I’m all in favor of progress; it’s the changes I don’t like. I heard about a small town in Nevada where nothing ever changes. The local radio station still gives last year’s weather forecast. No one can tell because in Nevada the weather rarely changes anyway.
Many years ago, I had a bright idea. That’s nothing new—I get one about every 60 seconds. Unlike most of my bright ideas, though, this one was good. My sons were entering their teenage years. To help close the generation gap, I decided to take them on a journey into my past. I planned to let them interview my former teachers, pastors, Sunday School teachers and friends who were in my youth group. They could ask questions about the kind of student I was, what people remembered about me, etc.
First, I set up an interview with an old church friend: Bad Idea #1. We agreed to meet at a restaurant. I was excited, anticipating some real dialogue. I was sure they would tell funny stories about attending church with me and what I was like in junior and senior high. My sons would gain invaluable insights into the person I am today.
We sat down at the restaurant. For the next hour, we all stared at each other. My sons couldn’t think of any questions, and my friend couldn’t think of anything to tell them. After what seemed like an eternity, the boys and I excused ourselves. As I opened the car door, one of my sons asked me, “Dad, what were you thinking?”
Since my first idea didn’t work out so well, I moved on to another one. I got out all my high school pictures and report cards so my sons and I could reminisce: Bad Idea #2. First, they had no interest in taking time away from their video games to sit and look through some faded, yellowed photographs of people they didn’t know. As they pulled out one picture, I heard, “Mom, who ‘s that long-harried, anorexic-looking sheepdog beside you?”
“That’s your father!”
“Whoa, what a nerd! What’d you ever see in him?” I didn’t see anything funny, but they laughed hysterically.
“Dad was so skinny I bet he had to wear suspenders to keep his underwear up,” came their next words. For an hour, I heard comments no father should ever have to hear from the mouths of his children.
“Hey, Mom. Who’s the bald-headed guy with elephant ears and funny-looking clothes?”
“That’s your father when he was in the military,” she replied. Another round of hysteria broke out. “Whoa, look at this one! We ought to send it to ‘America’s Funniest People.’ We could win $10,000!”
Having my sons laugh at me was bad enough. But when their mother got into the act, things grew even more vicious. “Look,” my wife said, “Here’s Dad wearing high water polyester bell bottom pants!”
I couldn’t help it. I had just had a growth spurt. My favorite pants used to cover my shoes but were now hovering at mid-ankle length. Again, my family laughed as though this was the funniest thing they had ever seen.
You can make fun of my military-style haircuts, you can make fun of my weight, but when you start to make fun of my bell bottoms—well, a man can only take so much. I closed the album and announced the end of family bonding time.
The humiliation finished. I sent my little hyenas to bed. I still thought I had a good idea. My boys had only known me as an adult. I wanted them to understand that the experience of growing up is a timeless and universal trek. We all feel lonely and confused as we try to discover who we are.
I thought taking them through my journey would help them with theirs. But in the end, I discovered what they really wanted was a dad who listened. It didn’t matter what they said; they wanted me to hear their hearts.
I wish I could go back and recapture some of those early days. I kept trying to talk and figure things out for my sons. But all they wanted was for me to act like Jesus in Luke 2:46. Scripture says he was “Listening to them and asking them questions.” When I do that, I can share some of my story, too.
What my laughing sons failed to realize was that my bright ideas never quit. Someday, when they bring their children over to our house, I have two more sets of nerdy pictures set aside to show them.
“Vengeance is mine,” saith the father!