My kids recently had ‘lockdown’ training at school – think of fire drills, except for other adverse events. I don’t know what they do in this training, but it seemed to upset my son a little. He hasn’t wanted to sleep near a window, has been taking a while to get to sleep and has been a bit clingy at night time.
My natural reaction to seeing my boy upset is to comfort him – I’m sure that’s a natural reaction for most parents.
I held my little boy close, gave him a cuddle, prayed with him and generally settled him. My boy, without a care in the world, in a safe home, in a warm bed, with a full tummy. His room full of toys, his draws full of clean clothes. He has electricity that turns on, running water and a pantry full of food. He has emergency services literally a phone call away. My little boy, I held him close.
It dawned on me as I held him close – I want to keep him safe, but I think there’s a bigger lesson to be learned here.
I sat him on my lap and looked deep into his brown eyes.
“Boy, inside of you is a man-in-training. When you’re learning to be a man, you’re going to have to face things that are scary, uncomfortable or frightening. Sometimes, my boy, you’re going to have to be tough, and you’re going to have to be courageous”. I settled him, put him in bed and once again reminded him that sometimes, he will need to face his fears and just be tougher than the situation he finds himself in.
It’s a hard thing, looking into your kids eyes knowing you won’t always be there to protect them, knowing they’ll have to face hardships in their life that you won’t always be able to help with. Just like Johnny Cash’s classic ‘Boy named Sue’ . I don’t want my kids to live in fear, but I want them to have the fortitude to face challenges in their life.
So I’m asking, what have you dads (and mums) done to develop a bit of toughness in your kids? I’m so aware that our kids, certainly in Australia, are probably the most pampered, protected, safe generation ever. Our kids are well fed, immunised, protected, educated – the works! How do you prepare your kids for possible eventualities? How do you gently push back and help them find strength within themselves during hard times? To give them permission to fail, to gently let go so they can start building resilience within themselves?
“Dip your toes in the water” she spoke, almost a whisper, like a prayer to a mere mortal. The warm July wind hummed across the the Cote d’Azur, singing softly through the trees. He stared pensively to the blue, hesitant to offer any response. Still, she prayed once more:
“Dip, just try it, dip, dip your toes in the water”. Her call was sweet, and despite her beauty, she was no siren, there was no temptress tone in her words.
The pain was still too great. The fear, crippling. For dipping would lead to heels, heels to which his head would fall over too quickly.
Her soft fingers traced down his sunbrown back. Sand stuck to his lightly sweated neck. Flinching, he was unable to dissuade her hearts call to touch.
“Just a toe” she whispered.
His cheek flinched, the sun sparkling rays of warmth into his otherwise cold soul. His raised arm over his face no match from the glare from the blue. He shifted, nestling under the protection of the vine, shielding, as if it were, from the warmth. Her words resonated. Echoed. Bounced off the walls of his heavily guarded heart. Still, her hand gently persistent, tracing ‘eternity’ around his squared, pensive shoulders.
“One dip, it’s all I ask” sweetness permeated from her lips. He wondered, picking his salt-dried lips, wondered, wondered, wondered why. The pain gripped him around the throat one more time, angrily choking the wonder from his mind.
He remembered the cruel sea. He remembered the pain of the dark blue. The storms. The angry wind, the viscous waves. The grave of the deep reaching his angry hand to drag him down. The siren of the water, that whore, promising pleasure, leaving him shipwrecked, alone, adrift.
Still, he wondered.
She stared out across the Mediterranean. Her fingers, massaging the nape of his neck, prying the anger away from his throat. Her warm fingers. Twirling a lock. Tracing the bones of his spine. Being.
They hadn’t spoken since her proclamation in Marseilles, since he shut down, wondering why she would ruin what they had with something so reckless as love. His broken heart still clenched tight, he angered at why she would dare. Why she would be so foolish as to entrust such a thing in him. Still, her fingers lingered.
“Try me” she implored once again “Just dip your toe in, just once” her words, reassuring, her repetition comforting. He found himself inching towards the thought.
He trained his eyes on the sea. The white caps of the waves, the boats rocking like distant metronomes on the water. He felt the tempest recede inside of him. He wondered, just wondered.
“Dip your toe in the water, my darling, dip it in the water, with me” her voice once again gently persistent like the incoming tide, coming up to meet him, to meet his shore.
The storm still stirred, yet he turned, turned towards her. Her eyes deep as the blue before him, he mustered a squint and a smile
“I’ll dip my toe in the water, I’ll dip it with you”.
Image from http://swim-in-the-sea-count-the-stars.tumblr.com/post/112132247487
I recently found myself embroiled in a situation where I felt someone I loved dearly had defiled standards that they set for themselves. I’ve viewed this particular person as a real rock in my life for many, many years and it really, really hurt me seeing them doing things that I thought they’d never do. It left me struggling, in a way, to find a bit of stability.
In the Jewish calendar, we are currently in Hanukkah (or the Festival of Lights). Hanukkah celebrates the victory of the Maccabees over the Greek-Syrian occupiers in Israel at the time. The Maccabees were a band of Jewish fighters who, essentially, had enough of the Hellenization and paganisation of Israel, the Temple and the Jews. They led a pretty crazy campaign against the occupiers, took control of Jerusalem and the Temple and re-dedicated it to God. To the un-initiated, Hanukkah is not just the ‘Jewish Christmas’. It represents a series of very significant events, military battles, the miracle of the Menorah and the re-dedication of a people to the Lord.
Why do I compare these two stories?
I’ve noticed, as I get older, the implicit contradictions of life. Of how we proclaim social justice, yet buy clothing made by sweat-shop labourers or slaves. Of how we ‘ride with you’, yet leave 1400 English girls to be raped. Of how we complain about the price of petrol yet continue to buy bigger cars. Of how we complain about the price of food, but waste it by the ton every year. Of how we want to #bringbackourgirls yet leave countless Indigenous children to be raped and neglected within own communities.
I compare these two stories, because after the abovementioned event, it made me want to reach for the baseline, concrete absolutes of my childhood. If I can say so, I was brought up in a Christian movement that focused on staying away from vice and a relatively strict interpretation of scripture. Whilst some may see these rules as strict and stifling, there is a great security in knowing firm boundaries. I’ve relaxed some of my views as I’ve grown, but fortified others. I guess that’s part of growing up. In the face of the above-mentioned challenge, however, it made me want to re-kindle and re-affirm the ‘absolutes’ I grew up with, like someone drowning, gasping for air.
In times of crisis, our natural reaction is to grasp for something concrete. When I was learning how to ride my motorbike, the instructor told us that if we panic, we’ll likely want to grip onto something strong (i.e. the Earth) to protect ourselves. After these terrible events in Sydney this week, we saw a huge number of people suddenly ‘get religious’, filling churches, offering prayers, seeking comfort in faith – all good things.
What I suspect is that most – if not all humans have is a longing for something real. An unshakable foundation.
The Maccabees (indeed, the whole nation of Israel) were facing the extinction of their homeland, their culture and most importantly, their faith. They saw the desecration of the Temple. They were not content to see all they held dear destroyed. They fought – ruthlessly – for what they believed in. They strove to reclaim the concreteness of their faith and their connection to God.
I’m not saying follow your childhood beliefs in an unquestioning manner – to the contrary! We must all test what we believe. You need to know what you believe and why you believe it, and know what you don’t believe and why you don’t believe it. Permissiveness and passivity has seen the rise in a generation of ‘meh’, unsure of what is truth, willing to follow any trend like long grass blowing in the wind.
It’s easy, as we grow up, to see the contradictions and pain in the things we love, and be jaded by it. It’s easy to be jaded, for example, the Church and all it’s inherent contradictions, but miss the life-changing, liberating message of Jesus.
Is it time you revisited the concretes in your life? Faith, family, liberty? What do you hold dear – do you see it slipping away? Have the events in life made you jaded? Angry? Dismissive?
Like the Maccabees all those years ago, is it time for you to restore those truths you used to hold so dear, no matter what the cost?
Image from http://www.thejerusalemconnection.us/blog/2011/12/21/would-the-maccabees-be-proud.html