I have an eight-year-old son now. He’s skinny, like I was.
He’s (mostly) gentle, a rule follower, and he prefers playing with Legos by himself in his bedroom and please stay out unless you are offering food.
Check, check and check – just like I used to be.
Practicing the Ritual of Waiting
I remember late on Saturday afternoons, when I was his age, I would hear my dad shouting out of the farmhouse. His voice moved like a ripple.
I scrambled toward the house as fast as I could, grabbed the shovel from its corner in the smallest barn and ran to the tilled portion of the garden.
I flipped over huge clods of dirt and filled a plastic cup with the enormous worms that tried to dance out of my grasp. Such a strange sensation of life, those writhing strings.
We walked down towards the church across the street, through the parking lot (glittering with monkey’s gold), past the hide-and-seek graveyard. We slid down the steep bank, grabbing at trees to slow our descent. Dad carried the worms. I carried the fishing pole.
Catching Life Lessons
There, under the shadow of a large oak tree, I learned to cast sideways so the hook wouldn’t catch in the low branches (that’s not to say numerous bobbers weren’t hanging from the leaves like red and white lighthouses).
I learned to watch the water closely. I felt the difference between the lively tug of a fish (like an electric shock) and the unyielding pull of an underwater branch (disappointment made tangible).
Mostly I learned to sit quietly beside my dad and wait.
I remember one day we caught a carp so big my dad ran home to get a five-gallon bucket – we filled it with water, put the fish in it, then walked around to our neighbors’ houses (my grandma, my uncle and aunt, our landlord) so I could show it off.
It was an ugly thing, completely un-eatable, but also completely huge and completely mine. We walked back down and returned it to the creek – it swam away, bearing a fish story none of its friends would ever believe.
The Beauty of Waiting Together
It seems absurd to me that my dad’s primary concern ever would have been making sure that I believed certain things about him: his exact height, for instance, or how far he could throw a baseball.
Now that I’m a dad, I know there are aspects of me that I want my own son to believe in: how much I care for him, or how concerned I am that he find joy and peace and love. But these are not facts that I can expect him to memorize.
These are characteristics of mine that my son will only ever truly learn by having a relationship with me.
And he walks with me
And he talks with me
Theology has its place, but it is no substitute for time spent waiting under an oak tree.
Question: What lessons have you learned by having to wait?
EdiTOR’s Note: Our family recently delivered our third child. As such, some blogging buddies of mine have graciously offered to write a series of guest posts to allow my family to spend a little time together – away from this blog. I’m deeply grateful for such friends, and I hope you enjoy their writing!
Today’s guest post comes courtesy of Shawn Smucker, who recently finished a four-month trip around the United States with his wife and four children (8 years of age and under). He also wrote an E-book, “Building a Life Out of Words,” which tells the story of how his business failed, put him $50,000 in debt, and he used that hurdle as an opportunity to begin living the life he had always wanted to live.