... And they are everything and more.
I still live among boys. All day. Every day. But they are quickly becoming men, and I see it more and more every day.
I see it when I wash clothes and can't tell what belongs to whom because everything is pretty much the same size now ... and that size is ... big. I see it when they get rowdy and wrestle and I feel certain something is about to break ... something like a door or window ... or a wall. I see it when I'm having an emotional crisis and I suddenly feel strong arms around me and a broad chest supporting me and I'm still a single mom, so it must be one of these huge children that lives in my house.
Sometimes it could overwhelm me ... because I had plans and dreams of what I was trying to accomplish and I made sacrifices and choices that were more than a little unconventional, and what I see before me is nothing like what I planned. They are not solid, sure-footed men of God with rock-solid faith ... not yet, anyway. They aren't loaded with accolades and recognitions that point to me as single-homeschooling-mother-of-the-decade. They don't navigate their brotherly relationships with patient negotiations that end with handshakes and bro-hugs, but instead more often end up with everyone feeling like a nuclear bomb of emotions has gone off in our living room and at least one person leaves the room enraged and no one really feels like we settled anything. And most days their lives don't yet affirm that I made the right choices or that my sacrifices were worth what I gave up on our behalf.
Instead these big kids play too many video games, eat too much junk food, watch too much TV (and some shows I'd rather not mention for fear that my weak parenting would really show!). They steal each other's food and ignore repeated requests to do chores and when they do the chores I'm frustrated that the work is only half-way done. They struggle in school, share about our lives too freely (wonder where they get that from?), or don't seem to connect well with their peers. They fight, insult each other, pick new fights, and storm off instead of working things out. They walk past trash on the floor and drop belongings everywhere until I realize I finally need a backhoe and a pressure washer to clean the rooms downstairs. Their rooms are a mess, they presume too much upon my precious free time, and they get mad when I try to make them do what they should already have done or when I won't do what they want me to do exactly when they want it.
So I live with the haunting "voices" that tell me I'm a failure as a mom, that I'm not demanding enough of them, that I don't set a good enough example, and that everything I thought I was doing out of conviction and intentional purpose was really just a way of indulging my laziness and clinging to ideals that my single-mom life couldn't support.
But the voices are lying.
Because I also see three boys who passionately, loyally care for the people in their lives, each in his own way, even when helping those people gets risky, messy, and painful. I see boys who quickly (and sometimes not so quickly) rise to the challenge of helping those who cannot help themselves. I have teenage boys who love kids and don't see it as a waste of their time to load up in the car with a battery of swords and ammo belts and imaginary super powers so they can play with kids ten or more years younger than themselves for hours on end simply for the pleasure of hanging out and playing. Most of all, I delight in having boys who on an ordinary day act like ordinary teenage boys who want space and separating distance from Mom, but on a day when life is collapsing in on me are so concerned about my well-being that they are right there to do anything I need and to hug me and tell me things aren't as bad as they seem to be ... that I'M not as bad as I seem to be, and they point me back to the Savior that I've been pointing them to all this time!
I have to remind myself almost daily that none of us are done yet.
"In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy ... being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." Phillipians 1:4, 6I have never taken my task as a mom lightly. There have been times that I carefully considered the choices I've made - the why and how and what might be. There have also been times when I was overcome with depression, health struggles, exhaustion, and even just my own weakness and sin ... and I just didn't do all I could have or should have done. I can see my own sin-stuggles mirrored in them (because oh my! I have passed them along well!), and I can see my convictions and passions and desire to serve with whatever I do have passed along too, and I'm proud of those things.
My boys may yet become great men of God. They may choose, fail, and struggle miserably as they wrestle with God and with themselves. They may suffer through no fault of their own, from tragedy and difficulties, and question and wonder if God is all He says He is. They may also rise to the challenges they face, make wise choices, and act honorably in ways that surprise them as well as me. In fact, they probably will each have times of great success and troubling trials as they navigate life in this fallen world, and they will probably continue to experience these things even after I'm no longer around to offer my sage wisdom and advice.
But God isn't done. He was working then, is working now, and will continue to work on me and in each of my three boys until the day His work on us is complete and we join Him in eternity.
There is one thing I am sure of: the God I love and serve will still be right there, walking through life with them, working out His plan for His glory and their good ... just like He promises. That is worth every sacrifice. That justifies every choice I've made. That will redeem even my worst sins and mistakes.
And that is what I get to witness ... as I watch boys become men.