Publication: One-to-One, Autumn 2011
At age 12, I was so much smarter than I am now. Having discovered, at that age, cigarettes, beer, Playboy, and chewing tobacco, I had become a debonair man of the world; a seasoned adventurer with little time or patience for such mundane tasks as “obeying parents”, “doing chores”, or “studying”. In short, I was well on the way toward earning my PhD in Cocky Brattiness, with a specialization in Foolhardiness.
Surprisingly, my parents were unimpressed with my achievements or knowledge in these fields, and were working and praying hard to assist me with an attitude adjustment. In our home, we had lots of love, which was not only expressed through hugs, kisses, words of affirmation, and pats on the head, but also through discipline and clearly expressed expectations. “Sparing the rod” was not a philosophy embraced by the elders in the Simpson community.
Having run afoul of this troublesome aspect on more than one occasion, I was honing my skills as a slick and devious operator; a sneaky opportunist looking for the merest crack into which I could slither. I was becoming a 1970s version of “Eddie Haskell” (see also schmoozer. playa. deceiver). These burgeoning skills seemed to offer the tantalizing prospect of continuing in my wicked ways while also preserving my hide.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
Now, among the expectations in our home were a few cardinal principles outlined for yours truly. To wit, each day when I returned home from school, I was expected to first handle my household chores and do my homework before I went outside to hang out with my buddies or ate a snack or watched television.
Because my Dad was usually at work when I arrived home from school, my mother was the enforcer of these rules, and she was adept at carrying them out with much grace and humor, backed by a Ninja-like knowledge of employing an Azalea bush switch on my backside. And of course, I was always expected to respect my Mother. Knowing this, I had been meticulous in holding to the code, day-in, and day-out.
One day as I was biking home from school, a notion-surely born in the lowest regions of hell-wafted into my brain: it was time to challenge the old order. The times, they are a-changin’! Talkin’ ’bout a revolution! Power to the people!
When I arrived home, I noticed that my Dad’s car, as usual, was not in the garage. My mother was about to face the dragon alone. I parked my bike, tossed my school books in the garage, walked inside the house, poured myself a large bowl of delicious cereal, and plopped down on the floor of the den for a serious bout of prolonged cartoon watching.
Irritatingly, only a few moments passed before my Mom appeared, and she was perplexed. “Stephen, have you done your chores already?” “Nope!” “Stephen, have you done your homework?” “Nope!” A pause, then quietly: “Stephen, you know what you’re supposed to do first when you get home.”
Something within me arose. It was similar in spirit to the creature that burst out of that guy’s chest in the Alien movie. I turned to my sweet mother and said defiantly, “Don’t give ME any of that –” and I used a word that I had never used before (or since) around her. About the time that last consonant was spitting out of my teeth, I noticed an ominous shadow in the doorway.
It was Dad. He was not happy.
I was not on the Titanic when it slipped beneath the waves. I was not on the Hindenburg when it blew up. But suddenly, I understood how all of those people must have felt.
Dad simply said, “Come with me.” My knees were jelly. The Bible tells us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and I was wising up fast.
“Sit down,” Dad said. In a quiet voice that was strangely reminiscent of Clint Eastwood, my Dad … who had suddenly become 15 feet tall … said, “Son, that’s your mother you were talking to in there, but that’s also MY WIFE . And nobody talks to my wife that way! ”
Then he said, “Son, you’ re getting too old to spank .” Suddenly, the sun burst through the clouds! The bluebird of happiness began to tune up, ready to sing “Zip-a-dee-doo-dah!” “Son, you’re getting too old to spank … pause … pause … so this is going to be the last time that I will spank you.” The heart sank, the sun fled from the heavens, and the bluebird packed his bags and headed to Cancun.
“Son, this is going to be the last time that I spank you … pause … pause … but you will never forget it.” And I never did.
Afterwards, Dad reiterated a few points:
• Cockiness and rebellion bring destruction and grief
• It’s impossible to honor God while dishonoring godly parents
• He and Mom would always stand together as one when dealing with me
• Being part of a family means everyone doing their part
I haven’t forgotten that, either. In later times when those lessons would become a bit dusty and distant in my mind, the Lord was always good to remind me and call me back to the right path.
As parents, we need to honor one another in the way that we deal with our children. They need to know that “divide and conquer” is not a plan that will work in the house. They need to see parents who love one another and will stand together no matter what. I’m sure my parents had disagreements, but they never aired those disagreements in front of me or my sister and brother, and certainly not to their friends.
‘That’s my wife!” Dad said to me. Even as those words frightened me that day, they also comforted me. To know that there were some things in life that could be counted on to endure and stand, especially the love and honor that my parents had for one another, was an unspeakably precious gift.
What are the lessons we want to pass along to our children and to their generation? What are the things worth standing for? It’s not always easy, and it won’t always be popular with our children, but if-by God’s grace-we can instill these values and principles in them now, then they will serve as a treasured compass for life.
STEPHEN SIMPSON is the Editor of One-to-One Magazine and the Director of CSM Publishing. In addition to publishing ministry, Stephen has served in leadership for churches and ministries in Costa Rica, Florida, Mississippi, Texas, and Michigan, as well as being the Senior Pastor of Covenant Church of Mobile (2004-2013). He continues to travel in ministry across North America and in other nations.