“Courage is not limited to the battlefield or the Indianapolis 500 or bravely catching a theif in your house. The real tests of courage are much quieter. They are the inner tests, like remaining faithful when nobody’s looking, like enduring pain when the room is empty, like standing alone when you’re misunderstood.” Charlse Swindoll
I’m taking a vow of silence and I think it’s important to not be silent about it.
Most of you know my little squad of kids consists of three girls and a boy. I love the make-up of who we are and I am certain that we are exactly who God intended us to be, but I worry about my odd man out quite a bit.
I have an older sister and a younger brother and, without going off on another long and emotional tangent, my little brother had a rough go at it. Life ended up dishing us out an order none of us were prepared to consume. But, in the end my sister and I weathered the storms that came our way differently that he did. I wouldn’t claim that we came out unscathed, but I do think we were much less disoriented when the waters finally calmed.
I often wonder if being the only boy amongst us girls played into my brother’s struggles in life and the way things affected him and how he feels about all of us now later in life. And in like, I can’t help but wonder a similar lot in life will also make it a rougher road to travel for my little man.
I am thankful that, thus far, my kids have not had to face trials that have the ability to disorient them. But, everything is relative. To my little boy, trying to keep up is a swelling storm in its own right.
Sports do not come easily for Chase. His victories and shining moments of glory are far fewer than those of his sisters. Because he’s a boy, and I know this is a horrible stereotype, I worry about him. Because he’s a boy surrounded by very ambitiously athletic sisters, I worry even more. I don’t ever want him to think he’s not good enough or strong enough or important enough. I want him to know, that no matter what, he’s an essential part of our team. And for some reason I think I can help him figure that out if I just push him hard enough when he’s on and off the court.
Yes, I am one of those moms. The kind that often finds herself drowning out the wisdom of the coach with my hooting and hollering, certain that my child will play better and harder if my voice is echoing like a gong throughout the game. There have been countless times where I’ve ranted and raved like a crazy woman for half a game before Mikey arrives and gives me the look, (you know, the one that says ‘you are making a fool out of yourself and our kid’) before I find my sanity through humiliation and am able to silence the craziness within me that thinks I am a necessary player in a game that is not my own.
We are in the tail-end of basketball season right now and Chase only has one game left. He plays on a team with some boys that are literally eight-year-olds with, what seems like, the potential to play in the NBA. These boys have a shuffle about them that makes them seem like they were born with basketballs in their hands.
It is clear to every fan that crowds the court that my guy is not quite up to par with these little pros and I know he knows it too. I see it in his countenance. But, every time he manages to get that ball to fall through the net he can’t keep his dimples from popping. He tries will all his might to play it cool and act as if an and act of God has not just occurred but, he can’t. In those small moments I know he feels like he fits in, like he’s good enough, like he’s strong enough, like he matters.
When those precious dimples pop uncontrollably I know it is not my voice that got him there. Even more so I realize how important it is that HE knows it is not my voice that got him there. That court is his battlefield. The courage it takes him to play, even when he’s not the best, is essential in building the character I hope and pray will define the man he is becoming. I desperately want him to attempt the shots even when all the odds are against him. Even when my voice is not echoing off the walls that surround him.
Thus my vow of silence. I am determined that I will no longer scream for him to dribble when he is not. I will not holler his name hoping to halt the goofy dance he is taunting his competition with or the crazy faces that he insists upon flaunting instead of marking his man. I refuse to be the voice that tells him to pass when it’s time to give someone else the ball or to get open if he ever wants a flying chance of getting it himself.
In this arena, where he is always two steps behind, I want the only words that spill from my mouth to come in the form of praise. I want my cheers to accentuate those glorious dimple popping moments, no matter how few they are, when he finds his potential and feels his worth. As my acclamations bounce off the walls of the gym I pray they will seep into his heart and take root, reminding him always that he is good enough and strong enough and that where ever he goes, no matter what he does – he does matter. Not because I said so – but because he knows it is a truth that exists regardless of what I say – regardless of what the world says.
The storms will eventually come and there will be a day I cannot stand beside my little boy and help him brave them. I need to know he can stand on his own. That he’ll be faithful when no one is looking, that he can endure even when he is all alone and that not matter how misunderstood he is – he will always stay true to himself and the man God created him to be.
The fact of the matter is – he is good and strong and important. A mess of strong athletic girls does not change that. A team of eight year old NBA super-stars does not diminish the truth of it. And the rantings of a mother trying to pull it out of her precious boy will not speak it into existence. It’s a truth he needs to discover for himself. That’s when he’ll believe it.
“Adversity introduces a man to himself.” Albert Einstein
My little brother has had to work hard to find it. But, I think after thirty-some years he’s discovering the worth he had all along but that the dirty waters of life muddled up for him long ago. Not because he was the odd man out. But, because somewhere along the way he could no longer hear the voices that told him so and he never learned to believe in the truth of it himself.
My silence is doing more than saving us all from embarrassment. It’s allowing my son to meet himself on his own terms in small moments so that when the bigger stuff comes his way he will not lose his bearings or himself while forging his way through it.