I want to take a moment to talk about what it's like to be the dad of two amazing, amazing boys.
I love these guys.
Tonight I reffed a championship football game that my oldest son played his 8-year-old heart out in. It would be obvious to celebrate how far his game play has come... because, yeah - he played well tonight. A touch down catch. A key flag pull. All of the usual stuff parents like to talk about and do a little victory dance about. And rightfully so - he gave his best. His coach even chose to encourage him on with the nickname "The Phenomenon."
But I am more in tune with the "kind" of kid he is. I saw a transformation happen over the past couple of months... from the boy who was somewhat intimidated when the football came his way to the young man who rose up and decided he would learn to face the pigskin missile with eyes (and hands) wide open. There was the new group of kids he was a stranger to, but within a short amount of time he decided he was going to make them his friends... and he did. And I haven't even mentioned the mouth guard episode - the first few days he tried to put it in his mouth he couldn't stop gagging. And yet... he kept after it and that mouth guard finally made it in.
Tonight before we left for his big game, we read from Philippians 3 which challenges to "forget what is behind" and "strain toward what is ahead." We talked about what that passage goes on to mean when it says to "press on" and "win the prize." And he got it. So much so that he walked on the field a winner, even before the first play happened, because he decided to play in a larger Story than the game... he decided to let the focus of his game be on honoring the God who created Him in the first place.
And then there is my other son. You know, it's funny to see how unique your kids are from one another, even though they are incredibly similar. In this instance, my youngest son at 5 is a music maker. Meaning, everywhere he goes he is playing a soundtrack in his head - often out loud - that gives his life a rhythm of perspective.
Case in point, this past Saturday he played a very, very tough soccer game. Normally the teams are evenly matched, but in this instance there were a couple of opposing players who just dominated. At 3-on-3, we were clearly outmatched. And even as our coach added another player to our ratio (3-on-4) and then another (3-on-5), we still struggled.
My son took a hard hit early in the game. It sent him to the ground, and I watched him look up in that stunned kid gaze that wonders, "That hurt, so can I just cry like a young child... or am I old enough where I should just push through it?" As an assistant coach, I'm out on the field as well and so I helped him up and guided him to keep on going. He wasn't sure, and for a few plays in he definitely tried to find his inner footing.
But then I watched him make the big leap over the hurdle within - the ball had gone out, and he stepped up to throw it in. Right then and there, I watched my little boy become even more of a little man... as he embraced how the story he was in was bigger than just his slice of it. And after he threw the ball toward a player, he ran back onto the field to try to kick it toward the other team's goal. Granted, he was unsuccessful at that... and yet I heard him humming a little tune as he tried. Probably the equivalent of an epic action movie song in his head.
With both of my sons, I have been so humbled to watch these shifts happen within them. The kind that says, "This is tough, but there is a good reason for me to push through it. I am a part of something bigger than me, and that is worth fighting for."
At bedtime tonight, we talked about how for many people these games are the most important things they concentrate on. I get that, and I don't mean to criticize, but when that happens it means that the losses become harder, the wins become more boastful, and the gameplay becomes more tense than it needs to be. But when God is our Coach and we play for His glory, everyone wins. He is the reason we push through the tough stuff, because He's given us the example and inspires us to do the same. And when we do, we rise up into the potential of who we really are.
So when I say that I am the dad of two amazing boys, I do so with a sense of humility. Yes, I know that they will fail. I know that there will come tough conversations in the future where we'll have a moment of disconnect... perhaps a season of disconnect. I'll love them through it, and I hope they'll do the same.
But I guess what I'm saying is that because of what I see happening in them these days - this ability to work through the tough stuff for the sake of the greater good - I am confident that any of that potential chaos in the future will become something healthier. There is something very right in these two boys that will help them through any wrong they experience or commit (which I pray against, but know I need to be prepared for if/when it happens). And I know this all tracks back to the One who is growing these changes within them.
You know, it's wild and exhilarating to see your kid do well in a sport. To catch a touchdown. To kick a ball into a goal. To do a sweet zig-zag and confuse a whole group of kids coming at them.
But I simply run out of words when I attempt to sum up the awe of seeing them grow up in front of your eyes. And by that I mean to watch them in real time choose to step forward instead of shrink back. That's a muscle and skill set that will follow them into every relationship, job, task, challenge, moral choice, and so on they will face.
And that's a "trophy" that will never fade.
So like I said, I love these guys.