I could see the situation unraveling before my eyes. And I could see Garrett trying to salvage it, still hopeful he could keep the dam from breaking even as the cracks and seams began to visibly leak. Our son’s demeanor said it all—the defensiveness, the downcast eyes, the urgency in his appeals of “Please stop telling this story!” My heart went out to both of them. To Gabriel because his embarrassment and dismay were plain. To Garrett because I knew his intent. I knew this story was not a story to shame but a story to delight, to teach, and to celebrate virtue stumbled upon in unexpected moments. How often we wish to share from someone else’s testimony, but that someone has not yet learned the lesson we so vividly learned through them. Garrett wanted to share a story of triumph, but what our son heard was astory of his shame. Fat tears began to wet his cheeks as he ran from the table.
For several minutes they were gone while the girls and I ate dinner and tried to take the conversation somewhere new and safe. When the boys returned the tears were dry, the crisis was over. The story remained hidden in the minds of the three of us who knew it. It was a tale for another day.
But the real story of the evening, the story that really mattered, revealed itself later as the kids prepared for bed upstairs and Garrett and I tidied the kitchen.
“Was he okay?” I asked, anxious to know what happened between them when they left the dinner table. There is so much behind a father and son who step away to share a quiet conversation. I know those are places a mother ought not always to trespass, and yet I am so curious. What does my husband say in the quiet moments to our son when miscommunication threatens to rob them of unity? How can I learn from the way he parents? How can I protect Gabriel, whose youth and foolishness can sometimes bring a razor’s edge to Garrett's voice?
Garrett looked thoughtful, went somewhere inside for a moment. “You know,” he answered slowly, “I felt so bad for him. I didn’t mean to upset him. He just got so worked up.” An unfinished thought still hung in the air. I paused in wiping the countertop. He looked at me. “So often I get annoyed at his feelings, but tonight I sympathized. It felt good to feel bad for him.”
And there it was, the story of our night. Not a story of misunderstanding, of crisis at the dinner table, of something broken between father and son, but the story of patchwork pieces being sewn back together. A father accidentally inserting a wedge, and then lovingly working the wedge out so it cannot be the beginning of a wall. This night is a story of victory. Of broken pieces coming together, and taking the time to notice that a step in the right direction is a step that matters, praise God.
“Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior,” Paul reminds us (Colossians 1:21-22, NIV), “but now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.” Once we were enemies but now we are reconciled, brought close by a God who follows us when we run from the table. What a blessing to notice when His character rubs off on us; when we, too, follow the alienated, so they might not be lost. This is the story I will remember.