The moonlight cascading into our bedroom oriented me to the fact that it was the middle of the night. I was roused out of a deep sleep to find my 10-year-old son at our bedside.
“Dad, will you pray for me? I’m not doing well.”
A pulse of adrenaline shot through my body and increased my alertness. Our little Abigail is quite susceptible to night terrors, but our bear cub, Joshua, typically sleeps like a rock.
As we made our way into his bunk bed, I could see he was shaken up and given over to fear. Before we could talk, I began to pray, commanding the authority of Jesus once again over his bedroom, his body, soul, and spirit. We brought the Kingdom of God afresh into his heart and mind and ordered warring angels to set a perimeter around his room. Only after that was I able to ask the all-important question: “Joshua, what’s going on?”
He proceeded to tell me he’d had a dream that he was at a birthday party. They were forced to do drugs. And the police came and made them run down the street as a test to see if they were using drugs. And when he went to run, he was too slow so they arrested him.
I was caught off guard. Police?! Drugs?! Where is this coming from?!?!
While leading them on the path of maturing, we’ve worked diligently to preserve childhood and protect the innocence of our kids as deeply as possible. I wasn’t ready for this.
Instead of reacting (which I do far too often), I sensed we needed God’s interpretation on all of this rather than my feeble attempts.
“Holy Spirit, we need your interpretation. What is this about?”
After a linger pause Joshua said, “Dad, it’s about gym class.”
“Tell me more, son.”
“We ran the mile at school yesterday. I was almost the slowest in class. I got beat by most of the girls. I had to walk part of the way. I feel really sad. I feel shame.”
“Son, what is the enemy trying to whisper in your ear through this dream?”
“I am slow and I am weak.”
My son has been bestowed with many great and powerful gifts. But sheer speed over distance at this point isn’t one of them. He’s built like a lineman, towering over most kids in his grade. They call him the “man of the classroom,” as he comes through for his teacher in many ways; he even stands an inch taller than his teacher. But the timed mile isn’t where he’s at his best. And the enemy found an entry point to bring his case against the image of God in my son.
Had I simply reacted out of my own concerns and not asked God, I would’ve missed this entirely. This had nothing to do with drugs or police. It was merely a context for the accusation of the enemy against my son’s strength and his identity as a growing boy.
I find a great temptation to race into these moments with encouragement and affirmation. While those have their purpose and place, I’m learning that a boy needs more than inspiration. He needs the power and the presence of the Kingdom of God at work on his behalf.
He needs access.
Thanks to being a student of older wiser men for years, we’ve done our best to model for our kids how to pray against the enemy’s schemes and to bring the Kingdom of God. But over this past year, Joshua has officially made his transition into a new decade of life: Manscouts—the Father’s quest to lead him from boyhood to manhood.
And with this has come a critical shift in our prayer.
It’s his turn.
“Joshua, let’s ask God to reveal the agreements with lies the enemy is trying to get you to make.”
“You are a good Father. We are your sons. We trust you love us. So, Holy Spirit, reveal to Joshua the agreements the enemy is after.”
A wonder pause ensued, and then a remarkably natural response:
“Dad, I am weak, and I am slow.”
“Okay, now it’s time to break those agreements, son. I’ll start you through it, but this time, I want YOU to pray it, own it, for yourself.”
“Father, I break the agreement that I am weak.
I break the agreement that I am slow.
These are lies from the enemy. They are not true.
I reject these lies in the authority of Jesus. I agree with the truth. I invite you into my heart in these places.
I receive your life, your healing, and your love. Amen.”
His countenance began to change right before my eyes.
Peace and joy and strength was flowing back into his body and soul like a swelling tide.
“Joshua, I think the Father has some words for you, some truth He might want to speak directly into this place. Let’s pause together and listen. Father, what is it you want to say to your son in this place?”
Joshua turned to me with confidence beyond his years and shared with what He sensed the Father was speaking to his heart:
I was blown away.
You see, these are precarious waters for me to enter. This parenting thing is all frontier. Most of the time I feel way out on a limb. And I grew up with my own monumental struggle with my body. As a young boy, I was significantly overweight. And shame filled my heart and fueled a 30-year battle with self-hatred. I too was the slow kid in gym class. Catcher in baseball, goalie in soccer, bench in basketball. The only rational place for a kid my size. My most defining childhood wound came at the hands of a cruel gym teacher. The internal geography of much of my childhood was defined by fear and shame, particularly in this place of struggle over my body and my physical weakness. The accusations of the enemy against me, the agreements I made, and the vows born out of those agreements shaped most decisions I made for decades.
My battle with this agreement lasted over 30 years.
The same battle for my son lasted ten minutes!
You see, our kids will one day outgrow their need for us as parents in very practical ways. But they will never outgrow their need for God.
There comes a transition we must make in shepherding their hearts that moves from modeling Kingdom living to providing them access to the full resources of God’s heart and His Kingdom for themselves.
Joshua bounded out of bed the next morning with a newfound confidence. The Spirit led me to write the words He had spoken to Joshua on a sticky note under his top bunk bed so they’d be the last thing he saw every night going to bed and the first thing that greeted him when he rose. I tucked a copy of them in his lunch box to remind him as he headed off for whatever adventure and battle might be waiting for him at school.
A few months later came another attempt at “the mile” at school. Joshua had put words to his desires for this next test: his goal was to not walk at all and to break the 10-minute mark with his time. With his desire and initiative leading us, we set to training. For two months, I watched the sheer courage of this big bear cub lumbering around our street side by side with mom, sister, and me. It was clear that his courage and perseverance to move directly into his greatest fear was being fueled by the love and intervention of our Father. I reflected on the contrast to myself at his age: I threw myself into fitness too at that age, but from an altogether opposing motive. The agreement “I am weak” drove me to anorexia and compulsive running. I watched in awe as my son was compelled by wholeness instead of shame.
The day finally came. I was completely distracted at work as I kept praying and praying for him with hopes that God would tend to his ever impressionable young heart. I asked my closest peers to stand with me in prayer against Joshua’s enemies and to fight for this budding Kingdom strength being formed in his heart.
I raced home after work to ask the risky question. “Son, how’d it go?”
He smiled ear to ear and raised his arm to show me big numbers the gym teacher had written on his arm in Sharpie. “Dad, I ran the whole thing!”
He stood there, looking 10 feet tall, proudly showing me his time he had written on his arm.
The gym teacher had tracked Cherie down after school that afternoon and told her Joshua was an inspiration and a joy. She had tears in her eyes at how inspired she was to see his character being formed and his determination to do the best he could.
Parenting is beyond human wisdom. I feel like I fly it into the side of a mountain far too often. We need to be parented as much as our children do. God is making Himself available to Father us and Mother us in places deep within our hearts and souls that need an upgrade of what He is truly like and who we are to Him.
The enemy has tried to mask these resources available to us all from a Mother and Father in Heaven who is available and deeply vested in the maturing of our hearts and the integration of our souls more and more with every passing day.
The Sacred Scriptures say in Isaiah that, as we receive mothering by God, the effect will be that we will burst with joy and feel 10 feet tall (Isaiah 66, The Message).
I saw it in my son. And I want more.
For your children.
The greatest treasure we can ever give our kids is their own personal access to God’s heart and God’s Kingdom.
Ask the Father to lead you from modeling the Kingdom to giving them access.
It’s their turn.
They will soon stand on our shoulders.
“And all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” –Julian of Norwich
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