Training Up a Child

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“Train up a child in the way that he should go, so that when he is old…”

Are you ready?

I’ve asked that question to probably close to 200 hundred men as we have prepared to make the walk. The entrance into a wedding ceremony and into an entirely new life.

This time it was different. This time it was my son.

Are you ready?

It was part rhetorical and part pragmatic. It might as well been a question I asked myself. Was I ready? Ready to let go of the only other testosterone-carrying member of the family! We’d shared so many adventures together over the years. Connected on so many unique levels.

Are you ready?

He looked at me and nodded. We shared a look. And that’s when the tears started. He was as ready as any 23 year old is prepared for marriage. I had dedicated the better part of the last 14 years getting him ready for manhood. As we stepped out of the house and into view of the wedding guests, the emotion of the moment swept over me as I began to think of the journey Christian had walked alongside me towards his future. I saw the faces of the men who had sojourned with us on this road together. Yes, it was so worth every moment of planning, preparation and participation in his life. As we rounded the corner to begin our ascent to the altar, I considered the things we had done right as parents. Like a good baseball player, we had more outs than hits.

But the hits were home runs.

Rewarding effort over result. This is unnatural for men to do. I don’t care what you say. We are a results-driven culture. I had grown up under the yoke of perfectionism, and become a people pleaser as a result. A slave to the need to be liked, loved and approved. A funny thing happened. The more we emphasized effort, the harder Christian worked. And achieved.

We were intentional about the men in his life. We began a journey to manhood when he was 11 that included four of his friends and their dads.

He had significant rites of passage celebrations with the significant men in his life, five in total. In his stocking at Christmas were cards that were the gifts of time with important men. They included surfing, adventure as well as financial planning and career advice. He went through a manhood class at 18 and has attended 10 Men’s Retreats. Men’s retreats.

10 minute drives. Everything in our community is about a 10 minute drive. We determined that this was the equivalent of what is described in Deuteronomy as the Shema. The modern day version of “walking along the road…” So we were intentional about our conversations in the car. Not all were redemptive, but many were. This is where we had what some might call family devotions. We never successfully had traditional family devotions.  The kids kind of laughed when I tried. But talking in the car was organic. I think that’s why it worked. I think that’s why God ordained it that way. “When you walk along the road…talk about these things.”

Coach to Counselor. At 15, I determined that I had spent enough coaching Christian. Giving him directives and the like. I needed to close my mouth a little more and open my ears to him. I had told him about all I could without him asking. It was now time to let him come to me. And he did. Often it began like this: “Dad, I was thinking…” I trained myself to put aside all I was doing and to try to create a safe environment for the conversation to continue. With God’s grace, they often did.

Speaking of grace. There were many more failures than successes. See baseball player analogy. We don’t claim to be great parents. We have a gracious God who heard our cries for mercy, and gave us a firm place to stand. We aren’t the only ones He does that for.

Are you ready?

He nodded yes. We locked his for a long, wonderful moment that can only be shared by a father and son. Yes, he was ready. By the grace of God, he is.

We walked out of the house and began his journey into a whole new life.

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4 responses to “Training Up a Child

  1. Brings tears… I am SO happy for you! Truly. To have that kind of gratitude for the messiness and the joys is good. So good! I can “see” the look you shared by the excellence of your writing, but only you and Christian know its depth and significance! Good job, dad. And good job giving yourself the grace to appreciate the good work Christ has accomplished through you. If you had focused on the strikes, you may have missed God’s pat on your back.

  2. Well, that was timely, check out my last fb post about my son, I wrote it this morning, if you get a chance.

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