I was 15 in 1988, which was a really cool time to be 15. It’s the year Kirk Gibson, who had been injured in the NLCS, pinch-hit the walk-off home run in game one of the World Series and was barely able to make it around the bases with two injured legs. The NBA champs were the Lakers, who had a team full of guys who were so colorful they were known by one name like, Kareem, Magic, and Kurt. Well, maybe Kurt was better known for his wreck-specs but I loved him. Gritty, uncoordinated, not too good looking, and well versed at giving up the ball to the incredible athletes on his team, he reminded me of me.
That stuff was cool but the best thing about 1988 to me was a small console about the size of a shoebox. Nintendo was released about 3 years earlier, but it takes things a little while to make it south Arkansas.
We had two TVs. One was in the living room. The other was in my mom and dad’s bedroom. Since I wanted to play RBI Baseball or Tecmo Bowl or Mario literally every waking moment, Dad hooked up our Nintendo to the TV in their bedroom. I’m typing this on an iPhone 6+. For reference’s sake, understand the TV screen I’m talking about was probably about the size of two of my phone’s placed side by side. This also probably explains why I’m staring at my iPhone 6+ through strong bifocals.
To be fair to me, I actually only played Nintendo about 14 hours per day. The other 6 waking hours were spent blowing in cartridges (ask your parents), holding the reset button for 5 seconds, and adjusting the cartridge with the delicacy of brain surgeon to get the Nintendo to work.
One day when I reached to plug in the gun for Duck Hunt, I noticed my name in a paragraph halfway down the yellow legal pad on my mom and dad’s dresser. Legal pads were everywhere in our house. Dad would scribble sermon ideas down at a moments notice so there was always a pad nearby. I never really paid much attention to what was written on them, but on this day the presence of my name caught my eye.
I looked to the top of the first paragraph and realized quickly this was a prayer that Dad had written out as part of his devotion time. The thought occurred to me that this might be private so I did the appropriate thing. I appropriately kicked the door closed so I wouldn’t get busted. I skipped over the boring parts about my mom and sister (Sorry La, this is before your time) and got down to the good stuff. The stuff about me. And what I read completely blew my mind.
I don’t remember the exact words but this is how it was written on my heart that day.
“Lord, be with Jon. I KNOW he is at the age where he is facing serious sexual temptation. Keep him pure and focused on living a life for you.”
WHAT?! Wait, Dad knows there is sexual temptation in the world? And not just in the world, IN ME!!
Dad and I had talked about the basics of these things a few years before this but his voice had been replaced by the voice of my guys on the bus headed to baseball games and the ever growing influence of TV and other dumb voices I was turning to.
As great as 1988 appeared to be, there was a war going on. And I’m not talking about the Cold War. Have you been a 15 year old boy lately? I remember some of what it was like. The basic thought process is girls girls girls fun girls girls girls fun girls girls girls. (I’ve wrestled with whether this next thought is a little too base to say out loud, but I think it’s important to give you a glimpse into the struggle.) I mean you go to class to learn, but at some point in the day, out of the blue a thought like this hits you. “Hold on. I think all the girls in here with clothes on are not wearing clothes under the clothes.” If you’re a guy, try to remember one thing you learned in the 8th grade. Isn’t that sad?
Being a young teen is a tough time. So tough, that if you are a guy trying to do right, it will almost feel like you’re losing your mind. I had no idea anybody had ever faced that kind of temptation. I felt bad just for being tempted by the stuff. What kind of low-life thinks something like that? Nobody understands that battle.
Then I saw my Dad’s prayer. And although he was just praying for my strength, to me he was saying, “Jon, you’re not a crazy, unsalvageable low-life. You are in a normal struggle that I understand.” It meant everything to me. It was new life to me. Even though I felt guilty for invading his privacy every time I read it, I went back and read it time after time until the notebook was moved.
I don’t know what to do with all this. What is my point? I think if Dad had come to me and said these words I’d probably have been too weirded out to take them in. I think the best takeaway from this is to pray for your kid in their current season. I think that in a cool twisty way Dad’s prayer was answered by me reading the prayer itself.
Or maybe the takeaway is to be sure to write “PRIVATE-DO NOT READ” as the heading of any document you want your kid to notice. We might as well cash in a little on depravity.