At one point, I talked about the sock box and how we are transferring responsibility to Pamela. I mentioned that I had put socks in it on Saturday and told Pamela, "The sock box is full." Then, I stood up and went to her room, which is near the living room, to check her progress. She hadn't done a thing in the past two days.
Pamela was watching television in her room at the time, and the sock box was right beside her. It would have been a perfect time to roll socks. I mentioned something to her and she snottily said, "Put it away!" very loudly. Rather than get upset or embarrassed because of how she screeched at me in front of my friends, I asked her, "When do you think you can do the socks?" She quietly said, "Tonight."
Why didn't I get upset at her insolence? If we were running out of socks, then I would have pressed her further. If I had spent all weekend nagging her about her chores, then I might have been ticked off. If the house was going to explode if she didn't roll socks, I would have told her what to do and make her do it immediately. There are times to pick your battles. This wasn't even a skirmish.
I walked back to the living room and explained what had happened. As if they couldn't hear! We wrapped things up and, as my friends were leaving, Pamela called out, "I'm doing my socks!" Sure enough, we peeked in the room, and she was rolling away. My heart melted because, in the end, she decided to do what I had asked and took care of fourteen pairs of socks. Fourteen!
If this sounds like a parable, it is not. What I just related is a true story with eye-witnesses! However, it does remind me of the parable of the two sons that Jesus shared:
"There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, 'Son, go and work today in the vineyard.' 'I will not,' he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, 'I will, sir,' but he did not go. Which of the two did what his father wanted?"I never understood the parable until last week. I always wondered why there wasn't a son who answered yes and then obeyed. Wouldn't it be even better to do both? It never sat right with me that the mouthy guy did what his father wanted. He sassed his dad.
"The first," they answered. Matthew 21:28-31
Our church's five-month Bible study on Tim Keller's book The Prodigal God prepared me to finally understand the point of that parable. The parable of the two sons and what we call the prodigal son has many similarities. In both cases, the pharisees are questioning Jesus for the sort of people he serves (tax collectors--the kind of IRS agent who steals above and beyond what the politicians are trying to grab). In both cases, you have a son who disrespected his father and later repented and came back and another son who seems obedient on the surface but in his heart is quite the opposite. In both stories, the sons miss the mark of being a good son: showing respect and doing what they are asked to do because they loved their father.
Why didn't Jesus include the model son in either parable? I think because only one exists. Rather than give false expectations that one of us could be like that, he didn't even mention it. Jesus is the true son. The rest of us fall into one camp or the other. Up until last week, I understood this in my head. Now, my heart is starting to take a few steps in that direction. Pamela is really good at quick responses that require no thought. She said the first thing that popped in her head. It wasn't very respectful. After she thought about my observation more carefully, she realized folding clothes while watching television wasn't too much to ask. When I saw the smile on her face while I was counting the fourteen socks, I knew she did it out of love.
If that doesn't sit right with you, then I have to ask. Do you think she would have rolled the socks out of love for me had I added fuel to the fire? I think not. Feel free to disagree!