Without going into an extreme amount of detail, my middle son, Jack, suffers from some diagnosed emotional issues. He is a GREAT kid with impressive logical-reasoning abilities and tactile coordination. Beth (my wife) and I often comment that he'll probably end up becoming an engineer, mechanic, or builder. Indeed, I am excited to see how God will use him in life. Nevertheless, his oft-present pathos is quite burdensome to the family and has resulted in a lot of "hard" days in the Tinsley household.
One of those days came this past Thursday at the bowling alley in Lynchburg (VA). Beth purchased summer bowling passes for the kids a couple of weeks ago, and we went there to use our allotted number of games for the day. The first game went rather well; all the kids were satisfied with their performances and scores ended up fairly high. However, things went south during Game 2, especially for Jack. For several straight frames, his rolls were either gutter balls or "one-pinners." After one particularly bad frame, he spun around, rolled his eyes to the back of his head, gritted his teeth, and tensed up his body...one of his "typical" exhibitions of rage.
When I saw this inappropriate behavior, I sternly told Jack that he was not allowed to act that way. I guess my discipline was a bit too harsh, because my oldest son, Luke, confronted me with a very poignant question: "Dad, when was the last time anyone showed Jack how to bowl?" Admittedly, this zinger hit me right between the eyes! I realized that I hadn't tutored Jack in bowling since the last time we bowled...probably two years prior. There's nothing like getting schooled by your children!
So, I did what any decent dad would have done...I gave Jack some instruction during his next frame. Unfortunately, that frame didn't go very well...nor did the next couple. But as he continued to apply the principles I had showed him, each frame got a little better. Eventually, he bowled an 83, which for a 10-year-old, is like a 300 for an adult! He was on top of the world. A million of his favorite toys wouldn't have made him happier. I was so proud of him and happy that his frustration had turned into a sense of victory.
But the real lesson of the day was mine. How often do we leave people mired in their frustrations, weaknesses, and failures, when a little mentorship or instruction could help unburden them? How often do we look the other way instead of simply addressing problems? My son was incensed and feeling like a failure, and my first reaction was to scold and walk away. But fortunately for Jack and me, Luke wasn't going to have any of that bologna! He saw the inappropriateness of my reaction, and in a display of youthful wisdom, made an on-the-spot correction. And thank God he did! Instead of leaving the bowling alley as an exasperated loser, Jack left as a triumphant warrior.