Family hikes have been our thing this summer. Every weekend we’ve sought out a new trail to hike with our three boys. And can I just tell you, it has been glorious, though it doesn’t always begin that way.
Before we leave for hiking we get the usual pushback:
“I’m so tired from baseball. Can’t we just rest at home?”
“Another hike! What?”
But it’s only minutes before the boys are off and running in the wilderness. Jumping off rocks. Catching small fish with their bare hands. Climbing trees and racing each other down trails. Exploring and discovering and wait for it…….. having the time of their life.
This past Sunday, as we pulled into the Rockefeller State Park, I reached for my hiking clothes, only to discover I’d forgotten to pack one small thing. Shoes for the hike. The flip-flops I’d worn to church weren’t going to cut it.
Thankfully, my ten-year old son left his backpack from camp in the backseat of the car. And in his bag was none other than his extra pair of size six sneakers.
I slipped on his shoes, grateful I wouldn’t have to sit this hike out.
My son wasn’t sure how to feel about his mom wearing his shoes. But this I can tell you.
I knew exactly how I felt about it.
Only a few steps into our hike, I looked down at my feet that were nestled into my son’s shoes, and thought, “So this is what it feels like to walk in Cal’s shoes.”
As we made our way up steep trails and through babbling brooks, I found myself wrestling with how my parenting would look differently if I was more thoughtful about what God has stored in Cal and what it feels like to walk in his shoes.
As a mom I know that one of my primary roles is to seek out the gifts that God has hidden in my children and develop those gifts to the glory of God and not self.
It’s the wisdom given to us in Proverbs 22:6 – “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”
There was time when I read this verse as if it were a promise to and a command for parents.
I wanted to believe that IF I led my children in the truth and love of Jesus Christ, THEN they would never turn from it.
As I think back to that time, I’m reminded of the crushing pressure that resulted from believing that my child’s faith and future was solely resting on my training and instruction. And I’m reminded how defeating it was to think that God’s grace wasn’t big and wide enough to cover all the opportunities I missed and all the mistakes I made, and will still make, along the way.
But knowing that the Proverbs are not if–then promises, but a collection of wisdom to lead us in godly living, changes things.
And this particular proverb does offer important and wise counsel, encouraging parents to identify and develop the unique personality, disposition, and giftedness that God has hidden in their child to His glory.
When read this way, Proverbs 22:6 is no longer a burden but an invitation. An invitation to think about what it’s like to walk in the shoes of our children and encourage them to live out the purpose for which they were so wonderfully and uniquely created - to the glory of God.
As we finished our hike, I wrapped my right arm around Cal’s shoulder, pulled him in close, and whispered in his ear, “I loved walking in your shoes today. It made me reflect on all the gifts that God has stored in you and how I can help you develop those gifts in a way that point people to God. It’s an honor to be your mom.”
He leaned in closer. “Thanks Mom,” was all he said. It was all he needed to say.
I see many more hikes in our future.
All is grace,