Last year, my firstborn son, Christian, turned thirteen. I had been preparing for this day in my mind for a long time. You see, I am one of those idealist types. I am more so in my mind than in my actions sometimes. But I knew that I wanted to really celebrate this milestone in my son’s life. I felt God’s small and quiet voice encouraging me on . . .
So I researched. I got many books such as Raising a Modern Day Knight by Robert Lewis and Celebrating of Faith by Randy and Lisa Wilson. I read internet articles and talked to people who had done it. I roped a kindred spirit whose son had grown up with mine and who shares a close birthday to celebrate the day together. We got together to plan out the whole day. Ideas began to take shape.
I didn’t realize that we were planning something the Evil One so opposed.
I didn’t realize that my son’s faith was on the line.
I didn’t realize that it was such a battle to be won.
We let my son know that his upcoming birthday was going to be BIG. There would be much required of him and that he should get ready. One of the things we did was read Boyhood and Beyond by Bob Schultz together. We asked him to memorize some Bible verses we thought would be beneficial as he took on manhood. He took this very seriously and was very nervous about the “big day”.
We also informed all our kids that we don’t believe in “teenagers”. The word teenager has only been used for the last 80 years and with it comes a negative connotation. Teenagers have a time where they can “wait” to “become”. For centuries, boys have gone from child to adult. There was no focus on “wasted years”, but a focus on becoming an adult. We challenged the kids to think of themselves as young adults and not your typical “teen”. We also said that we would give a dollar to each child catching us saying the word “teenager” because old habits die hard for us parents!
As the day approached, I began to feel the struggle of my ideals and reality. My husband was not able to help prepare due to illness. My friend and her son decided not to participate due to unexpected family commitments. My mind was full of thoughts like “You don’t need to do this special day for Christian”, “Nobody else is doing this for their boys on their 13th birthday” and “This is just too much work. Just give it up!” I really struggled in my mind. Asking the Lord, “Is this what you want or am I just doing this on my own accord?”
On the day I was going to give up, I ran into a family pastor friend from the Christian Camp we go to called Forest Home. He just happened to be at the coffee shop we go to every Tuesday! We got talking and I felt a nudge to ask him what he thought. He has 6 grown boys! He told me what he and his wife did every birthday for their sons starting at 13 and he encouraged me in the path that we had started down. Sometimes you just need someone to be a cheerleader on the sidelines!
We prepared. We prayed. We saw God at work.
On the big day, we created The Warrior’s Quest (an Amazing Race type scavenger hunt) for Christian. He was given a clue and had to perform a task in order to get the next clue. Each clue coincided with a Warrior Trait we were incorporating into his Quest. My husband miraculously felt better and was able to be the point person and driver for the whole day. So here is what he did:
Task One: A Warrior's Chivalrous Protection. The clue was given on being a man who protects and provides for his wife/ family. We talk so often about what kind of brother he is will determine the type of husband he will become. The task was to write letters of affirmation to each sibling. He made French toast, berries and juice and served it to each in bed with his letter.
Task Two: The Warrior's High Character. The clue was given on being a man who is full of character. We studied many of these character qualities this year. Today, we highlighted honesty, integrity and compassion. The task was to buy food for a homeless person on his own and then find someone to give it to (i.e. Compassion). This was Christian and Bruce’s favorite part of the Warrior Quest as the man who received the bag was so grateful. While shopping for the groceries, we arranged with the cashier to give him too much money as change. Christian had to pass the test what he would do with the extra money. The grocery store manager gave him the next clue when he returned the money (i.e. Integrity and Honesty).
Task Three: The Warrior's Leadership and Responsibilities. The clue focused on teaching, mentoring, making others successful while leading, encouraging and taking on the areas that God has given him. So many of these ideas were talked about over the year with his book study. The task was to help coach his brother's T-ball team that morning while showing the younger boys his encouraging spirit.
Task Four: A Warrior's Spiritual Impact and Prayer Life. This clue spoke to who he will be as a man of God - how he pray, spend time in relationship with God and how he will serve in his life. His task was to recite 6 verses he memorized and spend a great deal of time discussing this with his dad as they drove to Los Angeles.
Task Five: The Warrior's Commitment and Endurance. This area focused on looking at life with Godly wisdom and following God's calling as a man and trusting God. A warrior never gives up, has self-control and persistence. He always tries something once and faces his fears. The task was indoor skydiving in Hollywood
Task Six: A Warrior’s Community and Accountability. We know that a warrior doesn’t face life alone. They headed back that night for a big party where we went bowling, had pizza and enjoyed a small presentation with family and friends. We had King David’s sword engraved for him saying “Be strong and courageous” Deut. 31:6. We also asked family and friends far and wide to write advice and affirmations that we put together in a large notebook for him. And we also presented him with a picture book of his first 12 years.
After it was all said and done, I got a moment with Christian. He couldn’t wait to tell me . . . “You know mom, this was the best day ever! I don’t know if you notice how I have changed (well, yes, I had!). Over the last couple months while you were building this day up, I was asking the Lord at night, if I was the kind of man He wanted me to be. You know what he said? . . . No! I was going down the wrong path. He said I needed to work on my attitude and focus on being the kind of man He wants me to be. So I have changed. And he gave me a dream and told me that He has great plans for me . . . Thanks Mom for this day! I will never forget it!”
It is just another day in the life of your child.
But an opportunity to make just another day into a once-in-a-lifetime moment.
For all of you out there, being tossed around with thoughts of giving up an ideal, DON’T! Fight on! Do it! Your kids will BE the difference!
How have you celebrated the BIG moments in your kids’ lives?