I am not a perfect man. Unlike Jesus, I don't always do the right thing. Because of this, it has become increasingly important for me to rely on the Holy Spirit (John 14:15-27). Over the years, the Holy Spirit is someone I've grown to appreciate more and more as my sin and shortcomings, my chronic imperfection, become more readily apparent—especially to my kids. Somehow they see right through me. My role as their father doesn't immunize me from their brutally honest, sometimes comical, often accurate critique. When my behavior doesn't pass their smell test, they let me know. And they're well aware of the inconsistency of saying one thing and doing another.
Several years ago my daughter Sarah approached me just before bedtime. She handed me a note that had obviously been hastily written and torn out of her notebook. It read: “Dear Mr. Thomas, Why do you yell so much? Love, Sarah.” As I pondered her courage in confronting me via letter, it was like an arrow pierced my heart. I knew she was right to question me. I knew I had crossed a line. Worse still, she knew I had crossed a line, and she was not going to let me get away with it. So I dealt with it the only way I knew how. I walked into Sarah's room, sat down on the edge of her bed, and tearfully acknowledged my failure to love God and her in the way that I parent. It was a powerful father-daughter moment as I confessed my sin to Sarah and promised her that I wouldn't “yell” again, no matter what. She accepted my apology and moved on, oblivious to the fact that the Holy Spirit had used her, a six-year old child, to bring me to repentance.
The comfort the Holy Spirit brings is not just consolation when we're in distress. It's also the comfort that comes when broken human relationships are made whole. It's the comfort I received when I told Sarah that I was wrong and asked her to forgive me, and she did. That moment is etched in my memory and will be forever. I still carry around the letter she wrote me. It's not only a reminder of my promise to Sarah. It's also a reminder of Jesus' promise to us: “But the Counselor [or Comforter], the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”