Monday, August 24, 2009
“Dad, can you fix this?”
My son holds out his favorite toy, a super-duper Buzz Lightyear action figure complete with spring-loaded missile and nine (count them, nine) preprogrammed phrases. He strategically places himself between me and the baseball game on television, brazenly demanding immediate attention. I am normally left alone during Yankee games. Not because I require it—I do not—but because I tend to get a tad…involved.
“What’s wrong with it, bud?” I ask, keeping one eye on him and the other on the thing of beauty that is Robinson Cano’s swing.
“Dunno,” he answers. He turns his Buzz around, flips a switch and turns a knob, and shrugs.
Both eyes are on him now. My son is confused and dejected. He doesn’t know what’s wrong with his toy. All he knows is that it’s not what it’s supposed to be.
“Sure I can fix it,” I answer him. “No problem.”
And it isn’t a problem. I know what’s wrong with is toy. And I can make it what it’s supposed to be, too. All I need is a screwdriver, some batteries, and a little time.
He takes a seat beside me on the couch and fidgets. I think it’s because the Yankees have just stranded two runners on base, but I’m wrong. No, he just wants to play. Not iin a few minutes or a little while. Now.
“Hurry up, Daddy,” he says.
“Hang on,” I answer, prying the cover off the battery compartment.
More fidgeting. Then, “Daddy?”
“I don’t think you know what you’re doing.”
I raise my head and offer a look that is half question and half amusement.
“Why’s that?” I asked him.
“Because you’re taking too long. If you knew how to fix it, you’d hurry up.” He sighs and adds, “I’d be playing by now.”
“Just wait and see,” I tell him. “I’ll have it fixed in a minute.”
But my son can’t wait and so doesn’t see. “Never mind,” he says. “I’ll just go fix it myself.” He grabs the Buzz Lightyear from my hand and trudges off to his room carrying it upside down by the right foot.
I shake my head in a fatherly way. Kids are so impatient nowadays, I think to myself. I know what he’ll do. He’ll go back to his room and play with his Buzz Lightyear for a while, substituting the real sounds of laser blasts and Tim Allen’s voice with his own paltry imitations. He’ll flip switches and turn knobs and pretend everything’s working just fine, but it won’t last long. He won’t have the patience for that, either.
I know this because as my son, he carries around inside of himself bits and pieces of me. He has my smile, my eyes, my skin. And there are the deeper things too, like a common desire to put people at ease and a constant craving for ice cream.
And also to be impatient. With everything.
“Father,” I often say to God, “can you fix this? Fix this problem or this situation. Fix this life. I don’t know what’s wrong with it, I just know it’s broken.”
“Sure I can fix it,” God answers. “No problem.”
And it isn’t a problem. God knows what’s wrong. And more, He can fix it. All he needs is a little grace, a little mercy, and a little time.
So I’ll sit beside Him for a while and watch. But then I start to fidget.
“Hurry,” I say.
“Hang on,” He answers.
I fidget more. Time passes, and I begin to wonder if He really knows what He’s doing. If He did, I’d be better by now. I tell him so.
“Wait and see,” He says.
But I can’t wait. And because I can’t wait, I don’t see.
“I’ll just fix it myself,” I finally say. I take my problem back and trudge off, pretending that everything is just fine.
That’s how it is with my son and me. And with me and God, too. But I know this: my son will be back. Imagination can carry one only so far. Pretending is great, but it’s no substitute for the real thing. He’ll realize that fixing what’s broken is worth the wait. Especially when he knows he can’t fix it on his own.
And it’s for those very reasons that God knows I’ll be back, too.
To read more from Billy Coffey, visit him at What I Learned Today and follow him on the twitter at @billycoffey.
Also, for you writerly types in search of an agent, check out this article by Billy on Guide to Literary Agents: How I got my agent.