Like Son, Like Father

Like Son, Like Father February 3, 2022

“Like Father, Like Son” (a photo of Christopher and me taken at Seaside, Oregon many tides ago)

Have you heard the phrase, “Like Father, like Son”? How about “Like Son, like Father”? I would assume you’ve heard of the former, but not the latter. This is a post about the latter phrase, namely how my son influences me.

Christopher smiled at me when I entered his room Tuesday. I was flattered that my son recognized me and was glad I was there. The CNA was in the process of changing and repositioning him and celebrated Christopher’s expression with me. Then she told me that Christopher had assisted her with changing his outfit when she removed his t-shirt and pants and replaced them with his evening gown. Christopher moved his right arm and put it through the sleeve!

Christopher was not only helping his CNA change him. He is also helping me to change and grow as a person. Just as I stretch his arms and legs, so he stretches me. If Christopher can be resilient and keep fighting for life, so can I.

Some people need ideal conditions to try to make something of their lives. Christopher has never been like that. To use a football analogy, he plays hurt. By no means is he close to functioning at 100 percent in light of his TBI. But my boy’s never been one to quit or throw in the towel. No matter the situation, he always guts it out.

Christopher’s life is by no means for the faint of heart. It reminds me of the nurse who told me at his hospital bedside many months ago, “I’m so glad I’m not in your shoes.”

Of course, I do not wish for Christopher to be lying on a bed for over a year. But at least he’s conscious now, contrary to the hospital doctor who proclaimed last spring he would never wake up. My son also wakes me up to what counts in life and not take any day we’re given for granted.

I would rather be in Christopher’s shoes or at his bedside than on the sideline and watch as time goes by. I really believe my son’s making the most of the opportunity he has no matter how others might perceive his quality of life.

My boy could have died the night of the injury. He could have died many times over this past year. But he’s still with us and time in his presence gives me strength to keep going. I’m making the most of my opportunity to learn from him.

Some of us are too afraid to die, so we never really live. Christopher would rather die trying than never try and simply exist.

One evening, several years ago, I sat across from Christopher at the dining room table. It was one of the most important conversations of my life. I remember telling my young man: “I am going to love you enough to allow you to fail.” I was trying really hard at the time not to smother and control him in the effort to make him happy and protect him from pain. It was so tempting to try to program my son so he could fulfill my vision for his future. If I had forced him to live my wonderful dream for his life, it wouldn’t be Christopher I loved, but someone he was never meant to be. My one and only son said in response with a sense of relief that it was the most beautiful thing I had ever said to him, though I barely comprehended my words at the time. I think often about that conversation these days and have no regrets. There’s nothing worse than living someone else’s life, or never allowing someone to live theirs.

Each of us has only one shot at this life. Are we afraid to fail? If so, there is a sense in which we have already died. To those who live this way, I say: “I’m so glad I’m not in your shoes.” Like Son, like Father. Christopher is raising me, stretching me, to have the courage to fail and the nerve to live.

To read the various updates on our unfathomable journey with TBI, please click here. Thank you for your prayers for Christopher!

About Paul Louis Metzger
Paul Louis Metzger, Ph.D., is Professor of Theology & Culture, Multnomah University & Seminary; Director of The Institute for Cultural Engagement: New Wine, New Wineskins; and Author and Editor of numerous works, including The Word of Christ and the World of Culture: Sacred and Secular through the Theology of Karl Barth (Eerdmans, 2003) and Evangelical Zen: A Christian's Spiritual Travels with a Buddhist Friend (Patheos, 2015). You can read more about the author here.
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