When They Grow Up

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Over the weekend one of my sons told me that he wanted to be a pastor. The other one said that he wants to play professional soccer. Who can blame them, really? In one profession you get to wear shorts to work and spend a lot of time with people who either really like you or who wish that you would immediately take your talents to another town. In the other profession, you get to play a lot of soccer.

Both boys will probably change their minds about what they want to be a thousand times between now and adulthood. If they’re like me, 96% of those changes of mind will occur during their second year of college. Still I was proud to hear that they were thinking about their future. For a moment, I even dreamed about what kind of a pastor and professional soccer player each boy would turn out to be when he finally arrives at his destination.

Arrivals don’t just happen. They are what comes at the end of a journey. Usually, that journey is a difficult one. I don’t expect it to be any different for my two sons. That’s where my dreams for them get specific. For now, the arrival is irrelevant. I’m more concerned with how they handle the difficulties and temptations along the way. What matters most to me is the journey.

There will be times when things don’t go their way. They’ll want to cry. They’ll want strings to be pulled and exceptions to be made just this once. But it won’t happen. They will learn the lesson of perseverance.

There will be days when the shortcut seems like the only logical way. They’ll tell themselves that it’s not really cheating. Hopefully, their inner voice will be overpowered by a greater Voice. One that tells them that the pursuit of truth is a much more noble task than the pursuit of personal glory.

At some point they’ll probably end up working a part time job for minimum wage. They probably won’t like that job. They’ll think that their boss doesn’t like them. Maybe he won’t. Complaining, cutting corners and even quitting will seem reasonable to them. But if they stick with it, they’ll learn what it means to be a man of integrity.

As their teenage years give way to their 20s, there will be nights when the wrong thing is the most appealing thing. There will be nights when all of their friends, like lemmings, march off of the cliff of momentary pleasure and public opinion. I hope that my sons stay put. I hope that they have at least one or two friends who will stand with them. But if not, they’ll learn that being on the wrong side of public opinion doesn’t always mean that you’re on the wrong side.

Finally their day will come. Maybe they end up playing for a World Cup or preaching the gospel before large crowds. Maybe they won’t. It doesn’t matter. What matters is the journey. It is there where their character and integrity is forged. Without that shaping, their arrival, regardless of how much of a dream come true it may be, will be a nightmare.

I’m not too worried about what kind of a job my sons will have when they grow up.

I’m more concerned with the men that they are becoming right now.

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