Listen, my son, and be wise, and keep your heart on the right path. Proverbs 23, verse 19.
In raising child #3, I’m finally discovering that I want my kids to be wise. My son is 15, and he has always been more precocious than preparatory. He and his older sister are dyslexic, but he has the more severe case. This condition has meant that, for the last 10 years, he has had to work doubly hard to learn. It has given him grit. Couple that with an stubborn disposition – something I’m sure he inherited from his mom and not me – and he is one of the more hard-headed people I know. Yesterday, we were all talking and it hit me that I want him to be wise. This happened even before I read the verse, and I don’t count it as coincidence that this would be the case. It’s something to be talked about here and now.
And we’ll talk about it in the context of things unexpected; I will venture where men of better decorum dare not in order to make the point. Our conversation discussed ’ manscaping.’ For those not familiar with this term, said vernacular refers to personal grooming in a very personal area. In talking with the 15 year old, somehow we got onto this subject and he mentioned how he prefers to be groomed rather than, shall we say, unkempt. He had me in stitches describing how, during one of my travel absences, he used my moustache trimmers to perform said grooming function; I think I’ll use scissors the next time I trim my beard. We then discussed why my shaving razors have all disappeared; I’ll leave it to you to deduce the logical conclusion. Again, he had me laughing so hard I couldn’t breathe. Was it a wise discussion, and is he acting wise? Probably not, especially if he drops the razor. Yet I don’t think this is a matter of keeping his heart on the right path as much as it is a matter of personal choice.
But then he recounted unexpected wisdom. He talked about an acquaintance of his and says that he has learned to take the guy in small doses. They are on again/off again friends, and in the last year or so they have been more off. They talk, they get together, and when they do they always have a good time. But he’s learned that the two of them together could constitute nuclear fission, so he self-regulates the friendship. He mentioned all this (while texting, of course), just after the conversation regarding personal hygiene. How we segued from hair down there to a sometimes hairy friendship I don’t exactly know, but I saw a hint of wisdom in my fifteen year old’s eyes and realized again how I should never take him for granted.
And then there is another friend from school, who, just the other night, messaged him out of the blue. The boy proffered a somewhat-apology for their falling-out over since leaving middle school. Son’s response in this one is carefully measured; after all, once bitten, twice shy. But here I counseled forgiveness and mercy. I told him that he should contemplate a meaningful response, sans smart aleck, and not shut the door on what could be a good opportunity for redemption. After all, doing so would demonstrate wisdom and keeping one’s heart on the right path. It turns out he didn’t need my counsel: he’d already figured that out on his own and kept his response to himself in responding to his estranged friend.
In all these things, I want him to be wise, not wisecracking. I want him to keep his heart on the right path. Every parent wants this for their kids, and I want it for both him and his sisters. If there is such a thing as luck, then I’m lucky to realize that I’ve been blessed to have a special relationship with each of my kids, from the oldest one who poured an ice cold bottle of water on her stinky dad yesterday, to the rebellious youngest daughter who told me the other day that she misses hanging out with me having daddy-daughter time, to Son Bull (one of my nicknames for him) who regales me with stories of using my trimmers for unconventional and unwise purposes but then drops pearls of wisdom about judicious friendship and how he values it.
I’m reading a book that talks about practically applying a life from Ephesians, how we are in Christ as believers and how being in Christ means that you’re already living in the heavenly realms. God is already at work in you, not being some standoffish referee in your life but as a living, breathing person hard at work in your mind and heart, positioning you in life where He wants you to do best. He purposes us to be whom, what and where we are so that we might open our hearts to the possibility of Him living through us to others. I want my son to remember this, to focus on how God is at work in him, and let himself become wise. Such wisdom shines like a light in a dark room, even in the bright Texas sunshine. From what I know of his life, such wisdom is already at work in my son.
These are things I want because this good kid, who is going on a 12 day mission trip starting next week, is the same kid I spent with whom I spent a few minutes watching “Man Versus Food.” Then, “Family Guy,” complete with its constant references to being generally rude, crude, and socially unacceptable. Earlier in the day, I found him watching “1776,” and I saw a Bible near his bed that isn’t usually there. I’m not sure anyone is really wise at 15, but I think he’s generally on the right path. As I leave town again for another week of earning on the road, I find these thoughts encouraging me. They help me to know that underneath the churning surface of bad music, wise-acre attitude and, yes, manscaping, there is a young man whose growing heart is open to God’s wisdom just as surely as it is open to those other less admirable behaviors. In this, I find peace.