My son could have broken his arm. Or maybe one of the tiny bones in his foot. But that was sort of the point. It’s why I told him to jump.
He was about three-years-old and we were playing on a swing set. He had grown bored with the slide and swings and wanted to move on to something else. Something more dangerous. The kind of thing that they write warning labels telling you not to do.
He wanted to jump off of a platform on the swing set. It was only about four feet up in the air. For him, I’m sure that it seemed like skydiving. When he worked his way over to the edge and looked down he started to have second thoughts. The warning label in his mind was telling him to go inside and lay on the couch.
“Dad, can I get hurt doing this?”
“Yes. But jump anyway.”
When his feet finally hit the ground, he looked back at me with a smile. Even though he was only three, I knew that he had just taken one small step towards manhood.
Monday morning was his first day of school. Not his first day this year. His first day ever. My wife and I looked like members of the paparazzi. We both had cameras and took pictures of his every move. Thankfully, he was a much more willing subject than Sean Penn.
We had all been looking forward to his first day of school for a while but as the day drew closer, he started to get nervous.
Over the weekend he and I were riding around in my truck, listening to one of his favorite guitar players. Maybe it was all the blues riffs but things started to turn confessional.
“Dad, I’m a little nervous about starting school.”
He was jumping off of the swing set all over again. I wanted to tell him that there was nothing to worry about. That there would never be any bullies, twice his age and size, who would try to scare him. That there would never be a girl who breaks his heart. That it would never seem like school was more than he could handle.
But I couldn’t.
So instead, I just told him to jump anyway.
It’s not my job to protect my sons from every potential harm or heartache that could come their way. Some, yes. But not all. In fact, sometimes, it’s my job to put them in situations that seem a little scary. Situations where they would rather believe the warning label.
Those are the golden opportunities.
They are the times where they can become more reliant on Immanuel, God With Us, as fear looks them in the eye. They are the moments where they learn not to allow what could happen to keep them from what needs to happen.
Before my son went into his classroom, he stood with his brother, his mother and me and we prayed. I prayed for God’s blessing and protection to be on him. When I finished praying and opened my eyes, I expected to see him crying. He wasn’t. He was smiling. And then he turned around and walked into his classroom. With no tears and smiling in the face of fear, he jumped anyway. And took one small step towards manhood.
It was a different story for the rest of us as we walked back to our car. There were plenty of tears. On the way home, flipping through the stations, I heard a familiar guitar riff. I turned up the volume and started to sing along with my oldest son, like always. But then I realized that he wasn’t in the car. He was busy being brave and taking the next jump.
For just a second I hesitated, wondering if I had made the right decision.
And it was then that I remembered that sometimes the kids aren’t the only ones in the family that have to disregard the warning labels and jump anyway.