There are certain rites of passage that every boy must go through on his journey into adulthood. My eldest son, Christopher, went through one of those rites of passage on Monday night. And, for me, it was pure delight to walk throught it with him. Chris learned how to mow the lawn.
It began with a lesson on clearing the lawn of hazards before you begin mowing. Lesson two was taking the lawnmower out of the garage without injuring yourself on anything that is found in the destructive path between where the mower is stored and the end of the garage. We created a path through the six bicycles, snow blower, basketballs, baseball bats, and other items that were in the way, and without injury or damage to our van, got the mower out. That was a major accomplishment in and of itself. Lesson number three invovled checking the oil and gasoline levels in the mower. We filled the mower up, and then the real fun started.
“Can I start it, Dad?”
“Sure, give it a shot.”
Pull, Pull, Pull — Nothing.
The mower wouldn’t start.
“See that button in the front of the mower? The one that says, ‘Primer?’ Press it three times and try again.”
He presses the primer and then moves back into location. PULL, PULL, PULL — Nothing.
“Should I try pressing the primer button again?”
“Yeah, go ahead.”
He presses the primer and then moves back into location. His face now showing the frustration I’ve seen on dozens of other young men in my life.
PULL, PULL, PULL — VROOOOOOOMMMMMMMMMM!
The eyes now fill with delight. Boy turns into young man as he now controls the powerful machine.
“Dad, what do I do now?”
“I’ll mow the first row, you can mow the second. For now, can you pull the weeds by the flower planters?”
I’ve never seen him so excited about pulling weeds. I take my turn behind the mower and begin to mow the first row. I realize that for the next several years my opportunities to do this are going to be less than they’ve been in the past. For Chris is motivated by the lucrative $5 prize that awaits him at the end of this task.
“Okay, Dad, I finished the weeds. Can I mow now?”
I hand over the controls to my son. And, I watch him grow up before my eyes. A big smile comes across his face. He could try to hold it in, but it would be futile. He’s proud. Proud to be in control of the machine. Proud of the fact that his parents trust him with such a big task.
Truth be told, I worry every time he comes to the part of the yard where he has to push the mower up hill. What if he can’t do it? He does just fine. What if he gets hurt? He doesn’t. What if he gets so good that he doesn’t need me?
The mulch bag on the mower fills up.
“Dad, what do I do now?”
He still needs me. I show him how to empty the bag. It’s too heavy for him to pour it into our yard waste bucket.
“Dad, can you help?”
My son still needs me. And, he needs me for much more than lawn mowing lessons. He needs me to teach him how to live a godly life. To be a man of character in a world that is pushing against him. He needs me to tell him that I love him, that I believe in him, that nothing in the world could ever make me stop loving him.
Lord, help me to be the kind of Dad who radiates You; the kind of Dad who helps my kids to see that no matter how old they get, how mature they are, how confident they are, how much they know — that they will always need You. Help me to live a life of total reliance upon my Heavenly Father. And thank you for trusting me with the mower, and being there for me even when I think I don’t need you. Thank you for loving me, God.