The world existed before e-mail. And even, if you can believe it, before cell phones. It was in those halcyon days of blissful disconnection that I moved to a new city to start my first “real” job. To keep in touch with people back then you didn’t blog, post, or tweet.
You used the Pony Express.
Just kidding. But really, you either put pen to paper and wrote an actual letter — we’re talking ink on pressed tree pulp — or you made a telephone call. We didn’t know we were using a “land line”. They were just phones, and they were all connected to wires, whether it was your home phone or a pay phone — a contraption that has all but disappeared. It was 25 cents to make a call on the venerable old pay phone. Long distance was always expensive, from your home phone or a pay phone, and you tried not to talk too long. Stamps, on the other hand, were only 18 cents.
With a passel of siblings, I opted for the lower priced United States Postal Service as my preferred method of communication.
Well, I mailed out many letters, but got few in return. One of my brothers, Mark, was particularly recalcitrant. From the others I’d get an occasional note, enough to let me know my letters weren’t misdirected to Siberia. But not from Mark. If Mom didn’t assure me he still showed-up when she made perogis, I’d have thought Mark got misdirected to Siberia.
So I wrote more letters, cajoling him to reply. Cajoling produced no results. I finally sent him a self-addressed, stamped envelope with instructions on using the United States Postal Service: Mark merely needed to place a letter in the envelope, deposit the envelope in a mail box, then stand back as the vast machinery of the United States government kicked into operation. The letter would pass from hand to hand and truck to truck across the whole country until it was finally delivered right to my door. All for just 18 cents, if only Mark would send the letter.
One day when I got home from work, I was shocked. The self-addressed envelope I sent Mark was waiting in my mail box.
I tore it open.
Inside was one page. Taped to that one page was a quarter. There was one line written on the page: “If you want to talk to me, use this to give me a call sometime.”
Mark’s quarter is a lesson for us fathers: we need to let our kids be who they are. We might want them to write, but they might be telephone people. The Bible tells us it was “the Lord, Who created you . . . and formed you . . .” (Is 43, 1). God says in Jeremiah: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you . . .” (Jer 1, 5).
It was God who formed each of us, including our kids. And God made us the way He wanted us to be: “I formed you to be a servant to me” (Is 44, 21). Isaiah puts it beautifully: “. . . O Lord, You are our father; we are the clay and You the potter: we are all the work of Your hands.” (Is 64, 3).
We might not understand why people don’t see things the way we do, but God told us: “You question me about my children, or prescribe the work of my hands for me! It was I who made the earth and created mankind upon it; It was my hands that stretched out the heavens…” (Is 45, 11-12).
Humility in the face of God’s design extends to our kids. We need to respect them as the children of God they are, made as God intended, and let them do the work God created them to do. After all, nowadays long distance calls are free, but it costs 44 cents to mail a letter. Sometimes things turn out for the best, even when the best is something different from what we thought.