RITE OF PASSAGE: A curse…and a blessing
As I climbed back into the car after filling up the gas tank and going inside to pay the attendant, my sons started chattering like chipmunks. In the few minutes I had left them there, something enormous had taken place. Now, they were pushing each other out of the way, trying to lean over the front seat to be the first to tell me what had just happened. Finally, Jeremiah blurted it out: “Daddy, you should have heard the bad words that man used on Mom.”
Shocked, I asked my wife to translate. What had happened? The man in the truck behind us had grown impatient. While I was paying our bill, he came up to her window, asking her to drive forward so he could start pumping gas. She responded kindly that I would be out in just a minute, and we would be on our way. The man, who apparently didn’t like the idea of waiting, released a barrage of profanity that filled both our car and the ears of my two young sons. Apparently, he called my wife every name in the book, and my boys were doing their best to tell me what he had said about her without using his exact words.
I knew this situation meant that 1) My sons needed to see how a man handles someone who mistreats another; 2) They needed to see their dad protect their mom’s dignity, and 3) My wife needed to see me defend her. I decided to take a stand-and teach this man a lesson in the process.
One thing our impatient friend didn’t know was that at the moment, I was on duty for the Tulsa Police Department, where I served as a chaplain for seven years. Yes, I carried a badge and a police radio, and I was wearing a police jacket with the word “chaplain” emblazoned on the front. Climbing out of my car, I turned on the radio so the man could hear the “police chatter” as I approached. I strode back to where he was parked, politely asking him to step out of his vehicle.
I could see my two boys, faces firmly planted against the rear window. I asked the man what my family had done to cause him to unleash such a tirade. Staring at me in my police jacket, badge shining and radio squawking away, he began to apologize profusely. As he continued, I asked him to turn around, put his hands on his truck and “spread ’em,” so that his back was turned toward the busiest intersection in all of Tulsa.
People began slowing down to stare at him as he leaned, spread-eagled, against his vehicle. I told him to stay there while I took out my radio and pretended to speak with someone on the other end. Going back to sit in my car, I turned to my sons and told them to watch him and let me know when they thought he had enough. I could see the pride reflected in the boys’ eyes as they saw how their dad was protecting his family. After a few minutes, I asked them, “Do you think he has learned his lesson yet?” They both thought that he had.
I went back to the man, and I told him I wanted to make this easy on him. If he would go up and apologize to that nice lady on the passenger’s side and those two boys in the back seat, he would be free to pump his gas and go. I heard a sigh of relief in his voice. He walked up to our car and began to apologize very respectfully to my wife and two sons. When he stopped, I asked my sons if he had apologized for the same length of time that he had cursed at them, and they both said, “No.” I told him to keep on talking. When the boys agreed that he had finished, he went back to his truck, and I drove off.
That day, God gave my sons a blessing that no money could buy. They learned that it is a man’s God-given responsibility to protect his family, especially the females. The Ten Commandments say for us to honor our father and mother. How can a son understand that truth if he doesn’t see it exhibited in his dad’s life?
Fathers, when an opportunity presents itself for you to protect your family members, do it in a gentle, but firm, way that honors them and glorifies Christ. Your wife will call you blessed, and your children will be proud. After all, your son should learn how to be a real man by watching . . . you.