Walking along our local river bike path late yesterday afternoon, children scootering back and forth and Sunny sniffing her way along the trail, I unexpectedly stumbled into a moment that I have tried for 24 hours to figure out how to put into words. I won't do it justice, not matter how much effort I put into it, nor will it be important to anyone else reading this...but it absolutely must be captured somehow to be read some years down the road. It was one of those "I knew it when..." experiences. Let me give some background...
I left the program two years later so grateful I had hung in there, and so glad that my mom had urged me to not give in to my insecurity and initial failures. This time in my life feels like that first semester all over again, and I hope that if I do as I did in 7th grade and just hang in there, I will eventually be able to look back and see a year or two of tremendous growth in myself. For now though, it sure isn't easy.
It was with this hanging around my neck yesterday that I went for a walk with the kids while Dominick was finishing his workday. I was wrestling with many distracting thoughts as we worked our way along the riverside path. All the kids were on scooters except Kenny, who not being the most coordinated of the kids prefers sometimes to just walk the dog and run her around to get exercise. After about 20 minutes I see him ahead waiting for me, and as I catch up to him we begin to walk in step with one another, side by side, as the sound of the rushing water creates lovely background music. Everyone else is long gone, laughing and chasing one another up and down the sloping cemented pathway. Kenny quietly asks "Hey Mom, what're you thinking about?", and I share in a generic way that I am having a hard time trying new things, that I need to gain some perspective about it and stop seeing only the negative.
We walk a little further, and Kenny begins asking more questions, slowly drawing me out and I realize gradually that he is showing an incredible amount of sensitivity and understanding. We begin to talk more intimately about the power of our own minds to cloud what is real, and how hard it can be to be truly honest with ourselves about our own failings and weaknesses. He helps me gently tear apart assumptions, he shares about his own experiences with failure or not striving to do his best even when he was fully aware of the cost. We continue walking and talking, uninterrupted, as my son ministered to my soul in a way no 13 year old I have ever known could ever do.
Without sharing the details of certain situations with him, which would have been inappropriate, I talk openly about searching for God in all that I am doing right now, knowing that walking without the knowledge of that presence leads me to places that never work well. Kenny then asks such astute questions such as "So Mom, what activities are you involved in that God is not really a part of? Maybe those are the ones to give up so you have more space in your heart for the things God really wants you to do." Together we talk about my schedule and where God was in each thing. He laughs as he says "Well Mom, because you always ask God to help you figure out what you should do, it is sorta hard to find things God isn't in!", but sure enough, we did find a couple of things I can cut out. Kenny also tells me how much he respects that I always put family first, and that he knows how much I personally gave up to be home with all of them homeschooling. He even leads the conversation into the direction of strategies to help me have more time to pursue something adult and just for me, because, as he puts it "You need your batteries charged too, and even though you get some grown up time without us, most of the time it is about things for us kids...you need something that has nothing to do with us and is all for you."
Then, because he still is that 13 year old boy, he runs on ahead dragging Sunny into the mud as he chases his siblings in the late afternoon light.
I needed God to appear, and there God was in a small boned, big hearted young man whose own life has taught him a great deal about failure and success, about commitment and sacrifice, about self-acceptance and determination.
But it was really about more than my needs being met in such a surprising way, it was God speaking to me about Kenny's future and how God is smack dab in the middle of it. This was a Kenny I had never seen before, one who displayed a depth of understanding about how to engage someone in ways that lead to helpful self-examination that afterward left me completely flabbergasted and feeling wholly incompetent to parent such a child. I can't accurately capture the feelings here, it would be impossible, for how does one describe having sudden certainty about a child's connection with the Spirit, and perhaps a clarity about his purpose in this world?
The kids have teased him for awhile now about Kenny one day being a pastor, that was something I have never really seen for him, nor would I ever push any of our kids in any specific direction for their lives are their own to discover, not ours to direct. However, yesterday afternoon I was witness to something extraordinary, and it was as if I was also being whispered to by God "I have very unusual plans for this child, continue to fight for him...I need him in ways others might never expect." I know to others that might sound completely corny, but to a couple of readers who know Kenny personally, it might just not be surprising at all. Really, it is no different than seeing clearly for Matthew that he absolutely must fly planes one day, for that is who he is in his soul. That may not mean that it is for a career, no more than it might mean that Kenny will go into ministry and pastor a church one day, but if one listens for that whisper, certain things become crystal clear. Kenny has something in this world he absolutely must do, because God is calling him to it. We may not know what that is, but I now know beyond all doubt that God is guiding something for Kenny, and Kenny is listening. I need to listen even more intently myself.