He Didn’t Go Alone

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I like watching bad parenting with my kids. Thanks to the wonders of YouTube, we get to watch that bad parenting without getting yelled at by the participants for staring.

You probably remember the practical joke from several years ago where someone sent you an e-mail asking you to find your way through a maze on your computer screen. Everything stayed quiet until a picture of some demonic screaming monkey took over your screen. This ended many relationships.

Somewhere along the line some guy (it’s always a guy) got the idea to try this on his kids and put it on the Internet. The kids always fall for it. And they always cry. For mom. But by this time, I’m assuming that mom is already at Child Protective Services filling out forms on her significant other. YouTube never shows that part.

Most good parents protect their young children from things like this. That’s a good thing. It’s one thing to jump out from behind a door and startle your young ones. It’s quite another to give them PTSD. But this doesn’t mean that we should always keep our children from frightening situations.

Any good parent will put his kids in a scary situation.

My son was looking for a ball. He looked everywhere. Or so he told us. “Looked everywhere” for a small boy means that it wasn’t in the refrigerator or under his bed. The male species is notorious for  not being able to find something if finding that something involves moving another something around or looking in more than three places.

My wife and I started feeding him suggestions. Behind the couch. In the shower. Outside, where daddy hides his “special projects” from the government. All of those places turned up empty. There was another suggestion. Upstairs.

This was inconceivable for my son. He wasn’t about to go looking upstairs by himself. So he asked his mom to go with him. She declined. And then he asked me. Like any good Southern Baptist preacher, I told him that I couldn’t because I was eating. I offered to pray with him instead.

So that’s what we did.

Father,

The Bible tells us that Jesus is with us everywhere. That means that there is nowhere we can go where we need to be scared. Please help my son to remember that when he goes upstairs all by himself. Amen.

When I opened my eyes, my son was grinning. He told me to wait a second and he disappeared.

When he came back, he was holding a Nerf machine gun. This particular gun is the size of a Toyota Prius and it shoots 4,639 soft bullets in 20 seconds.

He was ready to go upstairs.

So my son braved the great unknown with a prayer, a grin and his machine gun.

I listened while he was up there. Screaming, stomping and other monstrous sounds were never heard. There was only one sound. The sound of my son’s gun firing. I still don’t know what he was shooting at but If some bad guy really is living upstairs, I’m sure that he’s moved out since that encounter with the grinning young boy and the Nerf machine gun.

My son came back down without his ball. But the trip wasn’t in vain. He came back one step closer to manhood. There was something that had to be done. And that something was scary. It wasn’t something that he really wanted to do.

He went anyway.

With his gun in his hand.

He didn’t go alone. He had a sovereign God going before him.

And he made it back.

Earlier that day I went to a funeral. The man who we were honoring was nearly nine decades older than my son. He fought in World War II under General Patton. One time his granddaughter got him to open up about his time in the war and the patriotism that brought him there. He told her that patriotism was only part of it. The other half of him was filled with fear.

He went anyway.

With his gun in his hand.

But he didn’t go alone. He had a sovereign God going before him.

And he made it back.

The guys that fought in World War II are always praised for their bravery. They’re called the greatest generation. I can’t help but wonder how my generation would handle such a challenge. What about my son’s generation?

I hope that my son never fights in a world war. But I know that he will face many obstacles that are much scarier than a quick walk up a flight of stairs. He will take risks that could cost him his heart. He will make decisions that carry with them the potential of losing it all. He may even go places where he’ll wonder if he will ever make it back.

Through it all, I hope that he remembers me. I don’t mean that in some sort of self-centered way. I just hope that he remembers praying with me one afternoon before he took one of his first dangerous journeys. A solo trek up the stairs.

Parenting isn’t always about protecting our kids from scary situations. Sometimes it’s about teaching them how to move in spite of the fear. That’s why any good parent should put his kids in scary situations. They can be the classrooms where our kids learn life-long lessons about bravery and trust.

When a parent scares his small child with a creepy video, that trust is damaged.

But when a child learns to face down fear after praying with his dad, that trust is strengthened.

And it grows even stronger as he gradually learns about the Father who goes before him and with him into even the scariest situations.

So don’t shelter your kids from every one of their fears. Pray with them. Every now and then, when the moment is right, make them go alone. Just remind them that even when you stay behind, they never really are alone.

Perhaps then, our boys and girls will grow into men and women whose trust in God allows them to stare down their fears with a grin on their lips and a prayer in their hearts.

And, if need be, a Nerf gun in their hands.

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