Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Boys

I can't figure out when males grow up.  Or when they stop finding potty jokes so blasted funny.  In my house, where the youngest male is 22 and the older one...well, let's just say the age beyond the potty must be sometime after the age of 53...for all I know, it's after the age of 100! I've been sitting here trying to have a legitimate conversation with J and Beve, and when I said something about 'turf burns,' Beve said, "Did you say turd burns?" Immediately they both started cackling, and the conversation (if I can call it that) disintegrated from there.  I just shook my head.  Boys!

In today's mail was a note from one of Beve's former students, who wrote of Beve's impact on his life.  "I consider you a godly man," this young man said.  A godly man who sometimes likes to laugh at semi-inappropriate things.  It's a bonding moment with his son, I suppose.  

But despite such humor (really, if I told you some of the things they laugh about, you'd be shaking your head as well), Beve really is a godly man.  This letter from the former student (and let me tell you, such letters are few and far between in Beve's profession!) made me remember a particular day this boy shared with our family.  For J's 18th birthday, Beve invited several of J's high school teachers over for a meal.  This young man was included as well. At this meal was a Jew, a Catholic, a couple of very conservative evangelicals and an agnostic. After the meal, Beve spoke of the Old Testament practice of bestowing a blessing on a son when he reached manhood.  He told the collected company that they'd been invited because they'd been significant people in J's coming-to-age, and it was important that they be present to share this moment.  Then Beve spoke to J of who he is, how God had designed him, and what Beve believed was God's intention in J's life.  It was quite a holy moment at that table with such a diverse company.  J, who's always a bit wary of being in the spotlight, was both embarrassed and proud of the words his dad spoke over him.  I was proud, and very blessed by the intentionality of Beve with his son.

That meal impacted all those who partook of it.  In the following weeks, we heard from many of them what a cool thing it had been.  And this former student who's shared in it, had been deeply impacted as well.  And J?  Well, every child needs to hear that their dad is not just proud of them but sees exactly who they are for themselves.  Not as a reflection of Beve, but for himself, just the way J is.  That mattered to J, and it matters to every other child out there.  And from my point of view, specifically sons from their dads.  It can be a tangled, complicated mess, that father-son relationship.  Our son constantly measures himself by his dad, worries that he isn't nearly the man his dad is.  And no matter what I say, he needs Beve's stamp of approval.
So even when what they share is potty jokes, there's something wonderful about them laughing together.  And the more profound moments--when J asks Beve for advice, when he speaks earnestly of his fears and hopes with his dad, or when Beve tells him how glad he is that J's his son--these moments add up to health in J's soul.  They are soul-creating moments, even.  I am sure of it.

And yes, we can make the connection that we need the exact same thing from our heavenly Father.  We need to be reminded that He loves us so much we are the 'apple of His eye,' or are 'engraved on the palm of His hand.'  But tonight, as I listen to my boys laugh, I'm mostly thinking of how great it is that there are earthly dads who stand in the mold of God in our kids' lives. Of course, as I see how our sensitive, thoughtful son thrives under the gleam of joy in his dad's eye, I am reminded that many don't get this gift. Not all dads are like this--I know and lament it, and don't want my words to mitigate how painful a gap that leaves in a person's life.  But if you're a dad, if you have the charge to raise your kids--daughters, too--even if they seem old, married and beyond your 'realm of authority', tell them how much they mean to you.  Not what they've accomplished, not what they've done in any way, but just because they are.

I'd love to hear such words from my dad, even in my 50s. The last time all the kids in my family of origin were home for Christmas (it was 1989, and SK not quite a year old), my dad tried to tell us what it meant to him to have us all there.  He cried.  My big strong daddy, crying because he was just so glad to have his kids all together.  It was incredibly touching, but I don't think I really appreciated what was happening-- that it was a 'shut up and just listen, this is a Holy moment' moment.  But now, 20 years later, I realize.  I understand what I'd give to hear such words from him again. Can you imagine?  Your dad coming to you and saying, "You are the best thing that ever happened to me.  I love who you are."  Life-changing.  Really.

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