“No, Kevin, it’s “t”ruk.”
“Listen very carefully….T.t.t.t.t…ruk”
“Can you say “T.?”
“Good, good, now “truck.”
My father was a patient teacher. There on his lap, up in the ‘’off limits’ living area where my parents entertained guests. Sitting wide eyed, listening to him coach me in my diction. I was three, but closer to four. And I have a specific feeling associated with this nightly ritual. I didn’t want to leave him. I’m almost sure that I pretended to be stuck on “ruck” far longer than necessary, simply because I loved being up on his lap.
I could hear my older brother and sister playing in the den. They didn’t have permission to be where I sat, and so I felt an extra sense of privilege, and yes call it gloating. For a little toe-head with ringlet blond hair, I was sentimental. I loved the sound of my father’s voice, gravely but soft, a hint of strain from shouting orders on the job. He was the boss of an outfit of masons that included my uncles, who labored hard for a few bucks profit. He was tough, and he was called Barney, short for the ‘wild man of Borneo.’ If you labored for him, you kept him supplied, or you walked. Yet sitting on his lap, I felt only a muscular hold on me, gripped by hands larger than life.
“Kevin, concentrate, say tttttttruck!”
I would feel him slouch, just a bit. Whispering now…“Want me to read you a book?”
When I answered Christ’s invitation to “come” on January 15th, 1979 I did so like a small child needing lap time with Dad. That’s because by that time, into my second year of college, my early speech practice with my father had turned into regular speech therapy to remedy a severe stutter. But sadly, toward the end of my senior year in high school, the therapist slumped a little like my father used to do, and said, “you better not get a job where you have to speak a lot.”
On that cold Michigan night in January, I returned to my dorm room with a new King on the throne of my heart, and a prayer. “Lord, would you fix this cursed speech impediment?” His answer was unmistakable. “Not so fast.”
One of the greatest gifts God has ever given me is a broken tongue. How many times I have tried to speak a short complex sentence, but have failed in a fire-storm of silence? Can anyone understand the pain a person carries that has lived most of his life in his head afraid to speak, but now is called by God into missions? The haunting advice of therapists on the frontal lobe, and the untenable brokenness repeatedly and painfully played out. But each time I failed, each time I needed God’s power, each time I was willing to place the mission in front of my pride, I saw myself sitting on my father’s lap, heard His voice, and knew my Heavenly Father was inviting me to that same place with Him. Every time I answered him, I grew in my awareness of my infirmity, but deepened my willingness to put it out there again, and again.
While Paul was sitting on the lap of God, asking Him about his infirmity, Jesus answered, and didn’t mince words. “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” If I’ve thought about that verse one time, it’s been a hundred thousand. In each fiery flameout of defeat, and in each opportunity to speak for him that I needed His patience, it’s where I meditated. It will always be.
“Kevin, look at my mouth, see how I say “ttttttttttttruck?”
Nodding now with wide puppy eyes…
“Try it, slowly, don’t be afraid.”
Where would we be without our patient Father? Can you imagine yourself sitting with Him, in a place reserved for ‘special guests?’ Are you hearing His voice, taking you toward your greatest infirmity with humble understanding?
“Want me to read you a book?” That’s God’s invitation to you, and it’s only a reach away, bound in leather, or found by a few clicks. He wants to read you a story, because His strength upholds, and He’s patient in weakness. Maybe that’s why Paul said, ‘when I’m weak, then I’m strong.’ Lap time with Dad does that, because the more I’m with Him, the more I want to be.