I was recently studying at a local library, situated in a leisure center with a gym and pool. My concentration was cracked by a voice, unclear, almost animal-like. Curiosity craned my neck and I saw a family (I presume) of three exiting the building. Between the parents was the owner of the voice. Barely a teenager, living with some form of handicap, he was visibly worked up. His distressed moans were expressing as much to the whole facility. I watched his parents hold of his arms in a gentle attempt to guide him from the building, but he was having none of it. Then he began to get violent, firing unpredictable kicks at his parents’ legs and digging in his heels against their guiding efforts.
I Had to Watch.
Now in full-blown “snoopy mode”, I was unable to stop watching this odd interaction, which now escalated significantly. Father and mother proceeded to tackle their son, placing him on the ground and restraining him under their own body weight. I hoped anxiously that an onlooker would not accuse them of attacking the boy. I also wondered how many times they had been forced into these roles before. What first-day parents dream of playing bouncer as they raise that little baby? What did it feel like to tackle one’s child in a public place? In the midst of their wrestling, were they self-conscious of onlookers’ gazes, or had such thoughts been beaten out of them years earlier in the parenting of this child?
For several minutes, the three of them remained on the floor. Occasionally, the teen struggled and then surrendered into whimpering and whining once again. His parents patiently held their positions, presumably whispering negotiations for peace in that boardroom, inches from the floor.
Eventually, the three of them arose and made progress toward the exit. At this point, I saw dad run into the parking lot to locate their vehicle and bring it toward the curb. The teen noted the now-one-on-one coverage and upped the attack against his mother. Parking lot onlookers now formed an uncomfortable audience. The teen’s kicks and shoves, while still lacking full coordination and force, were intensifying, as were the feelings within this observer.
Anger was Stirring.
I knew nothing about the medical history or the family dynamics, but I was mad to watch such blatant rebellion. With father nowhere to be seen, my mind debated whether I should join the fracas as a reinforcement. Part of me wanted to swing my first “haymaker” and see what Ali felt like when he stood over Sonny Liston.
Here Comes the Boom.
And then I got sucker-punched.
A sucker punch is a punch made without warning, allowing no time for preparation or defense on the part of the recipient. (So says Wikipedia.)
I was neither prepared, nor defended. In a vulnerable position, I was a wide receiver stretching to expose his ribs to the defender. I was the chess player so blindly bent on creating checkmate that I lost my queen. More accurately, I was King David so engrossed in a tale that I was deaf to the Jaws theme music rising to deafening volume.
“You are that man.” That’s what David heard.
“You are that aggravating adolescent who needs an adjustment,” was more like my message.
I have come to learn that the Spirit of God is the perfect communicator. He is as nuanced and feather-fingered or as forceful and non-negotiable as need be. His fingers can apply pressure with deadly precision to adjust exactly what is out of line.
His tone in the library did not match the anger that I had been feeling toward the parking lot punk. There was no frustration, not even impatience in the sucker punch. Rather, it struck like a sigh-filled inquiry:
“Jason, why do you battle me? Why do you fear that I might lead you astray? Why do your heels dig in? Why do you hesitate? Since the day of your birth, have I done anything to make you question My motives, as if I were out to harm you? I am capable of putting you on the ground if need be, but I would rather just walk with you in peace, with me as Parent and you as child.”
Muhammad Ali could never match the force of that gentle rebuke.
I had no answer worth speaking. I continue without one.
But I am trying to pick up my heels. The One leading me is loving and kind, and I would rather hold His hand than lie beneath His weight.