I was bike riding with both of my boys last night and we happened to take our usual path. We tend to follow it twice in the same ride, in fact. Near the end of the first lap, we passed by a local party of teenage girls who were around my oldest son's age. They were playing music, hitting around a volleyball and just being girls.
As my oldest rounded the corner near them, four the girls started chasing after him. It was group flirting - the kind that many of us have likely been on the giving or receiving end of over the years. A part of me smiled as I watched it unfold. I felt flattered that they thought he was cute.
A common parental response.
As we geared up to do our second lap, he asked me about what had happened. "Why did they do that?"
"Guys and girls sometimes do that. I suppose they thought there was something about you that they found attractive."
"That just seems sort of random," he stated. "I'm not interested in flirting like that. It's kind of empty somehow."
I was spontaneously inspired at his wisdom. "Yeah... I guess it is."
"Maybe they were just having fun, but I sort of don't want to do that. I want to just save that for my wife one day, you know? I'm not up for having people play with my feelings like that, and I don't want to play with theirs. Can we take another path back instead of that way?"
I looked over this 14-year old in front of me. He really said all of this.
He wasn't embarrassed. He wasn't shy.
He was confident. He had a conviction... a driving value about the way things could be and should be.
The Normal way to live.
It wasn't this common bantering of emptiness we toss back and forth to others as we summarize "There's no big deal in a little flirting." I don't want to arm wrestle you on that, but I do want to offer the overview my son again later shared: "Why would I waste energy raising and lowering someone's feelings like that, let alone my own? I'm going to save all that for when it matters most. I'm fine without it. Let's do something else in the meantime."
And then my son corrected me by being a more solid kid at his age than I was at his age.
Did I say kid? I meant emerging man.
I told him that later, in fact. "You know what, bud... what you did earlier? That's manhood. You're going to get all kinds of versions of what manhood is as you get older, but listen to me on this... that is what a man does. You are letting yourself become whole on the inside in order to confidently face down the brokenness all around you on the outside. That's going to be an incredible gift to anyone around you now or into the future."
So we took a different path back.
*This* is freedom.
What a Normal moment.
"How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to Your word. With my whole heart I seek You; let me not wander from Your commandments! I have stored up Your word in my heart, that I might not sin against You. Blessed are You, O Lord; teach me your statutes!" (Psalm 119:9-12)