Sunday, December 18, 2011

Being a Father

Pres. Boyd K. Packer has often suggested to the young men that someday they would learn why, of all the titles God could choose, He asks us to address Him as Father. At first I assumed that being a father I would discover this wonderful world of the Divine inside me, such as feeling the love for my son that God feels for me. I've commented at other times that what this has primarily meant for me in reality was seeing the infant in me that God has been putting up with.  Joy interjects, "Amen! I feel like such a baby as a parent, all the time."

At BYU, he recently explained a bit more on what he meant. He and his wife twice heard doctors tell them their new babies might not live to leave the hospital. As they pondered the implications of that prognosis and sat in faith, he realized some of the depth of his love for a child he did not know. He had no pleasant experiences to think on, no past conflict that just needed a little more time to repair; just a small infant in his arms that he would give anything to help live.

As delighted as I am to be "coming home" after a long semester of late nights not spent with my family, it also means taking a much more active role again in my beloved son's upbringing. Some communications we had from school in the last weeks were disturbing and that behavior has been surfacing at home as well. This has meant a change of disciplinary tactics. Though he has been an active participant in identifying the consequences for his misbehavior (he even proposed his own deal for us out of the blue that we accepted most of), the carrying through with it never has been pleasant. As the daddy, a healthy portion of that falls to me.

The startling thin to us has been the importance of making his discipline much less pleasant. He is a very comfortable, happy boy and we wouldn't for the world change that. It does make getting through to him difficult - he doesn't sorrow for bad things he does, and without that godly sorrow has a very difficult time repenting.

Thus we find ourselves in the very uncomfortable position of trying to make him truly regret his actions and desire to change. As I held him in loving but firm time out tonight until he finally began to be sorrowful, I pondered what it meant to be a father. This wasn't about retribution or punishment - the actual offense had been very minor, and nothing I can't remember doing at his age. But because of that I see afar off the misery he will bring to himself (and to us) if he cannot learn some very basic principles. I need to bring into the present a very small portion of that future sorrow so that he will see today the importance of a repentance whose real fruits won't be felt in full for years.

In a way, this is how I feel about some of my students who had to receive failing grades this semester. If some of their earlier teachers had had the courage to tell them they had no mathematical background, they would not have had a difficult time in my class; but because someone let it slide then they have a consequence today. If I let it slide too, they will surely face a worse consequence further on down the road.

I ponder how God has tried to bring the future misery of my own decisions into my present to help me repent now and save myself an eternal weight of sorrow.

I ponder how to unite both a willingness to sacrifice anything so that he need not suffer with the need as a dutiful father to discipline and introduce suffering into his life now.

Mind, we also had a lot of fun tonight.
He loves our Christmas tree and loved decorating it.
I ponder - if tonight were Prince's last on earth, how would I feel about this evening? Yes, I would be sad about the time outs and so forth. He is still an eternal being, and the things he doesn't learn here he needs to learn there. We are promised that we will have him again to continue to raise in the hereafter. Though we may not pick up exactly where we left off, it won't be all that far away. Until we learn otherwise, bladder control is still something resurrected bodies need; obedience is an eternal principle; etc.

Perhaps of greater comfort is that the last moments tonight were not spent in disciplining, but in love. Immediately when we were done, we hugged. He sat in my lap and cuddled close to me as he seldom does. We talked, we hugged, we spoke softly and lovingly. He was put gently to bed and we talked about having fun and happy times tomorrow. Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.

That is what it is like to be a father tonight.