The Rowdy Child

August 7, 2016 No Comments »
The Rowdy Child

By David Faust

Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 3.26.19 PMIt already had been a long night even before we boarded the plane. Weather-related delays made me miss my connecting flight. Now as the clock passed 11:00 p.m., I stood in line with a crowd of tired-looking passengers in the Dallas airport, hoping to get home on the last flight of the night.

Long Night

At least I had an aisle seat. I find it hard to sleep while sitting up, and a few inches of extra space would help. As the plane filled with passengers, a young couple approached carrying a baby. The three of them squeezed into the two seats next to me. I buckled my seatbelt and braced myself for a turbulent ride.

Fortunately the baby slept soundly for the next two hours. Unfortunately he was the only person on the plane who slept, because in the seat directly in front of mine a rowdy 3-year-old boy screamed from takeoff until landing. The child’s piercing cries didn’t appear to arise from any particular problem or pain. He was just tired and cranky, and his exhausted 20-something mother seemed powerless to handle him. There were a few moments of quiet when the passengers began to drift off to sleep, but then the boy would give out a high-pitched shriek and everyone jerked awake and heaved a weary sigh. It was a long flight home.

I felt sorry for the mom, but angry with the boy’s father sitting next to them. Instead of lifting a hand to help, he pulled a ball cap down over his eyes, leaned against the window, and pretended to sleep. What a jerk, I thought to myself.

Hard Lessons

My car seemed blessedly quiet while I drove home from the airport at 2:00 a.m. With time to reflect, I realized the rowdy child on the plane actually taught me a couple of valuable lessons.

First, I recognized that I haven’t graduated yet from God’s academy of grace. I’m embarrassed to admit how quickly minor inconveniences drain my mercy tank. I default to selfishness and impatience, especially when I’m tired. When the plane finally landed and the passengers disembarked, the man in the ball cap grabbed his suitcase and walked alone toward the exit. To my surprise, I realized he wasn’t the rowdy boy’s father after all. Like me, he evidently was a random passenger who had the misfortune of sitting next to the crying child, but throughout the flight I had viewed him with anger and disdain, assuming he was a deadbeat dad unwilling to assist his wife. I didn’t know him at all, but I had completely misjudged him. And my sympathy for the struggling mom increased when I realized she had no one to help with her son that night.

Another personal takeaway from my turbulent flight? It’s easy to forget. Years ago my own children were preschoolers. They were well-behaved much of the time, but not all of the time. There were moments (as every parent knows) when strangers observing my kids’ behavior might have concluded I was a terrible dad. In those moments I needed mercy and understanding, not criticism.

I learned some useful lessons from that miserable flight home. Mostly I realized how thankful I am for God’s mercy when I myself act like a tired, rowdy child.

Based on International Sunday School Lesson, © 2012, by the Lesson Committee. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.

David Faust serves as the Associate Minister at East 91st Street Christian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Daily Readings

Aug. 8


Deuteronomy 3:22-29

Reproach and Mercy

Aug. 9


2 Samuel 7:20b-29

Sovereign Mercy

Aug. 10


Psalm 68:20, 24-26, 32-35

Awesome Mercy

Aug. 11


1 Peter 1:3-9

Hopeful Mercy

Aug. 12


James 3:13-18

Wise Mercy

Aug. 13


James 5:7-12

Patient Mercy

Aug. 14


Romans 9:6-18

Children of Promise

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