School was my least favorite subject. Outside of art class, I don’t remember having interest in much else having to do with school. That lack of interest is something that was all too well reflected in my grades. My parents tried everything they could think of to motivate me to improve. Probably the most memorable was the grounding to the backyard for an entire summer. But I persevered, I bucked the system, I overcame the odds, and I showed them all—and I went an extra year to high school. Ironic how someone who detests school is often awarded with more school.
For my parents, the day could not have arrived too soon. With cap and gown in hand, I was one day closer to actually putting high school behind me. The pain, the misery, and the struggle were nearly over. That was good—my poor parents had suffered enough.
Oh the suffering that parents do,
when trying to tame a growing shrew!
Would I wish for a day where the ignorant bliss of childhood would return? Certainly not. Would I have wished for a day when my parents’ suffering was something I could identify with? Never. But wait, look behind me. What is that I see? It’s my son. He seems to be trying to put his feet into my footsteps. A surge of painful premonition overwhelms me. “Not in my footsteps!”
“Oh God! If only he would follow Your path and not mine. Just look at the trail I’ve left behind! Oh please dear God—not in my footsteps.”
My son’s school career seemed like a repeat of my own. My son offered one excuse after another with all sincerity. Poor, poor child; he didn’t know he had homework, the homework was too hard, the teachers were unfair… And yet, daily we would ask him if he had homework, and everyday he would say he didn’t. It amazes me how he pulled it off—you know—getting all the classes where the teachers didn’t assign any homework. My daughter wasn’t so lucky. She has brought homework home nearly every day she has been in school. Must be that her teachers were even meaner than my son’s were.
Fortunately, my son graduated on time. But it came down to the wire and had us wondering whether the invitations should go out or not.
I guess some of us are just not ready for school until we are, say, thirty or so. That’s how old I was before going back. School is a totally different experience when you are motivated, interested, and there because you want to be. My learning tank had plenty of room in it, so during my four years of college, I soaked in everything I could. Graduation came on time. I graduated Cum Laude and my parents were there to see it. Their years of suffering had paid off. I remember the warm thoughts they shared after graduation. “We knew you had it in you. We knew you were smart enough. You just never applied yourself.” They knew indeed. And it may very well be that one day I will know even as they know. And I will be able to say something similar to my own son—say, in twenty or thirty years, or so.
The footsteps I have left behind are sometimes something of a jumbled mess. They move left and right, sometimes in circles, and sometimes right off the path. Not the best trail for my children to look to for an example. But the trail of footsteps that lay in front of me—now that is something to see. The footsteps are perfectly paced and run a straight and definite course. I must at times seem like a young, clumsy fawn learning to walk as I try to step into the footsteps of Christ. But I’ve learned that as I keep my eyes on Him, I’ll more frequently find my feet following His—down this life’s aisle to my final graduation.
If there is one example of mine I would hope my children would follow, it would be to do their best to follow the path of Jesus. While on this path I walk, I may at some point find myself stopping to turn around and look into the eyes of my children. And in that moment to gently and lovingly remind, “Not in my footsteps—but in the footsteps of the One you see me try to follow. ”
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