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Teenage Drivers and Forgiving Fathers

Teenage drivers are not “somebody else’s kid” anymore, they are ours. Well, one of them is ours. Man, they grow up fast. My oldest daughter Kylee had been driving incident-free for almost a whole three weeks by herself when the inevitable happened. She backed into my truck in our driveway. Thankfully, there was only a small scratch and dent on her car and we were able to repair it on our own. You can hardly tell anything happened. She waited a day to tell me, probably anxious as she just started driving and didn’t want to disappoint me…or get grounded from her car, but we will go with the first one.

I was sitting in our garage, working on my truck, when she came out of the house to tell me. I knew something was up when she batted those big beautiful brown eyes at me. I had seen them before and they were hypnotic, usually resulting in getting anything she wanted at the store from about age 3-15ish. But now she’s 15, I’m more mature as a father, and those eyes wouldn’t work on me this time. Would they? She said in her sweet voice, “Hey, Dad, I had a little accident.” I wanted to get mad, and I almost did, and probably would have a few years ago, but I just simply said, “Show me. Tell me what happened.” As we repaired the dent and applied touch-up paint to the scratch, we talked about being more careful, how it could have been worse, insurance premiums, and responsibility. I remember saying, “It’s going to be OK. If you ever mess up, just tell me the same day. Don’t hide it. It’s better to just deal with it right away.” To her defense, she couldn’t hold it any longer. She came home from a friend’s house, told her mom she had to tell me. I was proud of that.

What I didn’t tell her was while she was explaining the incident, I could only think about two things. The first was how it could have been worse, much worse, as I had just preached the funeral of a young lady in a car wreck. That will quickly put a minor fender bender in perspective. I could have blown up, brought up how dangerous the roads are, and really gave her the “be more responsible” scolding, but all I could think about was how much I loved her in that moment and how proud I was to be her dad. She’s a great kid (I mean young woman). She loves Jesus, gets straight A’s, has the best personality, never gives us any issues, and did I mention those beautiful big brown eyes? To show you a glimpse of her character, today, she has been waiting patiently for her new bible to arrive in the mail, checking the door at least a half dozen times. Now that’s the kind of 16 year old every dad dreams about! Accidents happen. Would blowing up on her make her a safer driver? Probably not, but it’s guaranteed to hurt our relationship. I’ll take a scratched car any day over a scarred relationship. Flying off the handle wouldn’t fix her car or the situation, it would have only hurt us. Stuff is temporary. Our relationship is eternal.

Secondly, I wanted her to see the gentle forgiveness of a father who is madly in love with her. Not because I have mastered that, but because I have experienced it so many times before from my heavenly Father. Do I like her backing into things as big as my truck? Well, of course not. We had to have the “be more careful” talk and she has totally learned her lesson. Funny, I also remember that same talk and example my dad showed me during my first wreck. But, what I had in mind was more about her relationship with the Lord. You see, I didn’t want to hurt her impression of God the Father. If her earthly father was unapproachable, unpredictable, and unloving in his responses, it could give her the impression that’s what her heavenly Father is like. She’s going to mess up spiritually (sin). While I want her to be able to approach me about anything, I especially want her to be able to go to God about anything, knowing He is loving, forgiving, and full of grace. He loves her more than her sins and imperfections, and so do I! That’s what fathers do! I had to remind myself in that moment that’s the kind of Father He is and the kind of father He wants me to be. You see, how we respond to life as parents can either push our kids towards the Lord or away from Him. I don’t want to be the reason she has a skewed view of the true nature of the Lord…not over something as meaningless as a car. I mean, how can I preach about forgiveness, grace, and love to my daughter and others on Sunday and not model it to her on Monday? Perhaps the “fender benders” of life happen so we get the opportunities to display Christ-like character, build relationships with our kids, and keep our eyes on the bigger picture – honoring the Lord and discipleship. What’s more important: having a perfect driver or a stronger relationship with my daughter? I’ll take the latter any day.

We can’t raise perfect kids because they are imperfect humans just like us. When they mess up, we all too often forget about our mess ups. What we can do is teach them how to respond righteously to adverse situations, because sometime life’s full of them. We can model to them how to value relationship over regulations. We can display Christ-like character they can imitate. We can prove we love them and that they are more valuable than the silly stuff of this world that rusts and decays. The new wears off of your first car, but it should never wear off of your only father-daughter relationship. There’s a little scratch on that car that most will never see. But, I know it’s there. And it will always remind me that people are more important than possessions, and a Father’s love and forgiveness are something we both desperately need.

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Stephen and his wife Haley have called Arkansas home all of their lives. Stephen has served in several ministry roles over the last 25 years and as a lead pastor for the last 8 years. Stephen attended Williams Baptist College and earned a BA in Biblical Studies from Ouachita Baptist University, an MA, MDiv, and DMin in Christian Leadership and Pastoral Ministries from Liberty University. When not pastoring, Stephen enjoys running, cycling, reading, writing, camping, fishing, and spending time with his family.

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