Yesterday, we were late for church (not unusual). When we arrived, we found out, much to our dismay, that they had taken all of the children to the FRONT OF THE CHURCH to participate in praise and worship. Since they would return to their Sunday School classrooms right after, we decided to wait it out instead of walking the kids to the FRONT OF THE CHURCH and letting everyone know how late we were.
While waiting with William, 5, for his class to return, an elderly man came up to him and began teasing him, playing with him. Now, if you know Will, whether personally or from my frequent Facebook posts about his antics, you know that he’s a funny kid and has truly earned his nickname, “Wild Will.” He’s kind of rowdy, and has a sarcastic little sense of humor (now where did he get that??), and sometimes I wonder how he’s going to respond in certain social situations. Usually, I just pray that he doesn’t embarrass me too much.
This man began by asking him some cute questions, and Will, kind of unimpressed, answered them politely yet very dryly and fairly uninterested. Then the man, trying to get a little more of a rise out of Will, grabbed Will’s hand and gently made Will tap himself on the head and cheek with it, asking, “Why are you hitting yourself, Will?” Okay, I thought this was a little weird. Who does that to a kid these days? I know he meant no harm and was just trying to be funny and start a rapport with Will, but it was really kind of aggravating. And, I immediately began worrying about Will’s potential response. He, being a younger brother and the youngest of many cousins, doesn’t put up with much guff, if you know what I mean. I looked on, powerless, ready for the fallout of Will’s reaction. However, he surprised me by just standing there, politely letting this strange, older man beat him on the face with his own hand. “Oh, thank you, Jesus,” I was thinking. But I did notice that Will’s facial expression was beginning to say something like, “This guy is clueless and doesn’t know who he’s messing with…” Uh oh. Whatever was coming next, I was helpless to prevent. The man finally realized that he wasn’t getting anywhere with Will, and may have started to notice the withering look of contempt starting to form on Will’s face, so he stopped. Will kept staring at him, dead on in the eyes, waited a couple of seconds, and in his best ‘bring it on, buster’ voice said, “Just do it again.” I mean, we’re talking Dirty Harry has nothing on this kid. UH OH! Time for mommy to step in. I had a feeling this was coming. I knew that if the man did it again, he was likely to get his shin kicked, but good. Thankfully, he recognized the look on Will’s face, gave a nervous little laugh, and said, “Um, I don’t believe I will.” Smart man. Smarter than I thought, anyway. Will said, “They call me Wild Will. And I am wild. I punched an eleven year old in the stomach the other day and made him cry.” True story. The man just looked at me with a look that said, “Lady, what kind of kid are you raising here?” I just shrugged, and said, “He IS a tough little guy. He’s the youngest and he’s learned how to give back as good as he gets.” The man laughed politely, and finally left us alone. Shew. Will’s class came back, and he happily skipped along to join them for Sunday School. I was relieved that Dirty Harry was now in check and my funny little five year old had returned as I made my way to the church service, sliding into the back row. During the service, my mind wandered a bit, thinking about the whole scene that had just occurred. I couldn’t help but question my parenting skills as guilt set in. Will has a very independent, very funny, very WILLFUL spirit. We discipline him for disobedience and to teach him about things that could be harmful to himself or others, yet we don’t try to break that spirit. We sincerely believe that God created him the way he is, and that one day, all of those stubborn little traits that seem so ornery right now will serve him greatly for whatever purpose God has in store for him. However, as I thought about how he called himself “Wild Will”, which is a nickname I gave him and everyone agrees fits really well, I realized that I may have just tagged him with a self-fulfilling prophecy. Is this funny little moniker, which we all thought cute, something that he is now truly trying to live up to? Maybe it’s not so funny anymore. And yes, I was beginning to beat myself up over it. By the time church had ended, I was sure that I had ruined my son and created a wayward child on the path to self-destruction. I was thinking about going up to pray at the altar during the final song. Maybe I should even get up in front of the entire church and confess this and ask for prayer and support? But I was paralyzed at my seat and I didn’t go…I just stayed and prayed quietly there during the final song, planning to discuss this with my husband. I knew that I would also have to really start talking to William, making sure that I begin calling him by names that truly do speak to his true character, those special characteristics that God has created in him – tender-hearted, kind to those in need, joyful, funny, loving, and yes, full of life and vitality! He is a natural leader, he is a risk-taker, and he loves Jesus – he professes his love for him daily, and genuinely prays for others in need. His bedtime prayers always include “the little children, the sick, and the soldiers.” Maybe, I told myself, it wasn’t too late. But I admit, I was worried that I’d blown it as a mom with this kid. Church was over and I left my seat to go pick the children up from Sunday School. I made my way to Will’s class, and he came running over to me, with a brand new Bible in his hands. I looked at the teacher, and said, “Where is this from? Does he need to put it back?” The young Sunday School teacher just smiled, and said, “No, no…this is Will’s. He prayed to accept Christ as his Savior today, and he received this Bible as a gift.” He almost had to scrape me up off the floor right then and there. The word “stunned” doesn’t do my feelings justice at that point. Lord, you work in mysterious ways! I felt immediate feelings of joy and peace wash over me. Yes, I admit, I also worried, “Isn’t he too young? Does he really understand what he has done?” That is always a question when someone accepts Christ at such a young age. However, Aaron, my 10 year old, also accepted Christ at the tender age of 5. Granted, his temperament is the polar opposite of William, and I didn’t have as many doubts then about his ability to understand and accept it. And, over the years, God has confirmed the reality of his faith and his decision over and over again. Aaron truly seeks the Lord with all of his heart and mind and soul, and I have learned that this miracle of saving faith is not dependent upon a certain age. “But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 19:14 It is not for me, or anyone else, to decide who can and cannot “come unto Jesus.” Jesus calls, and we have a decision to make, each of us. William has been talking to, about, and praying to Jesus for years now. I believe that Christ has taken up residence in his heart, permanently, now. I can’t tell you what this means to me, as his mother…but more than that, I KNOW, by experience, what this will mean to William. No, he won’t be perfect from now on out. Lord knows I’ve yet to achieve perfection since accepting Christ at the tender age of twelve. Yes, he will still be “Wild Will” – and I truly give thanks for that! This means that the Lord has pursued his heart, and William has willingly given it to him. This means that the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the Lord, lives within him, and will begin to teach him, guide him, convict him, and direct him throughout his life. Yes, William will still have choices to make, every day. And he’ll make good ones, and he’ll make bad ones. But I believe that as he grows and matures in his faith, just like we ALL do, no matter what age we are, the Lord is changing him to become more and more like Christ. As his mom, I simply give thanks to God above. My God is an awesome God! And, God, I pray that you will use “Wild Will” to do YOUR will, throughout all the days of his life! Thanks be to God!