"Train a child in the way that he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it." -Proverbs 22:6
As I have the privilege of playing baseball with these 8 and 9 year old boys I am constantly reminded of the critical and fragile role a man plays in his son’s ever-evolving world. It’s sad but true that, as a culture, we've largely forgotten the art of raising boys into men. It's only been in the last 1-2 generations that father and son have not worked awkwardly close to one another in a field or a workshop. Fathering a young boy skillfully to manhood is an art that seems ever harder to do, largely because there is so little said about it and so few men who have had good experience with it. But consider how important this task is...
A wise son brings joy to his father -Proverbs 10:1
A foolish son is his father’s ruin - Proverbs 19:13
The quality with which we father has not only an impact on our sons, but a significant impact on our future, to be sure. So we would do well do tread carefully and not push our kids to the breaking point.
Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged. - Col. 3:21
Another translation warns us to “not exasperate our sons, lest they should lose heart.” Now consider what that phrase means “ to lose heart.” It’s a powerful phrase and the meaning should be clearly understood. Literally translated, it means to “lose their rush”.
I have stood on the baseball field now for my fourth season with my son and witnessed first hand what it takes to make a child “lose their rush”. In Baer’s (my son’s) first season I spared no expense and bought him all the necessary equipment at Academy, took him to practice, and then proceeded to suck the joy right out of him. How? I didn’t first teach him to enjoy the game. In my own insecurity and impatience I pushed him too hard. I saw myself as a helping father. What he saw was one opportunity after another to disappoint his papa. It wasn’t long before he told me he wanted no more of it. My rush had almost killed his.
My humble efforts to rally have led me to a few conclusions:
- The path to manhood has many stages. Don't rush it or you could blow it.
- Every young boy has a question that he is dying to have answered: “Am I my father’s delight?”
- Unless that question is first answered by a wise and loving father, all the future stages will be tainted and the boy’s development will be arrested.
I have seen this as a coach and I have seen this as a man who has spent much of his life working intimately with kids.
When a young boy shows up to a baseball field for the first time you can see the thrill, the rush. It is magical. Imagine the wonder to a young boy of being chauffeured to a baseball diamond with other boys. He’s not in school. He’s with predominantly men. And he’s being told he can run, sweat, get dirty, and swing a bat. This isn’t coffee or shopping with mom. This is man-time... and a whole new world. But as he approaches the field, with all those men and big boys, can you imagine what questions keeps pounding his brain? I can tell you with absolute certainty what most boys will soon be asking themselves: “Do I have what it takes?” “Will my father be proud of me?” If those questions strike a chord with you now, it’s because they are still, even as a man, the two most significant and potentially paralyzing questions a man can ask himself. It’s when a kid concludes that he does not have what it takes that he will quit. And it’s when a child believes he will not please his father that he will lose his rush.
A boy must be the beloved son as a prerequisite to being a warrior. If you doubt this, remember Jesus’ story. What did his Father say the two times He broke protocol and spoke audibly so all could hear? Did the Father call down advice from the playbook on how to deal with the temptation in the desert? Or how to be properly crucified? No. In the critical moments the fathers loving words were perfect for the occasion, and in the end, all that was necessary.
“This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” -Matthew 3:17
It was all that was needed with Jesus. It’s all that is needed with young boys on the diamond.
Baer is now a good player who loves the game, and I am so proud to say, also loves his father being the coach. Beloved sons become the best warriors.