In the first part of this blog, I talked about how the Lord miraculously changed my heart towards my daughter. The lesson I learned there is that no amount of anger on our part, no amount of sermonizing, no amount of scolding will ever bring out the best in our children. The change must first begin with us. We, the parents, must pay the price for our children to change by changing first. And that is as it should be, for the Bible says:
“… for the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children.” (2 Cor. 12:14)
As parents, we must carry the unconditional love of Christ in our hearts.
The brother that I was sharing my story with had joined our pastoral team here in Singida a few months earlier. But, already, I had come to love and respect him deeply. He was a man who was truly called of God, and he and I regularly spent a lot of time together. On this particular day, we were sharing the gospel casually as we normally do; the account of my daughter came up in the natural course of our conversation.
When I finished telling him my story, the brother looked down for a few minutes without saying anything. On my part, having finished narrating my story, I did not think much of what I had just said to him, and I was considering starting another topic. But the brother had other things on his mind.
After a few moments, he said, “I am touched by what you’ve just said because I, too, have a son.”
He told me that when his son finished his secondary school education, he took him to what we call here a “military school”. This is an ordinary high school, but run by the armed forces. There are therefore some military ‘extras’ in these schools.
A week after the boy had been enrolled at the school, he called his father.
“Dad, make arrangements to quickly get me out of this school. This school is completely useless. All we do here all day long are military drills. We are hardly doing any studying. Get me another school!”
The pastor told me, “I was livid. The reason I had taken this boy to this school in the first place was because he had failed his secondary school examinations. And the reason he had failed his exams was because of his bad behaviour. Instead of studying during his free time at home, he would spend the time walking around with his hands in his pockets, whistling nonchalantly and spewing every kind of garbage around the house. Whenever I told him to study, he would answer me in the most abrasive manner and continue his foolish ways.
“It had cost me a lot of money and much effort to find this school for him. When I heard him say, ‘Get me another school’, that was the end. I told him pointblank that if he ever left that school, I should never see his face in my home again. After which I hung up.”
He said, “I never called him again. But just this week he called me to tell me that the school is closing for the short holidays. He will be coming home tomorrow. Up till today, I did not know how I would receive him because I was still annoyed with him. But what you just shared with me has really touched me. I feel that, despite the boy’s rebelliousness, I also have not demonstrated any compassion or patience to him.”
The pastor left without making any promises. When we met a few days later, I had forgotten all about our conversation. But he brought up the subject almost immediately. He told me that when the boy arrived the next day, he went out to meet him. The boy, apparently fearing for his life, blurted out, “Dad, forgive me for troubling you. I have now gotten used to the school and I am enjoying it.”
To which the dad replied, “No. It is I who needs to ask you for forgiveness. Forgive me for being so hard on you. I ought not to have spoken so harshly to you.”
At which they both hugged and the father led his son inside the house.
“That boy has changed”, he told me. “Gone is the cockiness and defiance. It has been replaced by a seriousness I have never seen in him before.”
Every year’s end, during the December holidays, our organisation, CTMI (www.ctmi.org) holds regional youth camps in various countries around the globe. This year’s East African youth camp will be held in the town of Musoma, in Tanzania.
I am glad to say that, this year this young man will grace our regional youth camp for the first time. His father told me, “I just asked him whether he would go and he replied yes. I never expected that answer. It came out of the blue!”
“No, my friend”, I told him. “You paid a small price, and this is the reward for taking up your cross.”
The Bible says:
“16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” (Jn. 3:16-17)
Let us live, not to condemn, but to love.
[Below: Buses at a weighbridge near Dodoma]