Our family spent last week at the dessert-end of the buffet of life. Last year was difficult in many ways and I was hopeful that this year would be better. But going in to January presented a very, extremely... awfully... I really can't overstate how bad it was... grueling... period of disobedience/rebellion/attitude with my oldest daughter. After a couple weeks of this, and my wife's patience wearing down to the bone, I began waking her at 5AM every day to do her math. After a week or so of this and much praying, she finally had a repentant heart. It took her a couple of weeks still to un-form some of her new bad habits but things are much better now.
One of the evidences of salvation in a person’s life is that person hearing from the Lord in His Word. Since that time of rebellion and breaking, our oldest daughter has had numerous times in the morning where she saw some little nugget from her daily reading that she was excited about and even was able to make immediate and personal application. My youngest daughter, who has not yet been called, even had a very personal observation regarding the necessity of the rod. It was a huge blessing to see and know that Christ is working in their lives through His Word!
My son has had a difficult year due to wrestling. Again, I can't do diligence to describing how incredible this experience has been for his character and spiritual development. He has a tremendous work ethic in practices, which we routinely hear about from different coaches. It is normal for him to come home sweaty, flush and quivering in weakness because of the intensity of the effort he puts in. Despite the constant effort, he lost every match this year at a tournament- most by pin. One thing I like about wrestling over team sports is that is very simple and yet very intense. A person can't make excuses and shift blame the same way they can with a team sport. You own your effort- it's all you. If you lose, it's your fault and you bear it alone. It is routine to see little boys crying at these tournaments. For many of them, losing is a soul-crushing experience. To have that experience, time after time, week after week, can be devastating.
That was exactly where my son was. He worked hard in practice but was too timid on the mats. He wanted to quit. "I suck", he said. Lack of ability was an excuse- really a way of blaming God. I didn't let him quit. I told him to work harder and trust the Lord. I knew that what he needed to do was let go of himself- of his fear- on the mats. A lot of parents/coaches might advise that he needed to "get angry", but that really is just an illusion, a mask to the fear that is still there. He needed to lose the fear so he could focus his mind. The only way that was going to happen was to continually face that fear until he conquered it. In talking with my wife I kept calling it "the fire and the anvil". This is how little boys become men of character!
Two weeks ago he approached his tournament with a new goal: to get a mere five points for the day. In his first match he quickly got pinned. He was in an emotional nosedive again and more determined to quit than ever. I promised him he was going on the mat even if I had to carry him out there and toss him on it. I also promised him that the other boy was going to humiliate him if he refused to stand for himself. At this point I felt like I was completely incapable of ministering to my son. I called my wife and asked her to pray about that with me.
Once he got to the mat side (he had about three hours to stew between matches!) he started to focus on his goal. He realized he had to get it together or he was going to find himself in a bad situation. His stance was perfect and his shot was strong. He brought it hard and managed to rack up five points before getting pinned in the second period. He let go of his fear and decided to fight and at the end of the match, he met his goal. He went home elated, feeling like a winner.
Those five points caused him to realize that he can do it. On the drive home, he asked me how wrestling could one day help him in a job, since I'm always telling him this experience will help him with everything in life. I explained how hard work and perseverance will help in any line of work. He then asked if there were any spiritual applications of wrestling. Wow! We then had a long talk about spiritual warfare and the battle against the flesh. He is beginning to see this activity as an allegory for life and for spiritual warfare and apply it to his life.
So last week, out of the blue and all on his own, he came home from playing with a neighbor boy from a few houses down from us. He talked with his friend about Christ and salvation and asked him if he knew he was saved. His friend indicated that he wanted to know for sure so they prayed together. I am as analytical as the next guy-provided the next guy is extremely anal and likes to over-analyze things- but the Lord reminded me that we have to come to Him with a child-like faith. So here was a child very simply explaining the Gospel to another child who very simply believed it. I don't suppose evangelism could ever be more pure than that! Praise the Lord for this young man who wants to follow Him!
And if that weren't enough blessing, my son went into last week’s tournament brimming with confidence but not arrogance. One of the coaches told me "If he works as hard on the mat today has he has in practice, he's going to win." Indeed he did win. In his first match he attacked aggressively but methodically and pinned his foe in about a minute. In his second match he did more of the same and got a second pin, also in the first period. My wife’s parents and brother were with us for that one and we all screamed and shouted for him together. It was a small bracket so he took first and got his first gold medal. I'm still not sure if he realizes this, but he earned it.
Lastly, after three years off, my wife has finally started running again! We are going to do the Trolley Run with several friends from church. I really look forward to the year ahead and spending time with her building up some long runs. And she is already getting excited about the whole deal as well. God has been better to us than we deserve!
Sorry this post has been so long, but we have been so blessed. Besides, I'm writing this more for myself to look back on than for anyone else's benefit, although I hope it will be a blessing to some.