all much less than perfect. (Romans 3:23)
Peace and unity in a world of diversity is a tough gig. It’s the tension of balancing truth and love while finding grace for the gray areas. Such is the call of a Jesus follower – no matter your personality type.
O Spirit of God…help me to walk the separated life with firm and brave step, and to wrestle successfully against weakness. ~ Valley of Vision, “Weaknesses”

Five Kernels

Four hundred years ago, a ship full of religious zealots left the coast of England to begin a mythic journey. It started with bad weather and a detour. Then delay. When the journey resumed, it was riddled with disease and death. The destination promised freedom and opportunity. But what greeted these travelers was hardship and discouragement.
In the fall of 1622, sandwiched between an untamed North American wilderness and the Atlantic shoreline, those zealots – called pilgrims – prepared for winter. The summer growing season had been plagued by drought. Fall brought forth a meager harvest. Food stores were exceptionally low as a cruel blast of uncommon cold ushered in an early winter. 
This humble group offered fervent prayers for their daily provision. At their lowest and most desperate moment, each person in their small community was rationed five kernels of corn – for the day. Five hard, dry kernels.
Five kernels. Small organic bits of hope. Kernels that may have been nervously rolled between frail, dirty fingers. Held tight in little hands. Sucked in wanting mouths. Gobbled quickly. Shared. Perhaps a few were pocketed for later – assuming there would be a ‘later’. 
What a bleak and dreadful winter that was for our pilgrim ancestors. They survived on little more than corn kernels – kernels like those we toss in the garbage after a movie. Yet by God’s grace not a single person died from starvation during that barren winter season. And out of such terrific despair grew a national celebration of thankfulness and gratitude.
On one level, it’s difficult for me to connect with that story. Why? Because I’ve never lacked for anything – at least not in the way the pilgrims did. I’m very well fed. In fact, I’ll be having dinner shortly. I’m far from malnourished and never far from a well-stocked pantry. I am blessed. I should be thankful. But with all things common, it’s easy to presume. Which brings me to the Thanksgiving holiday.
I grieve the treatment Thanksgiving gets – from our culture, and at times, from me. This national family gathering seems more and more like a pep rally. A collective frothing-up of materialistic lusts in anticipation of big sales and outrageous deals. ‘Tis the season of economic stimulus. And in the melee it’s tempting to relegate Thanksgiving to ‘speed bump’ status as we accelerate toward the main event (aka: Christmas).
Now, I realize that short editorial on Thanksgiving celebrations is not true of everyone. My comments are a generalization based solely on my observations, perceptions, gut feelings and personal failings. But if you’re nodding your head in agreement or feeling convicted, stay with me.
Despite my deep enjoyment of Thanksgiving, I can be tempted to give only a tap to the brakes while speeding head-long toward the 25th of December. Even with a thankful heart, the busyness of the season can water-down my giving of thanks. I don’t like that.  
So to help engender a greater spirit of gratitude, I’m reflecting on the pilgrims and that winter of 1622. In honor of their sacrifice, I’ve crafted Five Kernels. Kernels to aid with deflecting cultural distractions. Five focal points for engaging my story with God’s story. Five pithy statements to help me be still, listen and reflect on God’s goodness. Here they are:

My Five Kernels
~ I belong to God.
~ Life is not about me.
~ Trust God and leave the consequences to Him.
~ Entitlement and contentment are not compatible.
~ Don’t take anything, anyone or any day for granted.

There’s nothing magical or sacred about my kernels. They reflect where I’m at right now with life circumstances and my journey with God. My set of kernels next year may be different.  

A few weeks ago I asked if you’d join my protest. As we think intentionally about our blessings today, consider taking time to craft your own set of kernels. It won’t take long. Once you have them, hold them close. Pray over them. Treasure them – like the pilgrims did with their kernels.
Indeed, we have much to be thankful for.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Elementary, My Dear Watson?

This week we had a family mystery. There was a missing item. Several suspects. Conflicting stories. A jury. A judge. And thankfully, no weapon.
I played the roles of prosecutor and judge (that’s the privilege of being “dad”). My assistant, Watson (a.k.a. Katrina) provided me with excellent back-story and evidence from the scene. Feeling well-equipped, I questioned the witnesses – who also happened to be my prime suspects. I tactfully stepped them through some leading questions. I listened. They spilled.
As the “trial” processed, the testimonies and evidence pointed strongly toward a particular conclusion. Although mostly circumstantial, the inevitable verdict had plenty of staying power. An open and closed case. Elementary. Sherlock would be proud.
But not so fast.
Despite the solution to our mystery, the “convicted” remained steadfast in their innocence. They stood vehement against our collective verdict with firm and repeated statements of denial. Justice was questioned. An appeal filed. Happens all the time with court cases, right? Backlash is expected, but quickly shrugged-off. But this is a family, not a court. So our goal is truth, understanding and reconciliation – not prosecution.
So what’s to be done? There I was: the judge. Investigation conducted, verdict delivered. Then there’s my child. Accusation refuted, appeal filed. They sat rock solid in their conviction. As I looked into their eyes across the table, the scene of Martin Luther at the Diet of Worms flashed through my mind: “Here I stand, I can do no other. God help me. Amen.”
I felt stuck. Paralyzed. Frozen in an uncomfortable parenting moment. We were at an impasse. Clearly only one of us was right. I could make this go away, if I wanted to. My bag of consequences is quite full. But would stripping my child of privilege accomplish what I desired? Maybe I should dig-out the hard-backed, unpadded chair from the basement and string-up a spot light? Pressure my child with facts. Wear them down. Give them the silent treatment. Persuade with charm? Whatever it takes to make them see my way.
Which begs this question: is the extraction of a confession my goal? Would a verbal “Alright! I did it!” bring closure? It will, in a way. But it would be an unhealthy resolution. Unwilling compliance only hardens a heart and brews rebellion. Such resignation gives words to a story of self protection, disengagement and lies. I know the truth. My child does too. Still, knowledge is one thing: acceptance another. I’ve been known to be stubborn with accepting the truth, too.
But I wanted this done. Over. Resolved. I’d listen to an appeal if necessary – but make it quick!
After a night of sleep I calmed enough to consider what was really going on. My child was (and still is) clinging to their story like a boa constrictor. They’re afraid. And in their fear they find comfort behind a façade of lies. To admit and accept the truth would push them to a place of painful vulnerability. It’s a ‘catch 22’ of sorts. I’ve been there. Exposure is scary. Precarious. Humbling. The lie seems safer.
While asking God how to handle this dilemma, I was led to a quote from Thomas Watson. He said, “When men and their sins are congealed together, the best way to separate them is by the fire of love.” Bingo! How much better the fire of love than the heat of a spot light. When trapped in sin, will interrogation or pressure yield the desired result? For me, I want someone to come alongside who is patient, loving and encouraging. Someone who listens and prays with, and for me. Not a prosecutor, but an advocate.
Redirected and reenergized, I whisked my child away on a “donut date.” A donut to a child is a sugary way of saying “I love you.” Donuts bring smiles and laughter. They loosen closed mouths. They open opportunities to speak about issues – big and small. I doubt Sherlock ever used donuts with his clients. This morning, I found they work wonders.

Dear Jesus-
Warm me by the fire of your love;
May my child be warmed by me.
Melt the ice from our hearts like the snows of spring.
Even when right, remind me of grace;
Grace greater than all my sin.