INSIDE STORY: Teenager’s dad reflects as son reaches milestone
Flash forward a week or two — or 15½ years — and that baby, all 6 feet, 1 inch and 250 pounds of him, sits behind the wheel of our white minivan, better known as “Betty.”
Somehow, the state of Oklahoma has chosen to give Brady, who can’t figure out how to carry his dirty plate from the kitchen table to the dishwasher, an official permit to learn how to drive.
Fortunately, he’s driving the family home from church when he looks over at his mother, who’s riding shotgun, and declares, “Mom, I forgot which one’s the gas pedal and which one’s the brakes.” I say fortunately because, at the appointed time of your family’s death, there are certainly worse places to be leaving than the Sunday morning worship assembly.
I have reacted in two major ways to my son driving (if you don’t count frequent bouts of closing my eyes and praying at four-way stops as No. 3):
• I have popped straight up in bed and wondered, “How will we ever afford car insurance for a teenager?
• I have wrestled with the uncomfortable reality that my baby boy is just a few years away from graduating from high school and, theoretically, leaving home.
This reality has forced me to confront my own inadequacies as a father.
My greatest desire is for my son, whom I had the privilege of baptizing, to remain faithful to the Lord and the church.
Yet I look back on the time that has passed and worry that I haven’t done enough to help my son grow spiritually. I worry that we have spent too much time running up and down the road to band concerts and sporting events and not enough time in the Word.
My wife likes to tell me that my oldest son and I are just alike. Sometimes, she is smiling and seems pleased by this. Other times, when Brady has acted liked a hardheaded nitwit, she appears to be blaming me.
The truth is, I love my son more than anything (except maybe the Texas Rangers), but I have found communication with him difficult during his teenage years. At times, it seems like I raise my voice more to correct him than to praise him or tell him how much he means to me.
But thank God, Brady has an entire church family helping raise him in the faith — and a youth minister and a youth group with their eyes firmly on the prize.
Last summer, Brady and 65 other teenagers and sponsors from our church traveled to Colorado to conduct a Vacation Bible School for a small congregation. They canvassed the community to invite boys and girls to attend, but had no idea how many might show up. They prayed that God would lead children to the VBS.
“I think we may have underestimated the power of prayer,” Brady wrote in a report after he returned home. “James 5:16 says, ‘The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.’ One of the ladies in our congregation prayed that we would have a one-to-one ratio of children to missionaries: people from our congregation that went on the trip. The first day of VBS, we had 67 children and 66 missionaries.”
Wow, my son wrote that!
One afternoon after conducting the VBS, the youth group went white-water rafting. But one member of the group, Matt Chancey, had just gone through chemotherapy. Because of that, he couldn’t go rafting.
So two friends of Brady’s, Shane Magness and Alex Reddy, chose not to go rafting. They stayed with Matt instead. At a devotional that night, Matt did his best not to tear up as he shared the story, Brady said.
“God works in many ways,” my son said in his mission trip report. “Ways that we could never understand. Ways that continue to amaze us and exceed our expectations.”
I could not say it any better.
To be sure, there are times when I want to crawl in a hole, such as when Brady led the Sunday night closing prayer wearing loose-fitting, faded blue jeans that revealed a huge portion of his checkered boxer shorts. (In his defense, he wasn’t asked to lead the prayer until he got to services.)
But in general, my son, too, continues to amaze me and exceed my expectations.
Perhaps he’ll even learn the difference between the gas pedal and the brakes.