When Dennis first introduced this particular workout, they could barely pull the wagon all the way to the track. They cried and whined and thought they were going to die. If Dennis even mentioned the word "wagon" they would start twitching. And now, they look forward to it. Why? Because they can see their progress. They know how hard it is was the first time. The second time. But now, they can pull the wagon the entire mile. They can do the workout without tears, and without quitting. They are proud of themselves, because they see the results of perseverance, hard work, and tenacity.
Now, to the analogy.
The same boy who caused The Phone Call has really been struggling to find his footing in the space that lies between boyhood and manhood. He so desperately wants to grow up and gain privileges and freedoms, yet he can cling so tightly to the silly things of childhood. He will sometimes vacillate between the two worlds a dozen times a day. We saw this struggle going on long before the phone call, but that incident seemed the perfect platform for a conversation about what Paul describes in Scripture ...
When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.
I Corinthians 13:11
I knew I needed to talk to my son ... I just did not know what to say - what he needed to hear - or how to even bring it up. So I asked the Lord to provide everything I needed. And within about 22 minutes, an opportunity presented itself. We were alone, he was having a "moment", and I felt the Lord prompt me to sit down and talk with him. I asked him to read the verse and explain to me what it meant. He did a pretty good job but I could see that he was not grasping the motive/purpose of the text. I needed to bring it to his level ... something he would understand and be able to apply to his own young life. And then it hit me. THE WAGON!
"You know the wagon workout dad does with you?"
"How hard is it to pull that wagon loaded down with weights?"
"Because we are going up hill and it is really heavy and hard to pull."
"Right. So what would happen if dad let you throw some of the weights out?"
"It would be super easy! I would be able to fly up the hill."
"Yes! Because after lugging all that weight, getting rid of it makes the workout seem effortless, right?"
"Okay. Look at the verse again. The wagon represents childhood. It is filled with things little boys do. Legos, stuffed animals, laziness, whining, thumb sucking etc. The hill represents manhood. As you climb the hill, which is a very long and difficult road, you are going to have to start throwing things out of the wagon that are weighing you down. You do not have to dump the wagon over and pitch it all at once. But day by day, week by week, you can lighten the load, so that soon, you will be flying up the hill without any encumbrances or entanglements and reach the top completely free from the silliness of youth and totally ready to be a man."
"Do you understand what I am saying? That hill is the goal. To be a man, fully and completely, without anything keeping you from being who God wants you to be. You will still have fun and do crazy things, but you will be mature. All of the joys and pleasures of childhood are a part of you and will help you push yourself up the hill ... providing security and fun and enjoyment as you pursue more difficult things. But in the end, when you reach the top, you will not even miss them. They will just be fond memories that make you smile."
"I get it."
"So are you ready?"
"Kind of. There are some things I do not want to give up. But I really do want to earn more freedom and trust so I guess that means I have to do it."
"Yep. And the good news is, it does not have to happen overnight, and you do not have to do it alone. Deal?"
I had him get a fresh notebook and write the I Corinthians verse in a bold hand across the top. And then I asked him to make a running list - to jot down things as he thought and prayed about it - the childish things he needs to begin tossing aside, and the privileges he wants to earn as a teen/man. It has been interesting reading his list ... he has a lot rolling around in his mind ... and some very different ideas than I originally expected. It is going to be exciting watching him conquer this huge hill! One step at a time, one challenge at a time ... all the while covering his every move in prayer as we willingly and eagerly walk behind him, hold him up, and whisper in his hear, "You can do this, son. You can do this!"
What a privilege it is to be parents! Challenging, for sure. Burdensome at times, absolutely. And yet, there is nothing more rewarding than seeing a child walking in truth ~ pursuing Christ ~ winning some battles, losing others, but always coming off the field knowing the "why" ~ and earnestly seeking to grow so he can gain the freedom that comes with responsibility. The joy of parenting little people is full of precious moments and sweet memories. And I am learning that parenting older children and soon-to-be-teens is a completely different joy - one that yields tangible fruit and a relationship that is beginning to turn towards friendship.
Lord, there is no way I can do this on my own, or that Dennis and I can even do it together ~ not without You. Make us ever aware of our need for You so that we may be found completely faithful as we raise our sons to be soldiers for Christ ~ Protecting the innocent, defending the weak, fighting the enemy, and standing firm in the faith ~ because they are willing to pull the heavy wagon up the hill, drop the childish things as they go, and finish strong so they may stand firmly planted at the top, as MEN.