Our 2 year-old son Jonathan accompanied me to Subway this evening to pick up sandwiches for supper. It turned out to be a good thing he's still a little too young to understand everything around him.
Jon-Jon and I entered the sandwich shop and approached the counter. A very friendly employee began getting our bread ready when I overheard a bit of a conversation at the opposite end of the counter.
A dad was in line, probably in his late 40s, with his teenage daughter in tow. They looked normal enough; didn't appear to be members of a biker gang or anything like that. The dad could have been a guy you would do business with, and the girl could have been a cheerleader at school.
Girl and pop were engaged in some sort of playful "joking reprimand/yeah, right, Dad" kind of moment that any father and daughter might enjoy. I didn't hear what Dad actually said, but the girl responded between giggles with the kind of "Oh, gimme a break" response that would be appropriate to the situation. She did not appear to intend any disrespect to her father, and he certainly didn't take her response that way. He said what he said, she said what she said, he finished paying for their sandwiches, and they walked out together.
Nothing out of the ordinary. In fact, a pleasant picture of playful interaction between parent and child.
At least, you would think that, unless you had heard what the girl actually said to her dad.
Her "Yeah, right, gimme a break, Dad" comment was worded in a way I'd never heard it worded before in that context. Without any hesitation, spite, fanfare, or response from Dad whatsoever, the girl simply said, "Shut the f*** up."
No, you didn't read that wrong. That is exactly what she said. And she left with Dad still chuckling to himself.
Fairly certain my 2 year-old was oblivious, (too distracted by all the foods behind the glass), and thinking I had surely misunderstood, I discreetly asked the lady making our sandwiches if she had heard what I thought I had heard. She confirmed it, and we shared our opinions about the matter.
I couldn't help but think back on my post about the folly of writing off our youth.
I couldn't help but feel defensive about my school. Many of my students are unfairly judged by community members who don't know them, yet none of them I know would speak to a parent that way.
I couldn't help but consider what it takes to create this scenario: a teenager so accustomed to using profanity that it flows right off the tongue, not only in the presence of a parent, but directed at a parent.
And ultimately, my thoughts centered on the home. The only conclusion to reach from this scene is that Dear ol' Dad either led his daughter to this kind of speech, or somehow failed to prevent the influence of someone else, and has now made peace with it. What is Dad going to say when his daughter is busted at school for addressing a teacher this way?
More importantly, how will this girl ever respect God, when she holds her earthly father in such low esteem?
For all of our fretting over society, the government, the media, the popular culture, our neighborhoods, churches and schools, the heart of the war, with bayonets affixed, in the trenches, mano a mano, occurs behind your front door. What's at stake in this war is the soul of each person who lives behind that door. The evil one respects no relationship and calls no truce.
As unsettling as it is to hear a child tell a parent to shut up, it only serves to remind parents that Satan is telling you the same thing:
Just shut up.
If you do, he wins. That's what he's counting on.