I love to read. My son does not.
When I complain about it, he explains it this way. "I like to read, Mom, I just like to do other things more."
A few weeks before summer vacation began, I explained to my ten year-old, "Your dad and I want you to read some each day through the summer." He argued, "But Mom! It's summer break! I shouldn't have to do any schoolwork!" I said, "Reading is more of a life skill." He rolled his big green eyes at me. I said, "Aren't you happy I'm not making you do math, too?" He clenched his jaws and manufactured a long, low growl in the back of his throat.
I was irritated by his reaction. He acted like I'd just taken away his birthday. I told him, "I'm just asking you to read a chapter a day. It's not a big deal." He continued to argue, "But I don't want to; it's not fair!"
I drew my line in the sand. I said slowly, in a steely tone, "You. Can choose. To read... And swim and kayak and fish and ride. Or... You. Can choose. Not to read... and skip the other stuff, too."
He slid his hands in his pockets and kicked the air. Resigned to it, he tried a plea bargain, "Can I at least have Saturday and Sunday off?" I agreed to weekend parole with good behavior.
Daily, he tried to beg, borrow, and bawl his way out of his summer sentence. I told him multiple times, "One chapter in the book of your choosing takes less than half the time you spend trying to figure out ways to get out of it."
Then one day...
We were at the beach. He brought a bag with his book in it. He read quietly under the umbrella. I sat as still as a stone, afraid to scare the moment away. I thought, "It's happened! Being a dictator has paid off! We love to read!!"
My son closed his book softly and put it back in his bag. He turned to me and said, "Mom?"
"Yes, sweetheart?" I said, still trying to hide my excitement.
"I read five chapters," he said. "I'm more than half way through the book!" He held a chunk of pages between his thick thumb and forefinger to show me. I casually said, "That's great. It's a good book then?"
With a wide grin he sat up straight and proud. He responded, "Yeah, it's okay, but... I'm done reading for the whole week!"
It makes me laugh now, but in that moment, I felt duped. Disappointed. Hurt. Irritated. Frustrated. (I am running out of ways to say "mad.")
In reflecting upon the story, I realize that no amount of coercion can make him love what I love. Coming to love something is a process of discovery. A genuine desire rises within us and we notice it; listen to it; try it; like it; pursue it until it becomes our own.
This is how my son will come to love reading, if he comes to love reading.
And this is how a real relationship with Jesus must come.
Not through manipulation, condemnation, guilt, shame or force- (though many have tried and keep trying to make us "love" him this way). Perfect love drives out fear; it does not foster and feed on it.
Perfect love knocks. Whispers. Woos. Rises from within. Perfect love invites us into a process of discovery.
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