Caring For The Right Thing At The Right Time

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The other night while we were washing dishes, my son Jacob said he’d seen a trailer for a movie he wanted to see. “Oh yeah? Which one?” I asked.

“The new Red Dawn.”

“Ugh.” I said. “Why would you want to see that one? You know they’ve been sitting on it for a couple of years because they knew it was a stinker. I think they’re only releasing it now because it’s got Thor and Peeta in it and they’re hoping they can cash in on their popularity and at least get something back for their poor investment.”

Jacob continued, unfazed. “It’s also got an actor in it who I used to love when I was a kid—Josh from Nickelodeon’s Drake and Josh. I’d really like to see what he’s doing now.”

Undeterred, I continued my diatribe. “Well, I loved the original when I was a kid in the ’80s, but this one got TERRIBLE reviews. It’s going to be bad. I’m just telling you because I don’t want you to waste your money.”

About the time these last words came out of my mouth, I began to realize how much of a self-righteous jerk I was being. Unfortunately this is not uncommon for me—I can be oppressively opinionated and uppity. By God’s grace, however, I am learning to recognize it better and quicker. I’m so grateful for growing conviction, the evidence that God is still at work in my life.

A part of my problem is that sometimes I care about the wrong thing at the wrong time. Sometimes I care about fairness instead of generosity. Sometimes I care about someone else’s theological accuracy when quiet listening would be better. In this particular instance I was caring more about the quality of a film than I was caring about the quality of a conversation with my son. (In fact, I think he knew that I wouldn’t care for this movie but brought it up anyway, risking my scorn. Brave.)

Of course it’s good to care about things, and I do care about well-crafted films and good storytelling. I care, too, about nuanced and cathartic performances that are as delicious to the soul as a fine meal is to the palette. I am grateful for my capacity to enjoy these and other forms of art-making: books, music, painting, and on down the list. I care about these things because I’m convinced that beauty matters and is both a grace to be enjoyed and a calling to participate in.

But in that moment with Jacob, my care for a certain kind of beauty turned ugly and it was because I was picking the wrong thing to care about. Consequently I failed to recognize a more subtle and significant beauty that was being offered to me: the beauty of my son sharing his simple desire to see a movie—one that reminded him of fond memories of his childhood.

In that moment I had also been offered a chance to create something beautiful myself: a generous response with the power to foster a culture of kindness, grace, and intimacy in our home. What work of art—be it a song, a book, or a film—can compare to this?

By God’s grace I recognized what I’d done early enough to maybe do something about it. “Ah Jacob. I’m sorry. What a jerk I am sometimes. Can we try this again, would you let me? Let’s start over. Tell me again what movie you want to see.”

He laughed, but played along.  “Dad, there’s this movie I really want to see. It’s called Red Dawn.”

“Oh yeah? Man I loved that movie when I was kid. Tell me more about it, why do you want to see it?”

“Well, it’s got Peeta from the Hunger Games in it. It’s also got Josh from Drake and Josh” and just looks kind of cool to me.”

He was creating something beautiful of his own by graciously playing along with me, giving me a chance to make amends. This is the beauty of grace. “Awesome! Well, let me know when it comes out and maybe we can watch it together.” I said, smiling.

“Okay, dad,” he said, smiling back. He had accepted my apology and offered me a way back into his world. He is a kind boy.

Later that night my youngest son Gus asked if I’d lay by him in his bed a little bit before he went to sleep. After a little reading (from The Jesus Storybook Bible—Woot!), we lay there a bit in the dark. Kipper and Jacob had come upstairs and were across the hall talking with their mom, laughing, being rambunctious and making some noise.

I sensed it was distracting Gus in the quiet of the moment we were sharing. With every word and bark of laughter he heard from across the hall his body would tense. I could tell he was about to holler down the hall for them to be quiet because he was trying to sleep. I was about to say, jokingly, “Man, your brothers are noisy!” But remembering my earlier moment with Jacob, I wondered if there was something else I might say that would be better, something that might help foster kindness, grace, and intimacy in our home. What was the right thing to care about?

“It’s nice to hear their voices, isn’t it?” I whispered to Gus in the dark.

“Yeah,” he said as his body noticeably relaxed. He was quiet for a moment, and then said, “That’s just what I was going to say.”


48 Comments

  1. Sandi

    Gosh. I love this blog. It’s like coming home. So much truth shared here by so many seeking the truth. Thank you for this honest post. What beautiful reminder.

  2. Rob Collins

    Goodness. I relate to this event so very much. Life is full of moments where I need to care about the right thing at the right time. In fact, I needed to hear this message specifically today!

    Working in the church is wonderful and challenging and humbling. It is also frustrating and sensitive. Yesterday was a frustrating day. At the days end I found myself knowing that I was being overly sensitive and particularly petty. That is not the preferred way to go home. Thank you for the humility check.

    Today I’m going to let the right thing at the right time guide me. Perhaps I’ll find myself a bit more happy at the days end. I needed to be reminded that the life in Christ is about sacrifice.

    Caring for the right thing at the right time. Profound!

  3. John Barber

    Right on the money… I just hope that our kids learn more from our mistakes and apologies than they do from what we should have said. Looking back, hopefully they’ll think that we weren’t perfect, but we were gracious. Hindsight may have a way of improving the reality… kind of like how we remember that Red Dawn was good in the 80s, when, let’s be honest…

  4. Loren Warnemuende

    Jason, thank you for taking abstract truths and pulling into the nitty-gritty of daily practical. So often I let myself get caught up in my emotions (often with my kids) and I don’t know how to get back to a godly attitude. You’ve given me some actions that I can apply. Here’s to a new day of growth, and faster awareness of Spirit-prompting!

  5. Michael Hadley

    Just perfect. My dad was sort of the same way. (I’m 24 now) He did the best he could and it was his love of Jesus that kept working. It takes time and I think later on, even if things haven’t been great, sons can see the good rather than the bad. But it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. Sometimes, it’s the unexpected that can lead the unwilling or hesitant to an unexpected encounter with grace.

  6. Jim Crotty

    The patience and love of children and correcting parental perspective. I’m grateful my children have been so patient with me because so many times I too have “cared about the wrong thing at the wrong time.” To stop, step back and find again what really matters most. Yes Jason, “this is the beauty of grace.” Thank you !

  7. Brenda Branson

    Jason, my adopted little brother, this is an awesome article! Grace is so beautiful, especially when shared between flawed, broken people. It’s glorious when someone extends grace when I’ve been a thoughtless jerk, and so sweet when I can extend grace to others who have wounded me. No matter our age, there’s always more we can learn about growing in grace and loving each other well.

  8. Amy L

    What a lovely post. There really is nothing like parenting to make us realize our worst moments, and at the same time to give us opportunity to really make something beautiful.

  9. amy

    precious. loved: “I’m so grateful for growing conviction, the evidence that God is still at work in my life.” and ““Okay, dad,” he says, smiling back. He had accepted my apology and offered me a way back into his world. He is a kind boy.” great moments for sure.

  10. Michael

    Wonderful story Jason, it is wonderful to see how you turned this situation around. This gives me something great to chew on for today, a thing to meditate on and see when I should be these actions in my own life. ~Be Blessed

  11. Rachel

    @John Barber
    “I just hope that our kids learn more from our mistakes and apologies than they do from what we should have said.”

    I remember one night, when I was a child, I had gone to bed extremely upset after an argument with my father. Late that night, he came into my room and woke me up and he said to me, “My father could never admit to me when I was right and he was wrong. I don’t want to be that Dad. So, here I am. Honey, you were right. And I was wrong. And I’m sorry…” I have no idea what that argument was about, but I have never forgotten the measure of respect my father earned that night and how much he increased in my eyes.

  12. Rachel Tiede

    @Jeremy Peyton
    “Yesterday I fought so hard to love my son by listening to him talk about Pokemon.”

    I also fought this battle. I turned it into a positive when I learned that the creator of Pokemon, like my son, had Asperger’s Syndrome, a high-functioning form of Autism. Suddenly the little creatures who were a mix of creatures you would find in our world, and the way they pop in and out, made a lot more sense to me. I began to encourage my son to take the world that he keeps up in his head… the one that no one else can see… and share it. He still likes Pokemon, but it’s not an obsession anymore.

    By the way, according to my son, what he likes about Pokemon is that it requires a lot of “strategizing”. I don’t know if that’s true, cause I never understood it! But I now understand his love for it. And for that I’m thankful.

  13. Pete

    One of my college friends used to use the phrase “get off your cheap self” pretty frequently. As I get older, I realize that failing to get off my cheap self is the enemy of grace.

    Thanks for the great illustration (and Rachel – thanks for yours too). Hopefully I can remember them the next time my cheap self reasr its ugly head.

  14. April Pickle

    Well, I was thinking about going into detail about how beautifully convicting and gracious this post is, but instead I’m going to put the iPhone away and hang out with my kids.

  15. Peter B

    Ah, you’re doing it again! You’re taking stuff that has been plaguing me for years and giving me concrete examples that directly map to my own life.

    Thank you.

    Also, Rachel, thank you for sharing that bit. Our oldest daughter (who most likely has some form of high-functioning autism, but whose threads we are still trying to unravel) got kind of obsessed with Pokemon a while back. If ever it was important to love and draw someone one out…

  16. Jenn C

    Oh, thank you. Thank you! I’ve had these moments of grace but never identified them enough to name them and make them intentional. I love what you did with Gus and I’m really anxious to put this to practice. Again, thank you! My children will have a better view of the world because of your humility here.

  17. Rachel

    Peter… You are very welcome. The biggest things that I would tell you are #1 – Everything is learned. Don’t assume she knows something. Tell her. I actually had to tell my son that people are allowed to have more than 1 friend. He was shocked. #2 – Patience. When you get frustrated and want to yell or just “drag it out of her”… Stop. Breathe. Wait.

    Would love to talk more but don’t want to use up Jason’s wall! Feel free to FB me… Rachel Parish Tiede… or Twitter, Rachel Tiede. God bless!

  18. Dan R.

    One of my favorite parts:
    “By God’s grace, however, I am learning to recognize it better and quicker.”
    I love hearing about growth in fellow followers’ lives! It kind of encompasses the whole story for me 🙂
    Rock on, JG!

  19. Becca

    I love this, Jason. You are always so good for us all. I think this is a particularly good message for an artistic crowd, because we can let the gift of discerning eyes and ears go too far, making us over-harsh with ourselves and others. Thank you for the nudge.

  20. Laura Boggs

    I love this post.

    I can be a kid-crusher. I hate that about me. But the Spirit is good to tap us on the shoulder. And it’s gift to read an articulation of what we all struggle with.

    I also realize I’ve GOT to stop sharing Rotten Tomatoes scores with people who are enthusiastic about the “wrong” movies. Or saying, “According to Father Thomas…” Really — I annoy myself!

  21. Kim

    Oh, so good… My 11 year old daughter loves to chatter on and on and on… and I remember being 11 and wishing my mom would take the time to just *listen*…. and then I tell her to go empty the dishwasher or ask her to leave me alone so I can (gulp) read my e-mail…or…be alone…and it is so easy to do. But I do want to enter her world, listen to her thoughts, be her sounding board. Thank you for the reminder to pause and focus on what is important. Especially in those moments when its inconvenient.

  22. drew zahn

    Thanks, Jason. A lesson this daddy needs to take to heart. And I will.

    BTW, the new Red Dawn is much better than the reviews it’s received – (perhaps it wasn’t the film, but the politics of it the reviewers objected to?) It’s not as poignant or moving as the original, but for a patriotic shoot’em up? Pretty entertaining.

  23. Ingrid

    So true! Whenever I pick the right thing to focus on, it is always the work of the Holy Spirit, the result of His prompting to step back and lose my agenda. I so need Him! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  24. Tony Heringer

    Two solid dad stories in a row. First from AP and now JGRAY. Love it. Thanks for sharing these stories bud. A good reminder to listen with our heart as much as with our ears.

  25. Julie @ Wife, Mother, Gardener

    Beautifully written. Thanks for the reminder, Jason.

    It is so easy to feel like we are “just expressing ourselves”, when the truth is we are just abusing everyone else. And what beautiful hope there is in learning to restore relationship with our kids!

  26. Sean K

    This is fantastic. What a great way to demonstrate how thinking even just a little before you speak can make all the difference. I think this is a perfect example of Ephesians 6:4..

  27. Adam

    Great post Jason! You know, having seen your boys again for the first time in quite awhile, I have to say I am incredibly impressed with who they are becoming. Seriously… wow! You’re boys are *awesome*. And… I think that can be directly attributed to who you are as a father. You’re definitely a role model to myself and others.

    Thanks for being so humble and vulnerable.

  28. SD Smith

    Jason,

    Man, thank you. I’m often quick to dismiss/demonstrate I have better taste (than others, than I used to) and can be a chump. I love this and need it. Thanks for serving me, brother.

    Sam

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