Friday, September 24, 2010

The Door of Adulthood

Our nine-year-old son’s eyeballs looked like they were about to pop out of their sockets when with stunned delay his brain finally registered the words I uttered just seconds before:

You know, this is the least amount of responsibility you will have for the rest of your life.

He blinked, and then he blinked again. His eyeballs returned to their place as he mumbled,

That’s the dumbest thing I have ever heard in my entire life. I have time for nothing – just homework, homework, homework! Besides, I only have twelve awake hours each day.

His little shoulders might have been sagging under the gargantuan load of his third grade homework, but his mind was as quick as ever to retort to the counter-intuitive truth he’d just heard. Whether he was willing to accept it or not, his lazy meandering days of early childhood when time is measured by snacks, library stories, Home Depot kids’ workshops and bedtime routine ended abruptly on the chopping block of growing academic demands. No more unlimited time with LEGO blocks. No more of those tough decisions whether to go to your house or mine for the daily play-date. We have officially tipped the scale and from now on there will always be more things for him to do than hours in the day to do them. My child, welcome to the portal of adulthood.

And, so, now, it’s up to him to choose how to respond to the ever-increasing pressure and pull on his time and energy resources.

Will he, being the type A personality, redouble his effort and try to cram as much as he possibly can into his mind, heart and schedule, trying to prove to somebody, anybody that he deserves the few square feet he occupies on this planet, seeking to make everyone who crosses his path happy - teachers, peers, mom, dad, aunts, uncles, telemarketers, and a god above – not realizing that with each act he is relinquishing more and more of the magnificent real estate of his soul?

Or, would he whine and complain about how much he has on his plate, and how stressed out he feels, wasting exuberant amounts of precious time on the favorite family sport called procrastination?

Will he become depressed and escape his overwhelming reality by living virtual, vicarious life somewhere in Cybergalaxy far, far away, getting deeper and deeper into denial and escapism while nourishing the illusion of connectedness and meaningful relationships?

Will he feel victimized by both external and internal forces, and in response to the sense of powerlessness become angry at genetics, government, global warming, Gutenberg, Google and, of course, God of all, blaming each and everyone for handing him the short end of the stick of life?

Will he paint impressive facades with glorious colors in a never-ending effort to hide his fears, pain and impotence?

Will he continue meandering through life like a perpetual child, never growing up, never taking responsibility for his choices, words, actions, the development of his gifts and relationships, shipwrecked on the island of Neverland with the rest of Peter Pans of this world?

Or, perhaps… he may see these new challenges as an opportunity to engage in the life-long journey of knowing his Maker, discovering more each day what it means to be formed in His image, and the unspeakable dignity this breathes into every aspect of his existence? Will he stick with this amazing truth and all its implications when everything around him seeks to degrade, diminish and destroy the family resemblance with the Creator of the universe? Will he discover that he has access to the supplies of strength which are sufficient to meet each day’s demands? Will he experience for himself that God’s Word has the same effect on His fogged-up spirit as Starbucks doubleshot espresso on his body (and that without side-effects!)? Will he learn to dance with the wind, letting his hair (as well as his small-minded personal goals and agendas) get all messed up and tangled, surrendering to its forces with joy and rest?

Will it ever dawn on him that he will always have all the time that he needs, to do all that His gracious Father has for him? Will he recognize the pull of the noisy distractions and his own need for control and refuse to pursue the phantoms of the outside and of the inside, being gently guided by priorities that transcend time? Will he…? Will he…? Will he…?

And... will I…?

So, we make a full circle. Clearly these questions are not for him only. For, the same threshold of adulthood greets my sleepy, blinking eyes each morning as my feet dangle on the side of the bed and I shuffle to the kitchen for a fresh supply of my daily dose of java juice. The invitation and the challenge offered to each of us every day. What will it be?