It was that night I pulled your navy blue, Crazy 8 hat down over your mop of brown hair. There you were peeking over the edge of the hiking backpack, you as kissable as ever. I sneaked a peck on your rosy full cheeks and we were off on a happy family hike through the woods.
Friday night, family time, beautiful evening. That moment I snapped your picture on my phone, you laughing with the sheer joy of being our boy, it all tumbled together into one happy somersault. For the last week, I had thought long and hard about being your Mumma and I had tangled long with the solemn joy of being charged to raise you up.
You aren’t yet two, but a wise sage once said that age is nothing but a number, and for being 21 months old you sure do know your own mind. You have ideas and opinions and imagination. Your streak of stubborn is nearly the length and depth of mine and coupled with your boundless energy and bottomless determination, you bring me often to my knees. Little invincible you.
I have one chance at raising you up, Cub, and knowing this is what brings me to slow, to think, to pray. It is the greatest charge of all my life, to be your Mumma. To know that how I teach you and guide you and show you the world will form you. This stops me still.
I had all these ideas about who you would be, what you would like and how you would look and none of my imaginations came close to being you. You are so great, Cub, I couldn’t think someone as great as you up. I’m so glad Jesus did. I’m so glad He made you stubborn, energetic, determined, invincible. I mean it, Cub.
And this is where Mumma needs to apologize, Cub, because I know I already messed up and I know I will again. I’m sorry when I lose my patience with you, Cub, even when you made a choice that wasn’t kind or good. When you do something you shouldn’t – like sass me when I set a boundary – I’m sorry when I react in frustration, because Cub? You’ve got to hear your Mumma say this part: who you are, yes even that stubborn streak, is not bad. I want to grow as your Mumma, Cub, and learn to take these moments to teach you, not shame you. I don’t want to break your will, I want to nurture your will.
The world has enough men who have mastered passivity, I want my Cub to be one who lives passionate.
The world has enough men who cower in shame, I want my Cub to be numbered with the brave.
The world has enough men who serve themselves, I want my Cub to be among the gallant and thoughtful.
There are more than enough weak-minded men in our midst, I want my Cub to be found with the strong and the resolute.
We have more than enough vision-less, tasteless people in this world, Cub. I don’t know all the reasons why the state of chivalry and honor and noble servanthood is what it is, but Cub, as your Mumma I want you to know two things.
For all of my days, I will fight for you. Little invincible you. Someday, you will be twenty-one years not twenty-one months, and I know it in the deepest place of my heart, that I cannot afford to break little invincible you. And this is why, Cub, don’t forget this part. Good men don’t happen by accident. I’m no horse trainer, but the best of the best say it – goodness is born from being gentled, not broke. By God’s grace, Cub, I will fight past every ounce of mother-weariness to be consistently strong and gentle. I want the spirit I see in your eyes, to only grow and multiply, because someday, Cub, I want you to be a twenty-one-year-old man with warrior strength. The kind of man who says, “Mumma, there’s a country of cannibals that has never heard the Gospel. There are people who don’t know there’s a God of love. Mumma, I might die over there, I might not ever see you again… but Mumma don’t you know it? If I save my life, I lose my life.”
And Cub? This is why you, little invincible you, constantly brings me to my knees.
Remember when you first wanted to climb the ladder on the playset? I stood right behind you and I had to help you all the way up the four wooden rungs to the top. One hand rested lightly on your back while my other hand guided your feet, each step of the way. The more confident and capable and sure-footed you have gotten, the further I have stepped back. I’m still watching you, ready to help you if you slip, but I also know that I can’t catch you every time you fall. As much as my heart may want too, I can’t protect you from getting hurt, Cub.
So I pray. I pray that I will teach you to have a strong nature and a strong mind and strong constitution. I pray that I will raise you to be stubborn about love and grace and kindness. I pray that I will raise you to be a resolute leader and a determined, courageous force for justice. I pray that I will raise you to be a man with an iron will for all that is good. And this, Cub, is why I pray that my words, my actions, my attitudes, my teaching, and my correction will not break your will, but nurture your will.
The other thing I want you to remember? I will not get it all right. I will mess up, make mistakes and sometimes, Cub, as much as I love you – I might sin against you. I’m sorry, Cub. I’m sorry for the times I won’t do it like I should. And I want you to hear this, Cub, and know it and never forget it – You have a heavenly Father who gets it right every time. Where you can’t trust Mumma, you can trust Jesus, Cub.
He will never leave you or forsake you. He made you just right, way better than anyone your Mumma could ever think up. Not a part of who you are – your intrinsic nature, character and identity – is a mistake, and where you can’t be sure of yourself, Cub? You can be sure of Your Creator.
I love you, Cub. Way up to the moon and way back down. And then some.
And the best part of all that, is that Jesus still loves you more.