Daily Proverbial, 27 September 2011

As a door turns on its hinges, so a sluggard turns on his bed. Proverbs 26, verse 14.

I’ll admit: when I first read this verse, I thought, “this is a verse about my teenage son.” When I was his age, I didn’t sleep much. I just didn’t. It’s true: many people sleep more than I do; I’m an early riser. I’m usually up by 5 and into my day not long after. Not so my son (and, for that matter, one of his older sisters). Over summer vacation, they slept for hours. Were it not for school, I think my son could sleep until noon every day! Sure, he’s a teenager at the end of one of his primary growth spurts. The young man is tired because he’s active and his body gets worn out every day. I’m sure staying up late at night to watch online movies or late night TV has nothing to do with it.

And that’s why I thought of my son – indeed every teenager – when I first read this verse. As a sometimes-tolerant parent, I find teenagers to be either very industrious or incredibly lazy. Yes, that’s painting with a pretty broad brush, but, then again, so is the proverb. It’s making a generalization about lazy people. And after raising three teens, I gladly make that generalization! After all, it’s inevitable that teenagers will sleep forever. Parents ALWAYS nag them to pick up their dirty clothes, hang up towels, do homework, chew with their mouths closed, put down the cell phone, not text at the table, say “yes m’am” to their mom’s, and to put their shoes in their rooms instead of in front of the sofa. Inevitable! Teenagers are lazy! It’s like a turning hinge, B following A, and movies with Kris Kristofferson being commercial failures.

That’s when I remember to not be a jerk and to put down my broad brush. After all, I was a teenager once and I don’t think I exited my adolescence with every answer I needed in life. I know plenty of adults who are less than industrious and I need to remember that I’m looking at life with thirty years of work and life-experience under my belt. My son is looking at life with only half that time behind him and all of it at home. He has learned to read when all conventional reading instruction is stacked against dyslexics like him. Dirty laundry is kind of repulsive but in the long run, when compared to teenagers on crack or teenagers in jail, it isn’t even a misdemeanor. I don’t think teenagers today have it any tougher than teenagers in any other time, but I do believe the threats & challenges facing them are more complicated and imperative. Knowing that, does it really matter if they give me a little lip or don’t put their dirty dishes in the sink?

What’s more, my son’s two older sisters held jobs at fifteen and were each paying car payments by the time they were 18. Both of them live independently, pay their own bills, and hold down full-time jobs; one of them also goes to college full time and the other will be starting in January. They are hardly sluggards. Indeed, what seems inevitable is that their success today follows hard work and lots of faith in the past. They’re using the talents God gave them to start making their ways in a tough world. That’s something to be VERY proud of, not ridicule.

Most important of all, I wonder what God thinks of what I do. I KNOW He loves you and me just the way we are. He meets us on our level and doesn’t consider us to be insufficient for His wonderful grace. Still, I wonder what He thinks of some of the crazy, stupid things I do. I’m pretty good about keeping the house cleaned and the laundry folded and food in the fridge. I’m also the man who sometimes chooses those mundane tasks over spending time with my young son. God has gifted me with the opportunity to share these words with you, yet I’m the foolish sinner who can relate, from my own experiences, to the sins and things the Proverbs teach us to avoid. I’m the guy with the short fuse and the petty grudges and the anger at good people who did wrong things: just like me. I know God loves me just the way I am, but He surely must shake His holy head at all the really dumb things I’ve done.

In that light, shame on me. At mid-life, I still act very much like a teenager, but one with more years, more pounds, and more gray hair than your average screamo emo. I work hard and I do my best, but I still sometimes fall short. And my kids learned from me. In that light, yes, shame on me. My teens weren’t (and aren’t) lazy. They’re teenagers. They are anything but sluggards. Indeed, no father could be prouder. I should be privileged to think they learned that at home as well.

So before ending this, I don’t want to leave you with the impression that my son is hopeless. He isn’t. Just yesterday, he was complaining that he didn’t want chicken (or even pizza!) for dinner, so he got a steak out of the freezer and grilled it himself. And lately he has taken to unloading the dishwasher without even being told. Want a dessert? Call my son: he will deep-fry beignets for you! He really isn’t lazy (unless you want him to get his laundry done). He’s just a teenager. Knowing that, aren’t we all?

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