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.
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.