Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Parenting and Faith

My twin sons turned 5 in April, and it seems like they grew up overnight. My wife and I were chatting about how it feels like God pushes fast forward on your life the minute that you have children. As we reflected about how quickly the past 5 years flew by, I said to her that I didn't have one regret. I am thankful that we are parents that haven't allowed time to pass us by while we were distracted with our own lives. I am thankful that during that short 5 years, I was very active in their lives and they in mine. I hope that continues until death takes me.

This summer it seems that my twin sons are in learning mode. Perhaps it's naturally happening because in the fall they will embark upon grade school as kindergarteners. But activity after activity I find that I am teaching them a new skill.

The fondest memory of this summer is probably teaching the boys how to ride their bikes. Granted, we're still in the process of developing these skills so by no means have they (or even I) mastered anything. But it's an amazing metaphor for parenting and faith.

A few weeks ago, we decided it was time to take off the training wheels on their Trek Jet 20s. What's interesting about this story is that I am NOT handy with tools. I struggled in the garage for what seemed like hours before accepting defeat. Frustrated, we left one bike in the garage to be fine-tuned by my father at a later time, while we drove to a local church that backs to a park.

Once there, we got the boys dressed from head to toe in protective gear - state-of-the-art helmets, elbow pads and knee pads just in case they should (gasp) crash. We started on the grass on a gradual slope and I ran with them 100 feet at a time yelling "Pedal! Pedal! Hold on tight! Keep it straight! Look ahead!" and panting up a storm. Did I mention it was in the upper 80s / lower 90s that day? Eventually we moved to a baseball diamond and this is where the metaphor begins.

As a parent I learned that eventually I had to let go of the bike. That's not the easiest thing in the world when you consider that up until this point, your role as a parent is to nurture and protect your children - not let them fall over on their bikes and skin up their knees. But this was the point in their development when I needed to learn to let go as a parent and my kids needed to learn how to fall on their own & pick themselves back up again.

But there's so much freedom and joy in letting go. I can't tell you how proud I was at my little boys furiously pedaling down the grassy hill or the open parking lot. When I learned to let go and see the fruit of my labor, it was a beautiful moment to watch them glide around on their bicycles.

I think God must smile at us riding our bicycles of life around down here. He must smile when we fall off our bicycles and pick ourselves up again. And I'm sure it pains Him to let go of our bicycles and watch us crash at periodic times of our lives (or in my case all of the time). But He's there to help us back up when we crash.

One of the best moments of this particular day was that each time I'd try to get my sons psyched up to tackle their bikes, we would pray for courage and protection. One of my kids took a pretty good spill; the kind where you hold your breath and wait to see if he's okay. I ran over to him to assist and he turned to me and said, "I think Jesus helped catch my fall."

Of all the lessons he learned that day, I think that must have been the most important. Now if we could only teach them how to swim...

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