Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Ephesians 5:21
One day my wife and I were on our way to church. Sitting next to us was our young son, Kenton—then about eight years old. “Are we going to take someone out to dinner after church?” he asked, also mentioning a particular restaurant.
“Yes,” I responded. You see, my wife and I had been taking a leadership family out to dinner each Sunday to share our appreciation for their service to the church. We had chosen a rather nice steak house and Kenton had gone along for several Sundays in succession. On that particular day, he responded negatively! “I don’t want to go!” he said. “I don’t like the food.”
My initial reaction was also negative. I wanted to tell him how he should be thankful to be able to go out to eat at all. After all, when I was his age, we couldn’t afford to go out to eat—ever. I looked at my wife and I could tell she was thinking the same thing. However, both of us bit our tongues and refrained from saying what we were thinking. Rather than lecturing him on the “blessings of being able to eat out,” I asked him where he would like to go.
He responded immediately and mentioned a place where we could order hamburgers and fries. Frankly, that wasn’t what we had in mind as a place to take a family for an appreciation dinner. However, once again I held my tongue—and began to ask myself why Kenton was reacting.
By the end of the church service, I had sensed I had the answer. As I came off the platform, I shared it with my wife, who had been sitting on the front row. “I think I know why Kenton is reacting,” I said. “He’s simply bored. By the time we’re halfway through the meal—taking time to fellowship together—he’s finished, with nothing to do but to sit and wait.”
“I know,” she said. “I’ve been thinking the same thing.”
“I believe we ought to go where he wants to go!” I responded. Again, Elaine agreed. We also concurred that an eight-year-old boy is far more fond of hamburgers and fries than a steak dinner.
A few minutes later, I saw Kenton walking down the aisle toward the front of the church. I’ll never forget the scene. He had his hands in his pockets with a rather sad expression on his face. However, I could also tell he was reconciled to his “father’s will”—at least on the outside. What must be, must be!
“Kenton,” I called. “Come here a minute.”
My son looked up—surprised!
“Yeah, Dad, what do you want?” he said as he approached me.
“Do you still want to go to that hamburger place?” I asked.
Even more surprised, he affirmed his initial request. “Well, then, son,” I said, “that’s where we’re going!”
What happened next surprised me! He threw his arms around me and with deep feeling said. “Oh, Dad, I love you!”
That day we went to that little fast food place. In fact, it turned out to be the best place for the family who came along since they had two small children. Incidentally, it turned out to be a lot less expensive too.
But what happened that day during the meal taught both my wife and me an even greater lesson. Kenton positioned himself between these two children, put one arm around one of them and then the other—and “fathered” them through the whole meal. It didn’t take long for my wife and me to see what was happening. Our eight-year-old son was expressing his appreciation to us for going where he wanted to go. In fact, he was actually caring for these two children by keeping them occupied so we could visit with their parents. Needless to say, I was deeply touched. As parents, we had “submitted” to our young son—and he was responding with love and appreciation.
Did we lose Kenton’s respect that day? No, we won his respect. Did he try to take advantage of us the next time? No, he was even more cooperative. In fact, a week or so later, we were driving along in the car and suddenly, out of the blue, he said, ”Dad, sometimes I think you allow me to do too many things I want to do!”
Surprised, I could see what had happened. Kenton was still feeling guilty that we had submitted to his desires. “No, son,” I said. “You don’t take advantage of us! I’m glad at times we can do what you want to do—even though it may not be our first choice.”
Kenton is now a grown man, but he has never forgotten that incident—the day his parents submitted to him. And I’ve never forgotten it either. And I also learned a very important principle that applies to many different kinds of relationships.
~Gene Getz, Building Up One Another
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