Natalie took this photo of tiny Mitch on my shoulders while we were on some adventure deep in the wilds of Wyoming. Every time he sat on my shoulders he would pull my hair with his chubby little hands in the direction he wanted me to go. Mitchie would giggle as I winced and moaned from the pain of pulling my hair. The hurt I felt was a nothing compared to the joy I experienced when he laughed.
On this day we were playing by a swift but smooth flowing river. Mitch would use his same chubby fingers to scoop up a pile of pebbles and hurl them into the water – sending a cascade of ripples downstream. To Mitch, it was like fireworks in the water. To me, watching my son was fireworks to my heart.
Although Mitch was young, I felt even younger than him. In many ways, I felt like a child raising a child. In those early years, when the realities of being a father settled on my mind and shoulders, I would panic a little on the inside because I felt wholly inadequate and unprepared for such a responsibility. Oh, I loved my wife and kids with all of my heart, but when I went to college, I never learned how to be all of that. I suppose, as with most things in life, we learn by doing.
What I wouldn't do to go back in time and talk to the younger me. I would tell myself:
- You will make mistakes. Just remember you are not your mistakes … but you become what you do with them.
- Relax, you’re okay.
- When you fall, try to fall forward.
- Read that extra book at bedtime.
- You will never have now again. Cherish … everything.
- Slow down and let tomorrow be. Tomorrow is coming soon enough.
I tried to do all that stuff … but I wasn't always the best at it.
As I reflect on this tender time with Mitch I can’t help but think of that fast moving “wivo” that entranced him so much. Today I can see a different kind of river and it is fascinating to behold. I cannot see where it is going, I can only see backward … leading up to this moment.
As much as I thought I knew what I was doing in my younger years, I can see that I had no idea. However much I tried to peer into the horizon as a young parent and professional, there were currents in life that were taking me places I wasn't wise enough to pursue on my own. I thank heaven for the currents of life that have gently guided me along my own path. I am grateful for the people I have met whose currents blended with mine, even if only for a season. My life is better because of it.
I have learned to trust the current. Yes, I need to make wise choices while in the river … and there are rapids, undertows, and hazards of all kinds. If I'm not careful I can certainly drown. But I have come to learn I can no more stop the current of life anymore than I can stop Niagara Falls with my bare hands. So, rather than swim against the current or pretending such heavenly currents don’t exist, I am trying to swim where I am supposed to swim.
One day, I pray the current will take me to that place beyond the hills; where I will stumble from the shore tired and tattered … longing for rest. And on that day I will see my son again and my tears will fill the river to overflowing. Niagara, by comparison, will seem like a dripping faucet.
As much as I yearn to, I cannot see the river ahead. So on my journey, I have learned to trust in my heart as much as my head. Sometimes I’m not sure I'm swimming in the right direction … but this much I do know … I'm learning to trust the current.