Ben and Me

May 8th, 2014

The baby’s cry came through the monitor and my wife nudged me. I glanced at the clock. It was after 4:30 a.m. so it was my time to go get the baby. I swung my legs over the side of the bed and paused giving my body time to react to my sudden change of posture. The baby’s cries, an incessant background noise, as I wake up and climbed the stairs, anger coming to me and continuing to mount.

I am a 61 year old man in relatively good health. I have helped to raise over the years my two daughters and six stepchildren as well as some foster children but I was looking forward to being an empty nester with my wonderful wife in a few years. And here I am with my anger escalating climbing the stairs to attend to my grandchild, currently four months old.

Ben quickly recognizes me as he is wide awake and his smile melts my anger. He does not need a diaper change or a bottle; he is simply ready to start a new day. He eagerly comes into my arms and we spend the next few hours interacting together as the rest of the household gets up ready for school or work.

My anger is not directed at Ben but at his father, my wife’s oldest boy, now 24, whom I have never known as anyone but a drug addict. He was high when I first met him as a teenager when I started dating his mother. My high school graduation gift to him was a stint in rehab. He is an intelligent young man who can hold intellectual discussions with the best of them and he earned an academic scholarship to UAB with full-tuition and partial room and board. Yet it was in his first few weeks in college that he graduated to heroin and ultimately left our home.

With Ben’s dad and mom in rehab, we have been raising Ben. He is a fussy baby and at my age once I am woken it is not always easy for me to return to sleep. Yet Ben is a joy and to see him surround with love from the extended family is a blessing that may be his dad’s legacy to him.

So what to do with this anger? As a recent Christianity Today article points out “forgiveness is trendy… Americans are caught in an orgy of forgiveness.” ("What We Forgot About Forgiveness" by Leslie Leyland Fields, Christianity Today, May 2014, pp. 32, 33) Yet I wonder where repentance is in this rush to forgive so we can feel better about ourselves? Are we simply deciding that God is actually a Universalist and repentance is not needed? Or do I simply need my anger to be self-righteous? Sure Jesus said “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”, but I’m not Jesus.

Well it is another early morning. Ben is crying again and my anger comes back even as I type this at 3:00 a.m. I couldn’t get back to sleep when my wife got up with him at 1am. Guess my gift to her this day is I will feed him and change his diaper. “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love”, I think as I climb the stairs. Please Lord as far as the east is from the west, remove my sin (my anger) from me, I think. And there is that smile once again and tears fill my eyes.

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