From "Frogs, Snails, and Puppy Dog Tails" to Mature, Godly Men
Have you ever been to an exhibit of Optical Illusions? The first glance is contradictory to further study of the picture. Are the stairs leading up or down? Is it really a picture of a profile or of two faces? My personal optical illusion occurred at the birth of our first child. When my now-twenty-one year old son was born, and the doctor held him up, I had two simultaneous thoughts: “He is the most beautiful sight I have ever seen!” and “He looks like a frog.” He developed this energetic, friendly personality, and while surprisingly is nothing like a frog, is still very precious to me.
Three years later we were given another son, distinct in his personality. This child is free: free from concern, free to invite people into his life, free to laugh. Another five years and along came son number three, now our handsome introvert just entering the high school years. All three boys are unique and all three are blessings.
Being a mom to young boys involved trains, diggers, imaginary worlds and video games. Those days were action packed! As these boys have become young men, my role as a mother has changed. My husband has taught them to look to the future with an understanding that they will one day care for a home and family, as the Lord wills. They know that they are to work hard now so that they will have the skills to meet that responsibility.
Realizing that the Lord has designed these young men to be leaders in the home, my role as mother has shifted. I could order and direct them as I did when they were young, assigning chores and tasks, or I could come alongside them and support their giftedness and growth, expecting responsible actions on their part. I still am their mother (and schoolteacher, since we homeschool), so I still must direct to a certain extent, but I want to treat them with the respect they will one day receive from a wife, friends, and coworkers.
One day I realized that I was truly a mom to a teenager, when our oldest was in eighth grade. We were in the kitchen having a discussion. In the course of a short conversation, I went from thinking how dear and precious he was, to wanting to banish him from the room. It dawned on me that these were the extreme emotional situations in which a mother of a teenager may find herself. It was then that the Lord began discipling me as the mom of a young man. It was the beginning of a new phase in personal growth for me as a mother. Three main things have helped me: a scriptural passage, a change in expectations, and a spiritual activity. I hope they will help you too, as you grow from parenting boys made of “frogs, snails, and puppy dog tails,” to mature, godly men.
A Scriptural Passage
Even now, this scripture passage is hand-written on an index card, displayed in my kitchen window. “The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive [of the devil] to do his will.” (2 Tim. 2:24-26, NASB).
What is my greatest desire for my son? Is it that he will do the things that I tell him to do without arguing? When children are young, we teach them that obedience is doing what they are told, when they are told, without complaining. Yes, I want him to honor my words, but I also want him to walk in truth, in relationship with the Lord, taking personal responsibility for his obedience. The decisions that he makes may not be ones that I would make given my knowledge of the situation. Therefore, my desire is that he would love the Lord so passionately that communication with God would direct his life. I can trust God to know everything, to see every danger and to love my son enough to direct him through life.
My focus then, as a mom, has shifted from direct command and obedience to promoting his direct communication with the Father for life-decisions.
Two things have occurred throughout this process. The first is that my growing sons and I disagree, especially in the early high school years. Imagine that…A mom and a teenage boy might see life differently! This passage reminds me not to quarrel, but to respond with patience and gentleness, being ready to teach. (I wish that I could say that I’ve obeyed this all the time!)
The second thing that has occurred as I have grown alongside my young men, is that I have realized the battle that rages for the spiritual lives of our sons. God’s desire is that these men become mighty for Him. They have a purpose in the kingdom of God. The devil has set snares for them to entangle them in a life that is a superficial substitute for God’s design.
Our task as moms is so much greater than getting them to live the life we desire, but to fight for them spiritually that they would be all that God desires.
A Change in Expectations
Another tool that the Lord has used to shape my perspective of mothering has been a change in my expectations of teenagers. I was challenged when reading a book authored from two teenage boys, Alex and Brett Harris, entitled Do Hard Things. The preface of the book is that too little is expected of teenagers in modern times. In fact, the idea of adolescence is a twentieth century mindset. In the past, a person progressed directly from childhood to adulthood. The authors encourage young adults to recognize their gifts, creativity, and energy levels and use all of this to make a difference in the world.
Some have noted that we have changed expectations of young people because of the rise of technology and the length of time it takes to learn these skills. I would agree that modern society has specific considerations and cannot be compared to an agriculturally based society in every way. Yet, I was challenged to realize the potential of my young men and not to think of them in terms of young children.
They are capable of so much, if I release control and give them the opportunity to lead in the home.
A Spiritual Activity
One day, when I was forgetting everything that I have written in the previous paragraphs, I headed down the hall to inform my oldest of my great wisdom concerning his life and decisions, when the Lord spoke to me. He said, “your time would best be spent in prayer for your son.”
My words to my son would be much less effective than my words to my Father on behalf of my son.
After all, isn’t my desire for my son that he have a direct relationship with God? The Lord has taught me that my role has become less and less of an instructor and more and more of an intercessor.
The greatest way that we can pray for our children is to pray scripture. When I have a concern for my child, my question is, “What is it biblically that I desire for them?” I can then pray that biblical concept or passage. One passage that I pray for my sons is Philippians 1:9-11: “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ, having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” (NASB)
The idea of excellence is one of choosing between various options and knowing the best choice. The word, sincere, is the idea of being spread out in the light and not having a blemish. My desire for my sons is that they will be able to choose what is excellent in a time of many options and many snares. I want them to be able to stand before the Lord and spread their lives in His light and be found without blemish.
More than pleasing me, I want them to please the Lord.
My boys make me laugh. I enjoy watching them interact, each one so different. In a way, they are like optical illusions. At first glance, I see one thing, but as I look more closely, I see the Lord doing a work beyond my ability to accomplish. My sons must choose to follow Him. That is their responsibility. As a mom to these precious maturing men, my responsibility is to direct them to the loving heavenly Father.