By Scott Mackintosh, the Father
In June of 2011, I attended an annual company sales meeting eager to learn how to better my sales skills. In a classroom setting my mind usually wanders, but this day I was all ears listening to a story; a true story, of a sportscaster named Charlie Jones. Charlie was assigned to announce the 1996 Olympic rowing, canoeing and kayaking events – an assignment that left him less than thrilled, because he thought, “Who watches the rowing, canoeing and kayaking events? Only the rowers, canoers and kayakers …and their families!”
What he discovered, however, was that it ended up being one the most memorable interviews of his career. AND what I didn’t know is that two and a half years later, this story would significantly change my life. Preparing for the broadcast, Charlie Jones interviewed the rowing team starting with the basic questions such as “What if it’s raining?” “What if the wind blows you off course?” “What if you break an oar?” The answer to every question was the same,
“That’s outside my boat.”
Finally Charlie asked the rowing team what they meant by their repeated answer “That’s outside my boat?” They explained that they focused only on what they could control, and that was what was going on INSIDE their boat. They refused to waste energy focusing on things OUTSIDE their control.
When the sales meeting concluded it was obvious by the chatter in the room that everyone was impacted by the story. I seriously thought; “Great story, but it doesn’t really apply to me.” I dismissed it and that was that.
Seven months later my entire family was home for the Christmas holidays. I have seven children; three sons, four daughters, and four are married. I was happy to have them all home for the holidays. My son Sean is number three in the family and the middle son – his three
week holiday dedicated to the family, was quickly coming to an end and he would soon be heading back to college in Hawaii.
On the night before he was to leave, precisely at 11:11 pm, my wife and I received a personal message via Facebook from my son Sean. I opened it and began to read. He cut to the chase pretty quickly after telling me and my wife how much he loved us, he dropped a bomb, he told us that there was no sense in beating around the bush and might as well come right out and let us know that he is gay.
I went FREAKAZOID!
I blurted out some things that in retrospect I am very glad that he was not around to hear. (The damage may have taken many years to repair) I didn’t care about his feelings; he obviously didn’t care about mine! He most certainly didn’t care about anyone in our family and obviously the ONLY person that he cared about was himself! In my uneducated way of thinking on this topic, selfishness had to be the single cause and I was sure that this sort of thing was brought on from delving into pornography or other ill meant materials. Why else would he “choose” such a vial and disgusting way of life? (I’m now embarrassed of my ignorant thinking.)
I messaged him back ordering him to come home immediately so we could talk. I was furious and again told him to get home NOW! He said he would gladly talk to me, but that it would still be a little while before he’d be home. He was out visiting friends and saying his goodbyes for another year.
I anxiously paced the floor waiting his return. By midnight he was not home and I angrily went to bed.
I woke up at 4:00 am as my wife crawled into bed next to me. She had been talking to my son for the past few hours. She briefed me a bit on their conversation and then I got up to go see him. She begged me as I left the room to be kind and considerate. I assured her that I would.
I knocked on my son’s door and he opened it to find my outstretched arms offering a heartfelt hug. I spoke only for a moment and made a slight joke about something to ease the tension and then said, “We can talk another time, it’s late.” I went back to bed and tossed and turned for a while trying to figure out what I was going to do to “fix my son”.
Hours later, I was at work and he was on a flight for Hawaii. Every-so- often over the next year, I would send him an email suggesting that he give God equal time and to study “good things” instead of filling his head with the gay articles that he was reading. I had it all figured out that he should get rid of these silly notions that he had conjured up in his head and get married and raise a family. We weren’t getting any closer in our relationship and I was spending my time on deaf ears. They seemed deaf anyway because every scenario that I could come up with, he would answer with a comment like; “Dad, don’t you think that I know about that? Don’t you think that I have read and studied about this? I have known that I was like this for nearly my entire life and you think that these emails that you keep sending me are going to fix me?”
I had not taken into consideration that this was new to me, but that he had been dealing with it for many years.
The following Christmas we didn’t get around to talking about I didn’t want to bring it up and maybe if I didn’t – it would go away.
Two years from receiving this shocking news, Sean was home once again for Christmas. I’m a big outdoorsman and an avid hunter so like any good father would do, I took Sean and my younger son Skye coyote hunting across the state line. (No hate mail please, we didn’t shoot anything, they out smarted us) On our four-hour drive back home we talked about hunting, school and life in general, but I could tell that he wanted to talk about “it”. Finally Sean said “Dad I thought we were going to talk – really talk.” I don’t remember who started what, but all of a sudden we were delving into everything we had both held in for the past two years.
I wanted so badly to fix the situation. That’s what I did as a father. I fixed everything, that was my job, and this was just another “fix-it” project. At one point in our conversation, I asked; “Why would you choose this lifestyle?” I was met with a look of shock as he replied,
“Are you serious? Why on earth would I CHOOSE to be associated with one of the most misunderstood and hated groups on the planet?”
His answer resonated deeper than anything said in our prior two years of sending messages back and forth. This made sense! Although I had read many articles stating that same-gender attraction is NOT chosen but is something they are born with, I couldn’t get it through my thick skull until that moment. FINALLY we were actually able to have a really good conversation where we really talked and listened.
That is when it hit me….
A light came on in my head and the story of Charlie Jones that I had heard several years prior came flooding back and NOW it made perfect sense to me. It applied to this situation. It was a game changer.
For the next few days, I began to take an inventory of what was actually IN my boat. I had focused my energy on fixing my son only to discover that I had done a great job of raising a wonderful young man and the things that he was going through were outside my boat. Nothing that I could say to him would “fix” him and would most likely do father-son- relationship damage. Therefore, I took my fears and worry out of my boat and placed them in my son’s boat.
Next, I pondered on my ability to judge. I was his father and felt that I had that right. My mind reflected back on my Christian upbringing that taught Jesus Christ is the judge.
I realized that I needed to STOP judging him – it wasn’t my job to judge, Jesus Christ had taken that role upon himself, so I took that out of my boat and placed it in my Savior’s boat.
As I focused on what was in my boat, I realized that I had only ONE item left and that was my ability to ACT instead of REACT. I then split it into two categories: to act harshly or to act with love, and because I had placed “judgment” into Christ’s boat, I realized that the ONLY thing left in my boat was to ACT with LOVE! I thought to myself, “I CAN do that!”
I have a wonderful son whom I love dearly and our relationship has drastically changed for the better. It is now stronger than ever, because I no longer focus on what’s outside my boat, instead I focus on what’s INSIDE my boat…. LOVE!