The Day I First Saw My Son As A Young Man

A football laying on a dark surface.

“I’ve got it!”

All three of my sons yelled in unison as they tracked the oversized football through the air.

We found this football on clearance a few days earlier. It was the size of a beachball with a cloth cover. Soft and bouncy, it was somewhat difficult to catch, yet my sons were having a blast. I would kick the ball high into the air, and they would compete to see who could catch it and get away from the others.

Three brothers sitting on the grass.

The youngest two had turned it into a game of tackle. It was not a requirement for either one of them to have the ball. They took turns taking one another down, rolling in the grass, and giggling all the while.

However, my oldest son, Gabe, was unable to fully get in on the fun. He stands nearly twice as tall as the other two. He would chase them and pick them up, but he wouldn’t properly tackle them out of fear of hurting one of his siblings.

Several times, he asked me if I would play tackle with him, to which I graciously declined. At the age of 47, I explained to him,  my days of backyard tackle football were well behind me. I had no desire for my body to hurt for the next week.

As we continued to play, I watched his disappointment in not being able to get in on the fun that his brothers were having.

And then it happened.

I’m not even sure where it came from. The logical side of my brain had already made a well-argued presentation of all the reasons I shouldn’t play tackle football. “You are old and out of shape,” I had told myself. “It won’t end well. There is no upside.”

Yet, from out of nowhere, I felt a shot of youthful energy and was suddenly confident that I could take on my nearly 16-year-old son and not only survive but be victorious. 

This thought did not proceed from the logical side of my brain that was busily attempting to talk myself out of this insanity.

Casting any sense of caution to the wind, I prepared to strike. I reasoned that if I kicked the ball high enough, I could get to Gabe just about the time he caught the ball and take him down.

As the ball left my foot, I knew that it was perfect—one of the highest I had kicked all evening. I disregarded one final attempt by my brain to stop this madness and charged forward with my target firmly fixed in my sights. He had settled into the stance of a kick-returner as he awaited the ball to descend from its peak.

I had not covered the distance between us with the efficiency that I had envisioned as my youthful enthusiasm met cold-hard reality. While I was still a good five strides away from my son, he caught the ball and returned his gaze to the horizon. Our eyes met, and a smile spread across his face that brought a sinking feeling to my gut.

What had I done?

He let the ball drop as he moved toward me, ready to engage.

I was utterly committed. There was no stopping now. With only a step remaining between us, we each lowered our shoulders and connected with a dull thud that jarred down my spine. Immediately, he shot his arms around my torso to wrap me up as he was taught back in 5th-grade football. I copied his move, and there we were locked in a giant bear hug.

I hug my son every night before he goes to bed, and I know that my little boy has done a lot of growing up. However, with every muscle in his body tensed and tightened, ready for action, I came to realize that I had not chosen to play tackle with my “little” boy; instead, I had made the foolish decision to attempt to tackle a full-grown man. I had just hit him with everything I had and was driving forward with all my might, and he did not budge. 

Not One. Single. Inch. 

I was losing ground as he plowed ahead.

The outcome of our gladiatorial encounter was going to be me lying flat on my backside with little prospect of returning to my feet very soon.

I did the only thing I could to ensure my self-preservation—I cried, “Uncle!”

“Stop, stop, stop!” I hollered in quick succession with a sense of panic. Fortunately, my son is merciful and stopped driving forward. He relaxed his flexed muscles and stood up. There was a glimmer in his eye because he knew he had bested me.

I stood there looking at the fine young man who was standing before me. He was becoming so mature.

It seems like just yesterday that he was the adventurous young boy who fell from a tree and broke his arm. But that was eight years ago. That was the same year he sat with his mom and I on our bed and gave his life to Jesus to become one of his followers. What an honor it was to lead him to Christ that evening and baptize him.

I have listened as his prayers have deepened through the years. What were once halting and child-like prayers are beginning to fill with beauty and compassion as he prays for others. God has great things in store for him.

Christie and I are humbled that God has blessed us with the opportunity to raise our five children. The privilege of watching them grow each day is breathtaking.

Children are a heritage from the Lord,
offspring a reward from him.
Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
are children born in one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
whose quiver is full of them.

Psalm 127:3-5a

I am grateful beyond measure for these simple moments with my son and with each of my kids. God has blessed me beyond measure with the honor of being a dad.

What simple moments in your life are a blessing from God? Have you paused to appreciate them?

What simple moments in your life are a blessing from God? Have you paused to appreciate them?