The wonder of watching our children cross the threshold of adulthood
“When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things” (1 Corinthians 13:11).
Personally I thought him a little young to go out and get a real job. But our son Josh had already shown initiative, even as a pre-teen. On one occasion he had taken apart a bicycle he had outgrown. He greased each component, shined up the chrome, and spray painted the entire frame before reassembling it. He sold it to the parents of a young friend for ten dollars more than I had paid for it years earlier. It was a good deal for them while earning Christmas money for Josh. Where did he get his business sense? Certainly not from me.
When our children are young, we delight in watching them grow and change. We marvel at every new skill learned. Down inside, however, we secretly want them always to be “our little boy” or “Daddy’s little girl”. Of course, that cannot be. And the happiest parents are the ones who not only give their children good strong roots in the faith but also allow them to test their wings as they grow older.
Suddenly Josh was 15. He wanted a real job. We lived in a rural area 30 minutes from Nashville. The job prospects for a young teenager were not good there. So I agreed to let him look for a fast food job in town. One chain was known for its chicken sandwiches and friendly service. It was also closed on Sunday, a must for a preacher’s kid. They hired him on the spot. Taking him to and from work put many miles on our car. But we wanted him to save money for college, and he enjoyed the experience.
That restaurant chain is virtually the only company he has ever worked for. When we moved to Bristol for me to pastor there, Josh immediately went to work for the local restaurant. As he entered college in South Carolina, he was not in the dorm a week before he had obtained a job with the local franchise there. And after graduation he came to work as general manager in one of their restaurants near the town where I was pastoring in Maryland.
At that time I was facing a particularly stressful ministry in my church. On a lark I asked Josh if I could work under him on my day off two or three days a month for a change of scene. He hired his Dad on the spot. (I figured that I would have to be a pretty sorry worker for my own son to fire me.) So, while making sandwiches or attending customers, I would quietly observe my son at his adult job. It was satisfying to see him take charge and interact well with other employees.
Later he was awarded a franchise of his own in Youngstown, Ohio. On a visit at Christmas one year, Marcia and Josh’s wife Kristy did some shopping. I went to Josh’s restaurant to have lunch. It made me proud to see his picture hanging prominently on the wall. His store was crowded, despite the long-time economic woes of Youngstown.
Standing in line to purchase my sandwich, fries, cole slaw, and drink, I noticed Josh himself was taking orders one line over. So intent was he on his customers that he didn’t even make eye contact with me. A young clerk named Matt took my order and announced, “That will be $7.85.” Not wanting to eat into my son’s profits, I pulled out my billfold to pay. Suddenly, in the middle of taking an order, Josh stepped over and swiped a white card through Matt’s register, zeroing my order, then turned back to his customer. o a befuddled Matt he offered a quick explanation—“That’s my Dad.” No meal ever tasted better. My little boy had become a responsible man.
“Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).