I have always been able to relate to the “one and only son” reference in the Bible. Although my daughters have a most special place in my heart, I only have one son and that makes it special in a different way. He is also my firstborn, so there is that different dynamic. But, the most special thing to me is that we are best friends. I firmly believe that parents must take on the role of a parent and, in many ways, forget about being friends. But, if you are lucky, after all the parenting is complete, then the friendship still survives. I am that lucky man. I say I am lucky, but I think we are friends because we both worked at it very hard. We had all the struggles that every parent and child had, but in the end, we found a way to respect each other—and isn’t that mostly what friendship is all about?
The best part about the Tea Shop adventure is that my best friend was there. For this trip to Taiwan, Jordan (or J.D. as I call him) sometimes played the part of the host, when Tanya wasn’t there. But, on this night, he was playing the part of my friend. He was experiencing this with me. It wouldn’t have been the same if he wasn’t there. J.D. has always had the gift of being funny. I know a lot of people that think they are funny—but, he actually is. On this night, he humbled himself because it was the shop owners time to shine. J.D. didn’t take the role of a typical twenty-something and roll his eyes like “I’m not impressed,” but rather he joined in with us and enjoyed the night with us. That meant so much to me. I think I’m a likable guy, but I can’t tell you how hard it is for me to get someone to go to a baseball game with me. People just generally don’t think of me as someone to hang out with – but my son (my best friend) was there with me.
As I write this, I hope that people don’t think I’m bragging about my relationship with my son. I really don’t believe that I did anything outstanding to make this happen. I wasn’t the perfect parent, by any means, and J.D. made a few mistakes along the way. What I am celebrating is that somehow, through all my mistakes, through being a pastor’s son, through all our ignorance as parents, he emerged as a fine human being. I know every parent says something like that, but I really just had the privilege of raising an outstanding man that has unique gifts and talents—and now, he is my friend. Being a pastor, people would tell me secrets about other people that I didn’t ask them to tell me. With the exception of the high school principle that told me he was cussing, I have never had a bad report.
When we did introductions at the Tea Shop and always when I introduce my son, I think of the scene at Jesus’ baptism when the Father says, “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.” It really is less about what he does and more about our relationship. It is less about what we have in common than what we feel for each other. I can feel it when he hugs me. We genuinely long to see each other. Maybe it’s the distance we live from each other because there were seasons of our life that I wanted to strangle him. But, now all I can think is “I can’t wait to see him again!”
People always hope that their children will respect them. We hope the body of work we put forward was enough to gain their respect, even though we know we made mistakes and, to be honest, we are usually just hoping for a little grace and mercy. I think my children respect us for the most part, but what I am most proud is that they show respect for other people. In the Tea Shop, J.D. was extremely respectful of people that he didn’t know. He is the same way about disenfranchised people and minorities and the less fortunate. He is a fairly pure example of love for all people with one exception. If you are a person that abuses the less fortunate and uses politics and power to take advantage of others, then you’re probably not on his friends list. He respects women, he respects older people, and he is kind to children and animals. He even is kind to the people in Taiwan that out him as a “foreigner.” He was kind to the little girl that treated him like a freak because he has a big beard and a towel on his head. Forget that he is my son, I so proud that I have a friend that is kind, generous and respectful to all human beings.
Another time the Father (God) said “this is my son..” was at the transfiguration. When Jesus was there with Moses and Elijah, the Father says to them and Peter, James and John, “Listen to Him.!” At the Tea Shop, J.D. said very little because it wasn’t the right time, but I find I want to listen to him more and more. He has a writing outlet and a podcast called “The Free China Post.” He and his friends are a little outspoken about politics, but they always bring up intelligent and thought-provoking ideas about the situation of the world, and especially the United States. There is passion and concern in his voice, along with a rational line of thinking. It doesn’t matter if I agree with every point he makes, I still want to say to my friends “Listen to him!” I think that is what the Father was saying about Jesus, “Get out of your mindless patterns and listen to these thoughts that he has about how to change the world—open up your mind—use your brain and consider some different options.” It’s one of the proudest parts of being a parent when your children learn to think for themselves.
Let’s just suffice to say that I am proud of my son. I probably imagined he would be a sports star, but that is because I was ignorant. I probably imagined he would praise me more and feed my ego, but that was because I was immature. What surprises me every day is that he calls me friend—that he says “love you, pops!” Those are the things that matter. That was the best thing about the Tea Shop! Not that any of us was impressive, but that all of us were there together.