Seeing this face brings me joy. I grew up watching the Muppets (and Fraggle Rock). There is a soft spot in my heart for those furry hippy monsters. But none of those puppets can coax a smile out of me like Animal. That unkempt, crazy-eyed, blundering, red-furred fool.

He's the only Muppet that could coast through an entire movie without uttering a single sentence until he shouts out one word, the best line in the whole movie: "QUIET!"

Audiences love Animal, but he exasperates the rest of the Muppet gang. He's not eloquent with his speech. He's loud and obnoxious. He's socially awkward. He always seems to cause trouble for himself and/or others. He breaks things. He walks into walls. It's difficult to be friends with a friend like Animal.

But if you dig deeper, there's a wholly different creature behind Animal's animal tenancies. He has a passion for music and is deeply spiritual. He had a kind soul; he wanted to help out and be of good use. He just wanted to belong.

Looking back at my younger years, it's easy to see that I was Animal. I have previously explained my outcast status - a geek in a crowd of cool kids. I was loud and obnoxious. I could never manage to find the right words to say. I was socially awkward and got into a lot of trouble. I got picked on and bullied - some of which I probably deserved. I instigated fights and got the crap beat out of me. Through it all, I just wanted to fit in.

Thankfully I found an outlet. An art teacher who believed in me. A theater director who was willing to give me a chance to be a part of something awesome. A few good friends who were outcasts in their own way. Creative and musical roommates that were willing to help me grow. And an amazing wife who refuses to give up on this animal.

These days, I look at my oldest son and see Animal's goofy grin superimposed over his face. Sometimes I see that my boy's blonde hair and blue eyes have been replaced with uncontrollable red fur and a wild stare.

He shares my genetic make up and is predisposed to many of the same temperaments that I've struggled with. And he has Aspergers. Whatever challenges I faced will be exponentially harder for him. He all ready displays inadequate social aptitude. He's clumsy, full of energy, loud, and constantly blurts out what ever thoughts cross his mind. He loves people and doesn't understand how others might not appreciate him and his quirks.

The most difficult aspect of life with Christian is that he does not recognize the impact his words and actions have on others. He can pull a bar stool out from under his sister because she's not supposed to be sitting on it, then wonder why she's crying. Not only is he skilled at annoying others, he lacks the ability to discern when he's causing others to be annoyed.

But there's more to him. Christian is smart. Not just the good at school kind of smart, but ridiculously intelligent. His grasp on science and math is scary yet amazing. His reading skills are the best in his class. He's artistic and imaginative. Give him a cache of art supplies and he will spend hours creating pictures and projects. He has moments of greatness that make me believe he is capable of conquering the world. I know he's smarter than I was at that age. I can see a future grown up version of Christian directing blockbusters and Oscar nominated film. Or rescuing endangered creatures from the most remote corners of Earth.

It's those other moments that discourage me. Those moments he inadvertently hurts his friend's feelings. Those moments that he is so lost in his own world that he can't get ready for school, or set the dining room table. Those moments where he falls apart because he can't remember where he left his shoes. Or those moments where he is pestering his younger siblings and won't stop.

That's my Animal.

Sometimes it's hard to look past the insanity. Sometimes I look at Christian and I see an obnoxious creature who breaks things and walks into walls.

He craves second chances. One of his favorite lines (usually uttered in those moments between a bad choice and the punishment): "Don't I get a second chance?"

No, he still needs to go to his room. Or he is still going to be grounded from his Wii. He still has to face the consequences of his actions.

"But," he'll protest, "God gives us second chances."

I am not naturally a gracious person but my son is teaching me more about grace than he may ever comprehend. I know that second chances made me the man I am today, and Christian is now altering my definition of second chances.

A second chance isn't permission to re-offend. It is unending forgiveness.
A second chance isn't a prevention of consequence. It's a strong hand to help you carry your burdens.
A second chance isn't always immediate. It has it's own timing.
A second chance doesn't say "Do whatever you want." It says, "I'll love you no matter what you do."

Christian is in frequent need of grace. He is lost without second chances. Through this he is forcing me to be a better dad.

It's not easy raising an Animal, but I love him. I am thankful for the Animal in my life.

(The image at the top of this post is a part of People of the Second Chance's Never Beyond Series. Read more at POTSC)

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