They were all climbing the tree. Everyone of them was doing everything they could to ascend up into the heights of this Bradford Pear that stands next to our driveway. For some reason this tree has been the focus of our kids attention for the past few weeks. They love getting themselves up into the top of this tree to see how far they can see, to evade the oncoming danger of the attack of whatever game they are playing at the time, or to hide where someone else can’t find them in the current game of tag.
We’ve lived in this particular house just 8 months now and, I promise, our kids are having more fun and making more friends during these last months, than all the time spent at our previous house. It probably has nothing to do with the house, but the neighborhood and the fact that there are at least kids around.
They are doing everything they can to get in, stay in and get higher. All of them.
You know those moments when you as a parent foresee something that you really want to avoid but you don’t know how? I was having one of those moments right then as I watched all this going down.
One particular of our children is always the driver of these kinds of moments. He and I butt heads quite often about stuff because he’s trying to find his own individual, independant place in the world and I’m trying to remind him that I have learned a few things over my time and that he needs to listen to me before something happens that he did not intend.
I somewhat forcefully expressed to him that he needed to stop what he was doing before someone gets hurt. I was concerned about all of them, but especially the neighbor kid who was doing this also and I desperately wanted them to have fun, but also be careful. I just didn’t want any of them getting hurt.
A few minutes later, I left to go inside and help with getting dinner together and then it happened. A bang at the door. We had locked the front door as it’s where the dogs tend to escape from and roam the neighborhood, so Austin forcefully banged at the door out of frustration that he could not get in.
I didn’t know what was happening but his beating at the glass made my nervous that it would break so I yelled at him to stop. When I got there to see him through the glass, he was holding his ear, his head and I could see fear in his eyes.
After opening the door, I told him that I knew this was going to happen, that someone was going to get hurt and now I’m frustrated that he did not obey when I told him to stop what he was doing.
Eli is up in the tree now, screaming out of fear that she is stuck and cannot get down. All the other kids are there also in the tree, like a bunch of monkeys. Some of them know how to get down, others are there wondering I’m not quite sure how I made it up here and I have no idea how I’m getting out of here.
I get Eli out of the tree and make a way for everyone else to get down too, safely this time.
When I returned inside, I find Austin is struggling. He’s complaining of blurry vision and dizziness. He’s concussed. I’ve seen this before. I’ve been there before. It’s not fun, it’s painful and there’s fear involved.
After my initial rant, I press into making sure he’s going to be okay. I talked to nurse grandma who’s camping down in Texas at the moment and she assures me that we are on the right track, that he needs to rest, stay away from screens, watch for nausea, and vomiting and stay up on fluids. He’s got a mild concussion.
What happened was they were using a long strap with loops on the ends as an assist to get up into the tree. Well, it was all working great so long as both ends of the strap were secured, but when Austin let go of one end of the strap while he was placing all his weight on it, he fell suddenly and hit his head on the ground. Thankfully there was nothing rock hard below his fall otherwise it would be a much different story. Either way, he was hurting.
We kept a really close eye on him throughout the night, waking him up periodically to learn his condition. Thankfully nothing more than just headache.
After all this transpires, you have time as a parent to go back through the scenario and I find a symptom of my parenting that has always disgusted me and I want to change immediately.
When Crystal and I finally hit the pillow that night, she takes a moment to walk me through what she saw of me too and gently lets me know, there’s a better way. I tend to immediately go to confront before I go to comfort.
I tend to head in the direction of how it should have been prevented rather than ensuring there is safety in the moment. Rather than providing the security, I lead to frustration. That’s not the dad they want in that moment and I’m realizing that I’m giving them a sense of what they will receive when the pitfalls of their problems get bigger, with more repercussions and cost more. I’ve got to learn today that comfort comes first.
Why have I not learned this already?
Maybe I have, but I just need a refresher.
When I look at my connection with Christ, I see that comfort was always first and confront was only a subtle side issue that came sometime later.
In John 8, we encounter the story John includes about Jesus who is faced with an issue about a woman caught in the act of adultery. Everyone knew better. There is literally no one who doesn’t realize that adultery is wrong. Did you know it’s even a criminal offense to commit adultery today? Not in every state, but some. It used to be in every state, but not any more. And while these states are trying to get this out of their respective constitutions, it will still be considered wrong, and especially in the eyes of the Lord.
Those who were bringing this woman in front of Jesus with these accusations were doing so, not primary because they wanted any form of justice with regard to adultery. They didn’t care about that at all! It was all because they wanted to see how Jesus would react when put in, what they deemed, as a stressed situation. They wanted to see what direction he would take. Would he confront and stone the woman to death as the law stated she should be? Or would he cave and relent and negate the law altogether.
In their mind, they had concocted the best possible scenario to catch him in a position of compromise. If he declared her guilty and deserving of death, then he was not gracious and would have been accused as a murderer. If he negated the law and led completely with grace, then he would have demonstrated that the law actually meant nothing and they would have accused him of not being who he said he was. They literally thought they had found a way to trap him.
His response baffled all of them when he tells them that the one of them who has never done anything wrong to go first. Essentially stating, yes, in the eyes of the law, she is indeed guilty, but in doing so you are stating that you are perfect and haven’t ever done something similar. If you’re free from the same guilt as she is now guilty, go ahead.
I remember preaching this passage years ago and the thing that most captivated me about the story was the final part. Those accusers had dropped their stones and had walked away, somewhat slowly, I imagine. Dumbfounded by Jesus response, they were speechless and had nothing but to just leave. Somehow they had neglected to think of this possibility, this option that only the Son of God could come up with.
Jesus, still standing there in front of this woman who is terrified and totally ashamed, follows up with a question. “Where are you accusers? Does no one condemn you?“
“No one, Master.”
“Neither do I.“
His final response to her was simply go from here changed and live differently.
To me, this interaction is completely comforting over confronting.
If he had chosen to confront, she would have been devastated. It may have wrecked her completely! Think about it in terms of just his response to her. Everything stays the same, but when everyone leaves, his response becomes, what were you thinking? Why would you make such a decision? You had to have known better, why would you still go through with that knowing what you know?
Can you see the crippling, head hanging confrontation that is reducing her to?
As a parent, I see confrontation happening with my kids everyday…and I hate it.
I see our response to them as making them live right over helping them live loved.
When Austin fell out of that tree, I first manifest my fear. My fear came out as anger. I was not necessarily angry that he didn’t listen to me, I was fearful of what he was experiencing and what could come. I am a worst-case-scenario guy and so in my mind, he may be devastatingly injured and that could have been prevented if he had just listened to me. I absolutely hate that my mind raced, in that moment, to prevent over protect. But it doesn’t have to stay that way. The most important thing we can learn in moments like this, is how to live differently.
As I investigate this story in John in just a little more detail, there’s another situation that was happening that you don’t fully see at face value. When the accusers left after having dropped their weapons, the woman stayed there, crotched down, huddled in a defensive position, trying her best to cover her shame. Most scholars believe that when they say she was caught in the act of, she was literally yanked out of a bed, naked from head to toe and dragged in front of Jesus along with any surrounding audience.
The shamefulness of this moment would have a stark glaring effect on this woman for the rest of her life.
In the moment all this was transpiring, the woman would not have known exactly where Jesus stood in all this. His words were, initially, confusing to her. On some level, he was actually accusing her of wrong. Never did he say that she was not “guilty”. And if the picture in my mind is anything close to correct, she would not have been making eye contact with anyone in that moment. She was doing everything she could to put herself in a dark room alone away from the prying eye of all the onlookers.
Until Jesus released her from this makeshift courtroom, she would have had to look at him as another of the accusers. Until he freed her from the captivity of his words, “neither do I” he too would have been just another of the accusers.
It was only after he had changed from the side of accusation to affirmation, did he become comforting rather than confronting in her eyes.
As soon as those words were out of his mouth, she knew she is now safe. There is no more threat and he has built rapport and credibility with her. She now feels safe in his presence because she can trust him. It’s in this moment, as hopefully someone close by with similar grace and compassion is giving her something to cover herself, that he says to her, essentially, learn from this, walk away from this situation and live differently.
That’s the confronting part of the conversation but only, ONLY after it was clear in her eyes that he was a comforter.
I’m learning today that my best parenting days will be filled with comfort and then confront. Both are still essential, but the way in which you process them is also as critical. Let’s be comforters before we are confronters.