Tribulation – Part 3: The Illusion of Self-Control
Third in a series. Read Part Two.
Life is filled with disappointments and aggravations. As Jesus put it in John 16:33: “In the world you will have tribulation ” (MEV).
Despite that promise, after the move to Colorado I related in my two previous blogs, I had never bargained for the maddening frustrations I encountered with parenting.
Any parent can relate to the anger that can course through your veins when faced with a rebellious, smart aleck, know-it-all. Especially one you feed, clothe and shelter.
This reminds me of the joke pastor and radio preacher Chuck Swindoll used to tell, about how to treat teens. When they turn 13, you jam them in a barrel and feed them through the knothole. Then, when they reach 16, you plug up the knothole.
The night my anger boiled over, we had just returned from a movie. My stepson wanted more money. My wife reminded him that we had just given him his full allowance, and he hadn’t even finished mowing the whole yard.
Pushed to the Brink
Letting loose with an off-color adjective aimed at my wife, he bounded up the stairs to his room.
I bounded up on his heels. I seethed with resentment over the pile of comments, insults and invectives he had directed at us for several months.
He was upset that we had taken him away from his friends and moved so far away. But right now, he wasn’t nearly as ticked off as me.
Flinging open the door to his bedroom after he had slammed it, I lifted my right arm. In that moment, time froze.
It was a kind of out-of-body experience. Although it was only a second or two, it seemed more like a minute or two.
With my arm poised to strike him, I thought, “Now I understand how people can plead guilty by reason of insanity.”
After that bit of slow motion, I swung wildly, out of control. I know what unleashed fury feels like. My wife tried to calm things down with a word of protest, but I wasn’t interested in reconciliation.
Putting up his arms in self-defense, my stepson successfully warded off my blows. That made me madder.
Lack of Control
Finally, I overpowered him and pushed him onto his bed, sitting directly on his shoulders. I glared at him. He glared back. If looks could kill, I would have fallen to the floor, lifeless.
“Your mother has done more for you than anyone else in your life,” I declared. “And don’t you forget it.”
He glared back without saying a word.
Finally, I got off his chest and stormed out of the room.
Two days later, I learned that I had blackened the inside of one of his eyelids. Not all my punches had failed to land.
(*Years later, with our relationship mended, I asked him if he remembered the incident. “No,” my stepson said as a slight grin crossed his face, “but I’m sure I deserved it.”)
That incident characterized our life then. It was full of confusion, anger, dismay and wondering why life wasn’t going any better when I thought I was so brilliant, insightful and in control.
As humans, we like to operate under that illusion. We think we know what’s going to happen today, next week and next month. We have everything mapped out.
In reality—as James 4:14 puts it—“you do not know what will happen tomorrow” (MEV). In the weeks that followed this conflict, I was to see the truth of those words.