My eight-year-old son came home from school one day unusually excited. He wanted to play football. Not just throwing the ball out back with dear ol’ dad. He wanted to play organized football, with refs, jerseys, practices, mouthpieces, and cleats. Real football. Sort of. It was flag, but still. I grinned ear to ear.
Before I had kids, I told myself that I would not be the kind of parent who lived vicariously through them should they play sports. Having coached basketball and baseball, I’ve had moments where I wanted to call down fire from heaven on some parents. So I swore, by the grace of God, I would not do that. Needless to say, when he came home jumping up and down excited to play, I saw visions of him being a top pick in the NFL draft.
The next few days were exciting. Shopping for sports gear, meeting the coaches, getting the practice and game schedule, and finding out that my son was playing on the team that won the championship last year, was a fun ride. But all good things must come to an end they say. And this one came to a screeching halt, in ways that only Allen Iverson would understand. I’m talking bout practice.
Practices were terrible. No. My son was terrible. No sugar coating. It is what it is. He didn’t know what he was doing. These coaches expected him to have a knowledge of the game that I hadn’t prepared him for. And then it happened. The coach screamed at my son. AT MY SON! I knew it embarrassed him and hurt his feelings. I underestimated how much it would hurt mine.
After a few times of watching my son get yelled at for not being in the right place, anger welled up in me in ways I hadn’t experienced before. The closest thing I could compare it to was street violence I engaged in as a non-Christian.
I was so angry. How dare he? I wanted to fight him. I wanted to embarrass him like he did my son. I hadn’t taken into account, that as a dad, I would be offended because I love my son so much. And that I don’t want anyone to ever hurt his feelings. Ever!
And then it hit me.
If I, a sinful human dad, would be so furious at a coach for “disrespecting” my son, how much more does The Father feel the anger towards those who disrespect his Son, Jesus?
If I, a sinful human being, had to forcibly restrain myself from the “injustice” of a coach doing his job, how much more must the Father have righteous wrath, stored up, toward those who unjustly reject his son?
Or as Hebrews 10:29-31 describes it:
How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
For the next few weeks, I was humbled by the vast disparity between my unrighteous, undeserved, anger at a coach for making my son feel rejected and God’s holy, righteous, wrath towards those who reject his son.
I thought of the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus was crying out to the Father, to take the cup of wrath, that he was going to endure for our sins away. I tried to imagine the pain the Father felt as Jesus cried out to him. This was his son whom he loved much deeper than I will ever love my son.
And in those moments of reflection, the reality of hell just seems right to me. From a parenting perspective of course.