Working late at the office one night, I got the call. “Hun, you might need to come home. I am talking with our son and I’m not sure what to do,” says my wife. “Can you tell me over the phone?” My reply.
“No, not really, can you please come home?” I could hear the distress in her voice.
My mind is racing. I don’t even remember the ride home, but I am sure it was not one that would have been approved by local law enforcement. Bursting through the door I see my son sitting in our dining room, tears in my wife’s eyes.
“What’s going on I ask?”
“You might want to sit down,” replies my wife.
“I am fine would someone please just speak?!”
My son looks at me and drops the bomb, “Dad, I’m an Atheist.”
As my heart sinks, I think, “Wait, what? What do you mean? Haven’t I taught you the things of God since your youth? Haven’t I raised you with sound Biblical arguments? Haven’t I done my job! How did this happen?”
But I already knew…
Flash back. Several weeks before my wife says to me, “Hun something is going on with Zion. I don’t think he is who he says he is.” In my arrogance, my reaction was dismissive.
“Zion come here son.”
“What’s up dad?”
“Will you tell your mom she’s crazy? She thinks you don’t believe in God.” I proceeded to ask him the “tough” questions …
“What will happen to you when you die?” I ask. “I’m going to heaven.” he replied. “Why son?” “Because Jesus died for my sins.” “How do you know this, Zion? “The Bible says so, Dad.” “Can you earn your salvation, son?” “Nope” “Thanks son.”
“See hun everything is A-Okay!” I said with a smug look on my face. Clearly my wife’s “intuition” was a little off.
While his answers were perfect, they were not his answers, they were mine.
Back to the present…
“Dad, I’m an Atheist.” Bam, gut shot.
Head spinning, I lashed out. “You need to leave my house. I don’t want you corrupting your little brothers and sisters.”
Needless to say, that was not the right answer. “Hun, calm down, ” my wife says. “You are not acting like Christ.”
“But I don’t want to act like Christ.” my flesh says.
I was struggling to understand. How could he, after al, the years of bringing this young man up, feeding him, clothing him, and sheltering him, do this to me? How could he forsake all I had raised him to be.
What I failed to grasp in that moment was, this was not something he had done to me. Ultimately this was not about his earthly father.
It was that he was forsaking his heavenly Father. The way we all do. The way we all turn away from the love, nurture, and admonition of the One, who loves us.
“Go to your room, we’ll talk about this in the morning.” was all I could muster.
As my wife and I prayed about what to do next, as we fell before God asking why, He assured us this was under His control. He reminded us that this child was ultimately not our child, he was His. We were only stewards.
Early the next morning, I rose and went into our boys’ room to talk with my son.
“When did this happen, son?” “About a year and a half ago,” he replied. “How son?” “Well dad, I have been reading alot of books lately (he has always been a voracious reader) and I am conviced that the probablity there is a God is low.”
At which point I came back with evidence and reason. I started carefully reciting my well-honed apologetic arguments that I had been crafting for years.
That was until God said, “Stop. He knows the reasons; he has heard the arguments. This is not an evidence issue, it is a heart issue.“
Parent, if you have been in that situation you know the helplessness that came over me. I could not save my son. God does not have grandchildren. This child, whom I had taught scripture from his youth, whom I had loved with all my heart, was now entering into the season that we all must. He needed to have his own faith. He needed to make the lessons his mother and I had taught him his own.
For the next two years all my wife and I could do was love him. We loved him inspite of him being very unloveable. His world view gave him no reason to behave in a way that was not selfish or self serving. He lied, he manipulated, he abused the trust and love we tried to show him. As our family went through this it was a powerful reminder of how we all do likewise to our loving heavenly Father. While we were yet his enemies, he sent his Son to die for our sins.
This season taught us many things, fellow parents. One of the most important was the truth of the scripture; Love covers a multitude of sin. (1 Peter 4:8)
Despite all of the teaching our son had received, all the instruction, it was ultimately love that saved him. Our love, the love of friends in his youth group, the love of other parents, ultimately the love of God.
After all, was said and done, despite the truth he knew since his youth it was the power of love that opened his heart to the Gospel.
Parents, if you are going through trials with your children, remember to pray, remeber to love, remember to demonstrate what our Father has modeled for us.
While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. And, no greater love is this but to lay down one’s life for his friends. (John 15:13)