Focus: Love can take on one of two characteristics. Love can be given or withheld depending on how someone meets our expectations. Or love can be given freely with no strings because we continue loving even when someone fails to please us. The latter marks the love of God and can free families for a deeper kind of loving.
Dad – demanding; high expectations; not the best of listeners
Mom – the family peacemaker
Mark – high-strung; ready to unload; 16 years old
Allie – family joker; shoots from the mouth; 13 years old
Setting: The Stewart family living room. A few chairs and a love seat with a table and lamp set the scene. Dad sits in an easy chair reading the paper on a Sunday afternoon.
Mark: (enters stage left with shoe untied; heading for exit stage right) See you later, Dad.
Dad: Hold on a minute. Where are you going now? (sets paper aside)
Mark: Not again, Dad. You mean I have to give another report on where I’ll be and for how long?
Dad: I think a father can expect that, don’t you?
Mark: Okay, okay. The guys are meeting over at the park to play some basketball.
Dad: I thought we agreed to save Sunday afternoon for being together as a family. Didn’t we?
Mark: I guess. But nothing happens. You read the paper and sleep. Mom’s in the kitchen. And Allie spends all her time listing to her iPod. Some family time!
Dad: So sit down. Let’s talk.
Mark: Aw, Dad. Can’t I just go?
Dad: (obviously upset) Sure, go ahead. (notices Mark’s tennis shoe is untied) You won’t get too far with your shoe untied, though.
Mark: So I’ll tie it. (makes way for exit again)
Dad: Tie it now, Mark, before you fall flat on your face.
Mark: I said I’ll tie it.
Dad: (angry) And I said tie it now!
Mark: Oh, great another argument! This time it’s shoestrings!
Allie: (enters stage left) So what’s the hassle now?
Mark: Shoestrings, Sis. Dad wants me to tie my shoe (mockingly) NOW!
Allie: So tie your shoe! What’s the big deal?
Dad: It’s more than shoestrings, Allie. Mark just doesn’t listen any more. He doesn’t even want to be around here.
Allie: Come on, Dad. It’s just adolescence. Give the guy a few years to grow up and everything will be just fine.
Mark: Thank you, Dr. Phil. So I’ll see you all tonight. (again makes move to leave)
Dad: Hold on, young man. Tie your shoe and say good-bye to your mother.
Mark: Oh, I don’t believe this!
Mom: (enters stage left in happy mood) Well, that’s that. Now…what’s the good word in here?
Allie: Dad and Mark here have a shoestring fixation.
Mom: Excuse me?
Allie: It’s like this, Mom. Mark’s leaving. His shoe is untied. And Dad won’t let him out the door until he ties it. It’s a stand-off. How it will end only time will tell. These matters of universal importance, you understand, take time.
Dad: That will be quite enough, Allie.
Mom: I thought we had agreed to Sunday afternoon together.
Allie: We are, and isn’t it wonderful? (sits down)
Mom: Mark, what’s going on?
Mark: Forget it, Mom.
Mom: (sits down) I think we should all talk about.
Allie: Come on, Mark, swallow your pride. Sit down and talk.
Mark: What good will it do? I can tell you exactly what will happen. Dad will start in on me again, how my grades aren’t high enough, how he wishes I could do more around the house. He’ll probably mention the dent in the car again and tell me I’d getter get myself together if I want to get into a good college. I’ve heard it all before, and I’m tired of it.
Mom: So you settle it by walking out. Is that it? Is that what you want, Mark? (To Dad) Frank, is that what you want?
Dad: No, that isn’t what I want. You know it isn’t.
Mark: Well, what do you want, Dad? What do I have to do to please you? When will I have to stop giving reports? When will I stop feeling like a failure?
Dad: You’re not a failure, Mark. I didn’t know you felt that way.
Mark: Well, I do. I always feel like I haven’t done enough or been enough to please you. Sometimes, Dad I don’t even want to see you because I’m afraid of hearing more bad news about myself. I’m just tired of it!
Dad: I didn’t know you felt that way, Mark. I didn’t. It’s just that I want the best for you. I don’t want you to make some of the mistakes I made at your age. I guess I do expect great things from you, but what dad doesn’t?
Mark: So that’s it. What more can we say to each other?
Mom: Well, I know one thing that I want to hear both of you say. I hope you both can still say, “I love you.”
Dad: Mark knows that I love him.
Mark: Sometimes I wonder, Dad.
Allie: Now, what we have here is a perfect situation for Grandma’s question.
Mom: Grandma’s question?
Allie: You know. Grandma Stewart always says that the best thing you can do in a tough situation is to ask the question, “What would Jesus do if He were here?”
Mom: I can tell you that, Allie. And you two (to Dad and Mark), you listen to this. Why, just this morning the pastor quoted it in his sermon.
Allie: Sermon? Was there a sermon this morning?
Mom: “But God shows His love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” That’s how Jesus would handle this situation. He would go on loving, even when people don’t measure up, even when they fail to meet His expectations. “While we were yet sinners…” it says.
Dad: I never stopped loving you, Mark. Never. I need to show it more, though.
Mark: And I love you, Dad. I guess I’m asking for more good news, though. It’s really easy for me to get down on myself.
Dad: I can promise you this, Mark. I’ll try harder to show you that I can love you with no strings.
Allie: Speaking of strings, gentlemen, there is the matter of those shoestrings (pointing to Mark’s untied tennis shoe). What do you say, Mark? To tie or not to tie. That is the question.
Mark: (begins to tie shoe) Let’s just call this a symbol, a sign of our family still tied together…
Mom: Like a bow on a gift.
Allie: That’s nice. You win, Dad. The shoe’s tied.
Dad: No, we all win. The question is, how do we spend the rest of the day.
Mom: Let’s spend it together.
Mark: No strings, Dad?
Dad: No strings.
First published in Resource for Youth Ministry 81:2, Summer 1981.
Updated for thESource September 2012