Can We Talk?

Well, I did it again this week. I ventured into territory that can make a father tremble.

To prepare, I didn’t shave. Then I strapped-on my man pants, refined my John Wayne swagger and donned a steely stare. And then, I did it.

I had “the talk” with son number three.

I survived. So did he. We both got a bit embarrassed, but that’s okay. I think we successfully launched into what I hope is a long thread of conversation about biblically authentic masculinity.

As I walked my son into the wonderfully strange world of sex, I savored the moment. Between bites of blueberry fritter and gulps of pink lemonade (his choices, not mine) I watched his circuits buzz. His world was rocked. I’d pursue him with a question; he’d deflect. I’d redirect; he’d chew quietly. I talked to fill the voids while he sat and visualized. I was sweating. I bet he was too. It was like a five-hour Wimbledon final.

You see, my son likes to ponder. He considers things carefully. He needs space. And time.

But as we talked that morning, I realized that until he put words to his ponderings, we weren’t able to interact meaningfully. Thoughts are wonderful, but until they find expression they are untested and vulnerable. I couldn’t just deliver the facts to my boy and consider the task complete. We needed to talk. And we did – eventually.

If you’ve been following this blog recently, you’ll recall we’re in the midst of a mini-series on parenting. To get caught up, start here.

Last time we plunged into Deuteronomy 6. Specifically, we looked at the first part of verse seven and extracted the word “teach.” This time, I want to focus on the same verse, different word: “talk.” For refreshment, here’s the verse:

“You shall teach them [God’s commands] diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. (Deuteronomy 6:7 ESV)

Teaching devoid of talking is to not really teaching. Some might define teaching as the transfer of information, knowledge or ideas. In my opinion, stocking intellectual warehouses just for the sake of filling empty spaces is futile. Conversation is required to ripen cognitive collections.

When we talk with each other, we process. Our interactions add living color to the black and white of fact. Talking through ideas and observations with others softens dogmatic tendencies and aids digestion of our brokenness. It broadens perspective as theories hit the wall of collective experience.

It makes sense that God instructs parents to talk with their children. If you’re a parent like me, we can’t just do a data-dump of life’s instructions on our children. We must talk and process – a lot. Spiritually speaking, talking about God helps make His story personal. It helps bring the requirements of following Jesus into everyday contexts. As we talk through sibling squabbles, hurt feelings, game-winning shots, playground bullying, first-place finishes, failed tests and jilted relationships our kids – and us – will grow to understand more of God’s character. Talking about life opens opportunities to engage our individual stories with God’s story in ways matter-of-fact teaching or isolated pondering cannot.

I’m not a talker. Like my son, I prefer to ponder. So for me, talking isn’t easy. It’s work. Work that requires patience and a determined disposition. Work that requires alertness hours after my desired bedtime. Work that demands freshness and grace when re-engaging an oft-had dialogue. But God asks me to talk with my children about life, and Him. So I will – gladly.

Not all conversations require a furrowed brow and 5 O’ clock shadow. But whether talking “birds and bees”, Donald Trump’s hair or the meaning of life, talk with your kids. About everything. All the time.

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