I was in Florida; my son (maybe six) was home in California and we were talking on the phone. Me: "I bought you a souvenir." My son: "yeah- well it's probably not a weapon." He was right.
The count down: Summer, summer, summer. Friends, barbecues, beaches, mountains, fishing, boats, bike rides, baseball, the distant laughter of kids playing ... AND movies outside in the park and inside at the movie theater. Going back through the years.... Star Wars, E.T., Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
In the Fall of this year, I spent the afternoon and evening with my second grade friend and her two sisters. I asked her about the culture of second graders. Her quick response was that ALL the boys were INTO Star Wars. She said, don't even mention Star Wars!
In honor of David Letterman's last television episode: My Top 10 Star Wars Quotes:
10) None of the films I've done were for a mass audience, except for Indiana Jones. Nobody in their right mind thought American Graffiti or Star Wars would work. George Lucas
9) I don't have sophisticated tastes. I have average tastes. If you looked in my collection of DVD's, you'd see Jaws and Star Wars. In the book library you would see John Grisham and Sidney Sheldon. And if you look in my fridge, it's like, children's food - chips, milkshakes, yogurt. Simon Cowell.
8) Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering. Yoda
7) Acting in Star Wars I felt like a raisin in a giant fruit salad, and I didn't even know who the cantaloupes were. Mark Hamill
6) Sith happens. Darth Vader
5) A Jedi uses the force for knowledge and defense, never for attack. Yoda
4) Star Wars was magnificent, but you could tell Darth Vader's ships were glued together. Gary Coleman
3) What we need is Star Peace and not Star Wars. Mikhail Gorbachev
2) I grew up with the religion of Star Wars, frankly. That's when I realized there is something bigger out there... and it's called the force. Trey Parker
1) May the force be with you. George Lucas
Baby: With the first kid, you try to get everything perfectly right... I listened to classical music to calm the baby in the womb (Four Seasons by Vivaldi). I devoured tips - What to expect when you are expecting by Heidi Murkoff. Graduating college in 1992, my son was a recipient of a mother's love during a time when I was studying Sociology at U.C.S.B. He was born in 1990, two years before I graduated from college. Having been immersed into the political, economic and social inequality of various groups of people, I avoided guns or proponents of violence. That kid (my son) made a gun out of everything he could find... sticks, pencils, legos. The harder I tried, the more he made them so when my step-father bought him a toy rifle when he was four or five years old for Christmas, you would have thought he won the lottery. It was, by far, the best present of Christmas.
Boys need to be boys... Men need to be men.
Teenager: Fast forward to when he was sixteen. Like me, he learned to drive with a stick shift. He maneuvered the highways of Los Angeles and drove the two lane roads (called the pass) near our home. Since his birthday is in early January, he learned to drive in rain and fog. So... when he and his dad made the trip to the DMV office, the infamous "Rosa" awaited them. You should probably know that when the high school kids, by the luck of the draw, received Rosa as their instructor, beads of sweat hit their foreheads. The drive back with a parent was a long, dreaded one since the trash talk back on campus would be grueling should they fail to pass Rosa's scrutiny.
My son passed on the first try... his dad didn't fare so well; Rosa's stern reprimand on his parking ability in the first few moments of their arrival reminded them who was in charge.
Even though my son passed the required behind the wheel training and preliminary license, I still grappled with fear. I knew he was a good driver but experience was not his friend. Luckily, in California a teenager could not drive other friends for the first year. By the second year, however, he wanted to drive our mini van and take his buddies skiing. A nine hour drive, into the snow for a weekend of fun. Sweat hit my forehead as fear and my imagination hit overdrive with the possible negative outcomes. ... he doesn't know about driving in snow, I thought to myself. Side note: my family represented at least three Fire Departments in North Lake Tahoe and I grew up listening to every automobile accident in a forty mile radius.
As I wrestled with the pros and cons whether he should go, my girlfriend with three daughters chimed in with her opinion: You are raising a man to be a husband and a father. Do you really want to raise a wimp that doesn't know how to drive in snow? Ouch- she had a point. So, on my knees, I reconciled my fear with my responsibility to let go and he went.
I say... bring on the wrestling, rough housing, paint guns, tractors, fast cars, video games and other elements that allow testosterone to be mixed with a good balance of compassion, warmth and service to others.
Adulthood: My son graduated from college. Less than a week later, he packed his truck and moved to Lake Tahoe for the summer to work on the docks of a marina. Working at a higher elevation, his body began to become acclimated to a lower oxygen level which was a deliberate act of preparation as he anticipated an outdoor leadership expedition in the Fall. Destination: Himalayas. At the conclusion of summer, he was signed up for a thirty plus days NOLS expedition in South Asia. Hiking in all conditions, the terrain included both dry, sun scorched paths as well as icy drifts as they reached altitudes in excess of 16,000 feet.
As his experiences changed, the stories revealed layers of depth and challenge as he navigated the compass of life. I remember him telling me about a goat and a village. The team had been on the trail for a while; the bubble of culture had been burst into sediments of humility and courage. His was a small group of people living together in the back country so on the rare occurrence of meeting villagers in Asia who were untouched by western civilization, the conversation around the fire was unique and far reaching. There was to be a dinner. As a gesture of hospitality, the group asked for a volunteer to kill the goat; my son stepped to the plate to sacrifice the goat's life. Every part was used in sustaining these two people groups. Two very distinct cultures came together around a table and a meal.
Reflection: The hardest part of being a parent is our baby steps towards letting them go. God designed us to cherish and hold them for a while but then allow them the freedom to live life fully on their own terms. My first instinct of hearing about the sacrificial goat was to think about sweet little Bambi in the woods; my second thought was that we raised a man. Not that he could kill a goat but when the team grew weary, he was also the one to stand strong in adversity.
Change takes time ... and baby steps. Both the child and parent grow, learn and adapt to the winding road and obstacles along the way.
What does all of this have to to with Star Wars?
Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, lightsabers, Galactic Empire modes of transportation, Ewok, C-3PO, Yoda, Darth Vader, good and evil, father and son. Star Wars captures the imagination and inspires bravery.
Borage - a flower of courage.
To love fully and completely means to risk unconditionally; it is jumping out of the safe confines of self-preservation into the safety nets of our vulnerable, fragile selves leaving our hearts forever changed. Will we take the risk? Movies allow us a moment to imagine that we too are bold, courageous and chivalrous.
Like Star Wars, E.T. is a tale about love, adventure and friendship.
I rarely saw Papa cry. A Pearl Harbor survivor, he was tough which is why the tear I saw after we watched this movie together was one I won't easily forget ... "damn movie" he said. Few words but a powerful statement.
The one story
Jesus was courage and humility mixed into one.
Luke 22:42 :
"Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine."
As I wrestle with the bravery demonstrated in Star Wars and the compassion in E.T., I am reminded of a simple prayer. "Phone home" for God's guidance and counsel.
"Father, please take this cup of suffering from me. Yet I want my ways, and not yours."
God's timing is not my own. For the first time in my life, I have shifted my attitude away from my need to please everyone and instead, on my knees, seek to find the fruit of pursuing Christ. For one year I have put faith above self-sufficiency and in the process, have discovered love. I am frightened. Vulnerability, Availability and humility are not popular words in our culture. I would rather lean on a tough exterior, a busy schedule and confidence in my own ability; those are areas I can control and in the process, keep fear at arms length. With baby steps, E.T.'s finger touches his chest to his mouth: ouch.
Ouch. Isn't that what it is all about? From fictional characters in Star Wars and E.T. to real-life friends and family we have allowed to penetrate our souls; tenderly and humbly, we each say, "ouch." The result is love. It took "phoning home" where God knew the deep crevices, empty places and whispers of broken, trampled petals in order to begin baby steps towards bravery (Star Wars) and compassion (E.T.).
Because of divorce, I closed the door to people. Because of redemption, I have opened that same door back up and in the process discovered a slightly different view of God. I am scared but am slowly shifting more towards God's words, "Father, if you are willing." I am still working on the "Yet I want your will to be done, not mine." Both you and I are on a journey. You and I need each other to encourage, strengthen and pray; the fruit being a life filled with tough choices, narrow roads and great humility.
As I struggled with baby steps to slowly let go of each of my children (in allowing them to be equipped and encouraged to pursue their dreams and lives) , I have taken baby steps myself in allowing God to fill the vacancies. In the process, I have re-evaluated loving Him with all of my heart, mind, soul and strength. I think the disciples were not scared of dying but in loosing their faith.
As I listened with high school girls this week at a bible study about a father's blessings, I was encouraged.
We have the ability, with Christ, to send that blessing back up the cross through generations even if we didn't experience it in our own lives. God is all about redemption and changing lives but he needs willing servants that demonstrate courage, bravery and compassion. He is calling grown men and women to become like children in their faith. Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia or a myriad of other characters. Will you be one? If not, why not "phone home" and ask for the strength; I did.
May the force be with you .... always and forever.
Pictures: Courtesy Fotolia or me; Videos on U-Tube; Links to Wikipedia
A person who searches for depth and beauty in the simple things.