“Check out these GUNS!” My eight-year-old raced into the room wearing nothing but flannel snowman pajama bottoms, and proudly posed for me, arms bent tight in a classic body-builders stance. Little sinews and bones so lean that the muscles, while still tiny and childlike, stood in sharp definition. His four-year-old brother trotted behind, trying to do the same, chubby belly pooching over his bedtime pull-up. They turned circles, grunting and growling, before tumbling into the floor in a tangle of testosterone and legs.
-Learning to lean in, to never give

photo used with creative commons permission

Little men, longing to be big ones, strong and capable. The toddler’s battle cry: “I can do it!” howled  long before they really can. As they’ve gotten older, life has gotten bigger, and the battle cry begins to change. “I can’t!” they cry before they’ve even begun. “It’s too hard!”

It might be homework. It might be the sea of fallen leaves on a lawn. It might be emptying the dishwasher or carrying groceries in from the car. Life is full of challenges. Life is full of resistance.

They get older and the challenges change. Final exams and term papers. Research reports and making right choices when everyone else is making wrong ones–turning away from temptation, turning away from sin.

I have never been that into exercise, but lately, my metabolism is apparently falling asleep. Now, I work out at a gym three days a week, climbing, pushing, pulling, burning calories and building muscle. (I’m trying to give back the ten pounds I was given for my 40th birthday. Le sigh!) Resistance builds muscle. We push and pull and lift to make our limbs strong.

Just as they seek to strengthen their bodies, we must also encourage our sons to strengthen their will. Persistence is just like a muscle, after all. Use it often, and it strengthens. Quitting is like a muscle, too, but one I hope remains weak and unused.

“The more often you quit, the easier it will be to do it again,” Gabe tells him in his wise and fatherly way. “Don’t let the quitting muscle become strong.”

Colin couldn’t understand why, when issued the requisite of all fourth graders, the recorder, he was unable to play the Star Wars theme melody in the first week. “I’m never gonna learn how to play this thing!” he wailed. “Stefan already can play eight songs!” (Stefan plays the piano and the clarinet and has done so for three years. Stefan already knows how to practice.)

He’ll get it in time. I’m not worried. The beauty of perseverance is that, in hindsight, the results are clearly visible. If we keep nudging him forward, he’ll be able to look back and see how far he’s come. We won’t let him quit, not now, while he’s young. Someday we won’t be able to make that decision for him, and it is our hope and prayer that all of this practice will strengthen his persistence, and his quitting muscles will remain unformed and unused.

Learning to lean in when times get tough, to never give up – this is a skill I want tucked into their pocket as they set out into the world.

Prayer for Today:

Lord, create in my sons the ability to push through the hard parts. When they face obstacles, trials or troubles in their lives, give them an extra measure of your strength so that they will persevere. Grow their faith in you that will grow their faith in themselves, so that they will know with certainty that all things are possible when you are at their back.

Additional Resources:

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26 NIV

So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit.  Galatians 6:9 MSG

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us… Hebrews 12:1 NIV

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2 NIV

Discussion Questions:

  1. Do you see your kids often exercising their quitting muscles? How have you been able to motivate them to perseverance in the past?
  2. How do you demonstrate perseverance/persistence in your own life so that your children may learn by your example?
  3. What are some areas in your son’s life that he is already showing perseverance or persistence? (And yes, being strong-willed does count! You just need to help him learn to redirect that will!)

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