My son turns thirteen tomorrow.
One evening, a little over a week ago now, I walked into his bedroom. As I did, my dad-sense went off. This is sorta like spidey-sense; you know danger is near, you stand at the ready. My son had his Nintendo gaming system in hand. These hand-held machines now all contain browsing capabilities, as in browsing the web. We have clear rules regarding 'online.'
Bud, have you been surfing? This is one of those moments when its really important to tell the truth.
His face told me the answer, then his mouth followed. I shut his bedroom door and sat the edge of his bed.
Why don't you show me what you've been looking at.
He protested, trying to explain, to tell not show, that he'd been searching on Google images. The story goes that the boys at school had been feeding him tales of the sexy girls you could see there. He protested a little more, as I said he turns thirteen tomorrow. But I gently protested even more, as I turn forty-three in about a month.
Why don't you take me where you've been. We'll go together.
And so my son showed me the pages he'd been viewing, a hand-held screen full of images along the lines of the SI swimsuit issue, nothing he hasn't seen watching Dancing with the Stars or in Avatar's 3D. I looked at the search box to see what he had typed: 'sexy girl hollywood movie star models.' The innocence in that moment was almost too much for me; my son was struggling even for the lingo to type - does that make sense? His friends at school could no doubt be there in one word while he was typing six...this bumbling, stumbling, unedited far-from-savvy searching fueled by desires that are growing as he does.
We gotta be real careful here, man...this can take you to some dark places, fast, too fast.
The heart of our conversation after that is sacred, just between father and son. It is an ongoing one. The two of us are going out this evening; it will continue then. I don't want to diminish in any way the gravity of those moments. The stories of porn addiction seem to be legion these days, more often than not starting at about his age. Our cultural landscape is littered with abuse, wrecked marriages, pain. I also don't want to diminish in any way the gravity of those moments. My almost thirteen year old son is wrestling with his self, his mind, his body, his very soul and how those facets of who he is fit together, rarely if ever smooth. These wrestlings do not go away. I know. I'm almost forty-three. Yes, yes, the apostle said we wrestle not with flesh and blood, but somedays I'd swear he was lying.
In the wake of that evening, I felt another conversation going on, between another father and son.
God: We gotta be real careful here, John...this is about his heart. And yours.
Me: I know. Please help me. Please. I'm not spiderman.