Monday, October 27, 2008

Lessons Learned from Coloring on the Wall by John J. Lee, Jr.

I thought you might enjoy the following tender story about a little boy who scribbled with his crayons on the wall and was sent to bed without his supper.

Like most children, ours enjoyed drawing and coloring. At three-and-a-half, our son created a masterpiece on a large portion of our living room wall. These were oil based crayons and only went completely away by painting over them. When my sweetheart and I discussed the problem with our artist son, he felt bad and did his best to help us spread a fresh coat over the area.

A week or so later, he did it a second time on the same wall. He was so sad and embarrassed he cried, shrugged his little shoulders, and said he wasn't sure why he had done it, but he would surely never repeat the petty crime. Hoping it would help motivate him to be true to his word, we explained if it happened again he would go to bed early and without supper. He loved both our evening family time and food. He solemnly promised to restrict his canvas.

About a week later, I arrived home to find his biggest masterpiece ever on the same wall. It was the end of an especially trying day for me and I had been looking forward to the safe haven of our home. I allowed this incident to become the focal point of all the abuse and pressure I had received that day. In an angry and insulting voice, I called our young friend to stand before the wall with me.

When he came in he was already crying, but I was so angry it hardly touched my hardened heart. After all, he had cried the last two times, hadn't he? That didn't seem to affect his ability to keep the edict we had issued and prevent us from having to once again move the furniture and repaint the wall.

I asked him the silliest of questions. Why had he done this? Didn't he remember what we had talked about the prior two times? Did he know what was going to happen now? I knew our son was aware of the answers to these questions. The truth was our little friend was very bright. He loved us and didn't color on the wall to aggravate our relationship. He remembered it was wrong. There were other things that momentarily provoked his creative outburst.

I asked him those questions in an angry, loud voice, being three times his height and perhaps four times his weight. I further stripped him of his dignity and self respect, falsely relying on this abuse of my already humble friend to somehow make me feel better. It did not.

I sent him to his room for the evening and not long after was at our table with the rest of our atypically quiet family for dinner. I do not recall who offered thanks for our food before we began dinner, but I clearly remember my conscience being seared as soon as I bowed my head.

Immediately, I knew it was not acceptable that I was eating and our son was not. I remember considering what I should do and it coming clear to me, “I was in prison and ye visited me.” I told my wife and our other children I wouldn't be eating and excused myself from the table.

I entered his room and sat next to our son on his bed. He was still sniffing a little and his expression revealed he thought I had come to expand his embarrassment. I was quiet for a moment, collecting my thoughts. I knew what I was supposed to do and say.

I began to explain to him that it was a much greater sin to yell at someone and humiliate him than it was to color on a wall. There in our son's room, me so huge and him so small, I saw more clearly our relationship, and my heart swelled wide with remorse at my selfish and destructive actions. I confessed that the kind of damage for which I was responsible was much harder to clean up and sometimes almost impossible to be made right again. Deeply humble and ashamed, I told him I was sorry.

Our little lad responded by trying to explain to me that he deserved to be yelled at, and that his crime justified such abuse. It was a terrible indictment of his experiences with my prior mistreatment and pierced me to my core.

I assured him that neither he nor anyone deserved such cruel treatment. I explained that yelling was always evil, one of the meanest expressions of selfishness, and again asked if he would forgive me.

He threw his tiny arms around me, and with a fiercely honest child's passion, told me he loved me, and to my tender astonishment, that I was the best dad ever. He hesitantly moved away from me so he could look in my face. I could tell he had something to say that was important to him but was choking the words. Then they simply tumbled out. “Can you forgive me?”

I folded my little friend into my bosom and wished I could express to him the feelings in my soul. He was innocent, sweet, and lovely before God. There was only one person in the room who needed serious correction. I was determined to have learned the most important lesson. Yes, I told him. All was forgiven. We would paint the wall together, with mom. All was well.

We spent the evening together, playing with action figures and then reading until he fell asleep. To his queries of wasn't I going to go eat and didn't I want to go out with the family, I said assuredly I could not eat if he didn't and that I wanted to stay and keep him company so he wouldn't be lonely.

I didn't really miss dinner and it was one of the most contented nights I have ever had. As is so often the case with giving and receiving, I was more blessed in the giving than our son.

I do not recall if he ever colored on a wall after that. But if he resisted future temptations, I like to think it wasn't for fear of what would happen that persuaded him, but his concern that his dad would miss his dinner.

This appeared on the Meridian Magazine website today. If you'd like to read the whole article that is where you will find it.

1 comment:

DebbieLou said...

Awe, that is so sweet. It made me cry!