There comes a time in every man’s life when he has to stop and assess all that he has accomplished. Since I haven’t gotten to that point yet, I will just talk about what I do know. I know that my oldest son turns eight years old in a few weeks! Can you believe it? In order to appreciate this, we must take a stroll down memory lane.
When he was born, it feels like we were living a whole different life, or at least a different chapter. We had just celebrated our one year anniversary by attending “The Phantom of the Opera” at the Oprheum Theater in Minneapolis. This I remember because my wife was at the end of her pregnancy and we had to climb up many stairs to get to our seat. Even though our seat was like the 4th row from the top, we couldn’t go to the top and walk down. We had to come up from the bottom. I guess that was just the beginning of the fun.
At the time he was born, I was working at a bus company as a mechanic. I had been driving school bus for a few years and had naturally moved into the shop role. We were poor college graduates, but God provided all we needed and more. Like all first time parents, we had no idea what to expect. No birthing class or advice can really prepare you for the ultimate responsibility that is contained in that little bundle. We learned how much sacrifice goes into a child and also how overwhelming the love is for this child.
I remember being instantly scared when I saw him because I didn’t know him. Here was this kid that I was supposed to parent and I had no idea who he was. He was so calm, small and beautiful. In that moment, time seemed to stop and nothing else mattered.
But, things get going again and things change. Kids don’t get to choose what their parents are doing, they just go along for it all. I eventually prepared for ministry, a process that I wrote about in a few Sunday Series posts a while back. We moved with him as our only child. Then after a short time we moved again and he weathered it all very well given how young he was.
He was the only one of our kids born in Minnesota and he tells his brothers that all the time. The other three were all born here on Cape Cod. We are in such a completely different chapter of life with our 4 kids and an established setting. He has also changed some and has become more independent, never failing to let us know that every day. In a way, this is helpful because he can help his brothers with things. Last week when we celebrated our anniversary, he helped the babysitter take care of his siblings. He enjoys doing that when it is convenient for him. This is a huge help to us!
However, there is one side of this independence that makes me sad. I am finding that he is needing me less and less. This is something to rejoice as a parent because it means that I am doing my job. Yet, it is a sad thing to think about because there is a loss of innocence that comes with that.
The world is not an easy place and doesn’t always make sense to kids. My son sees stories about shootings on the news and has questions about that. He cannot make sense of people killing each other. (who can?) Just Monday he was reading a book with the World Trade Center towers in it. He asked my wife why they weren’t there anymore. That is a hard reality for a young child to come to grips with, but he needs to learn these things.
The icing on the cake for me was when we gave him his early birthday present. Since it was a Lego set, we let him open it early because we are going away soon and he can’t take it along. Normally with a Lego set, it is me putting the thing together while he gives me the pieces. This time I watched as he put the entire thing together without me. I was proud of him, but he did it without me.
All this does is highlight something very important for me. My kids are growing up and learning from every moment I have with them. Those of us who have influence in the lives of kids have a tremendous opportunity and responsibility. We want them to get to the place where they can live life competently and then look at you and say, “look what I did, aren’t you proud.”
I know the same can be said of God’s relationship with us. God loves us with an unconditional love, even better than I love my son. In fact, the Bible says that God lavishes us with love and adopts us into His family. I know that there is nothing more exciting than to stand before God someday and have him tell me that he was proud of who I have become. The real good news in it is that God takes our lives, no matter how broken, and pieces them back together through His Son Jesus Christ. He enables us to live life in Him! God looks at each of us and sees the potential, not the failure. This is what an awesome father does for his children and God is even better than that!