And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. (Luke 2:52 WEB)
I think boys, compared to girls, are the least likely to ever grow up. Girls, on the one hand, start playing house, and other grown up stuff, early in life. Boys, on the other hand, just want to play, jump, run, scream, chase, break, toss and inflict themselves on the world around them. And as they grow older, they want to impress the girls with their ability to play, jump, run, scream, chase, break, toss and inflict themselves on the world around them. Most boys are pretty good at this approach to life. I know, I was one of them.
I also think boys are the same across all ages, cultures, and continents. Someone once said, “Give a boy a stick, a string, and a mud hole and he will be busy all day.” One of my favorite hobbies is watching children play. I’ve done this on several continents, in multiple cultures and countries. Girls, play with dolls, pretend they’re mommies, look cute, sweet and innocent. They bake cookies and offer gifts to others. Boys, are never so docile. They take their stick and smack the other boys and girls around them. Then, laughing, they run through the closest mud hole in their best pants. Finally, they use their string to creep up and capture some unsuspecting lizard to make it a pet. It may only be three inches long but it is a dragon in their mind.
It doesn’t take much to spark the imagination of a young boy. Growing up with two older brothers, I was seldom at a loss for some lame brain idea to pass the day. While my brothers often broke things, usually themselves, I was a bit more cautious and survived youth with fewer scars and nothing broken. I took my share of risks. But I always watched my brothers make the mistake and then I tried to avoid them . . . the mistakes, not my brothers. I’m very grateful they paved the way, with their sweat and blood, so I could emerge from childhood with stories to tell and all limbs intact.
One morning it was warm, the sun was shining and it seemed as if spring might actually arrive. I stepped onto our balcony to survey my kingdom. To most people it looks like the parking lot of an apartment complex. But, to my mind, it’s my royal kingdom stretching across the plains of Burgenland to the foreign borders of Slovakia and Hungary. I took another sip of my royal coffee, there was a crown on the package of coffee grounds I used, I looked down into my asphalt garden and spied an interloper. There, coming from the upper grounds was a young man with a broken scooter. The handle was missing so it looked more like a skateboard than a modern scooter. I watched carefully to see if he intended to break any of the laws of the land. As the ruling monarch this was my responsibility.
The little ruffian rolled to a stop in front of a massive oak tree. There are two such trees which flank the entrance to my royal palace. I live on the top floor and have the best view, and the most stairs. When my children were younger I tried to get them to carry me up to stairs, like good sons should do for their monarch. They weren’t interested and even made some less than royal remarks. So much for absolute authority, and my aging knees.
The young man put one foot on the pavement to stop his rolling and slowly raised his eyes to survey the imposing tree in his path. I could almost hear his mind clanking away, devising some lame brain scheme that involved a tree, his youthful skills, recklessness, and a broken scooter.
He stood for a moment, giving me time to sip more of my royal blend. His head tilted to the left, then to the right. He placed his hands firmly on his waist revealing his sheer determination. The tree was something to be conquered, a castle wall to be breached, a tower to demand a view of the surrounding region. The top was in his sights.
This epitome of youth, striving to prove his manhood, stepped up to the trunk, stretched an arm to either side, placed one food on the wood and jumped. Three or four times, with different grips and alternating feet he attempted to shinny up the tree. Alas, the girth of the plant was more than his eight year old arms could handle. He stepped back, surveyed the tree once more and his eyes sparkled with another idea.
Standing about three feet tall it was obvious, to me, there was no way to reach the first branch jutting out about fifteen feet above the ground. But boys are boys. Everything is there to be conquered, jumped on, chased, tossed or inflicted with their presence. He was not going to give up easily to this immobile protrusion from the soil.
He picked up the broken scooter and placed it against the tree. Sideways as first which did little to increase his vertical advantage. Then he turned it on the end adding another foot or more to his height. He placed one foot on the upper edge, flung his arms wide in anticipation and launched himself at the tree once more.
He bounced off the wood onto his backside and found himself lying on the ground looking into the outstretched arms of his foe. That must have hurt! I struggled not to laugh and spoil the moment. Now boys are reckless, adventuresome and often foolhardy, but, they do eventually learn from their mistakes, which they call valiant attempts.
It took a few more tries, leaving his face print on the bark, before the light dawned. It just wasn’t going to happen today. With resolute determination to come back, maybe when he was older and taller, he put the scooter back on the ground, planted one foot in the center and pushed off up the hill. There had to be a mud hole around somewhere to sooth his spirits.
As I stepped inside, for another royal cup of java, I thought of the many times I hopelessly attempted some grand scheme in life. It was the adventure, the possibility of success which drove me onward.
We do the same thing in our Christian walk. We see something we want to conquer and go at it with all our might. God looks down, chuckles and watches as we struggle and learn. He knows what its like.
When He was incarnate, as a young boy, he learned about climbing trees, skipping rocks on a lake and finding a mud puddle to play in. He understands our desire to shinny up a tree too big for our scrawny arms. His memory is perfect. So His Holy Spirit is here, beside us, cheering us on. He then reaches over and teaches us something new. He shows us our strengths and our weaknesses and we eventually learn. Even those who are still young boys at heart.