home, that is.
We left Thomas at college on Saturday. It was not a difficult parting. I didn’t even cry. I was sort of surprised. But here’s why…Covenant is such a wonderful place and Thomas already has friends, new and old. In our last hour there, we discovered that there are two young men in school there that our boys played with in Kenya in 1992!!! Amazing!!!
It is what President Neil Neilsen referred to in his talk on Friday night as “the unrent fabric of Christian community” across time and space. Thomas and Eric played together in Nairobi when they were 3 and 5 and they have met again as college students a continent away.
How could I cry after that discovery?
I did get choked up on Sunday morning, though. When the boys got up and I listened to the normal sounds of boys getting ready for church, it hit me that I wasn’t hearing Thomas. Oh! Lump in my throat, tears stinging my eyes.
When he was six, I was sitting in the rocker in the dark of the nursery, rocking and nursing his baby brother. He came into the room to give me a kiss goodnight. As he walked out the door of the darkened room into the light of the hallway and turned his back to me to walk down the hall, I saw him not as a six year old but as a sixteen year old, dark blond hair tinged with golden, broad shoulders, confident stride. It startled me, took my breath away. I’d never had such a premonition and haven’t since. From that moment, ten years before the time, I knew what he’d be like as a teenager. I’d seen him, a man child, strong and handsome. And when he reached that time in his life, it was no surprise to me to see him becoming that young man I’d seen in something more than my mind’s eye ten years earlier.
His high school years were filled with football, friends, and funny sayings. Why he started affectionately calling his brothers “pigs” I do not know. But I chuckle every time he walks in the house and shouts, “Hi PIGS…….and parents.” And we are all happy to see him.
He has been a loyal friend whose friendships have sometimes given his mother pause. At times I have wondered whether he was influencing others or being swayed by some that I wasn't sure were particularly good examples. When the mom leading the homeschool teen group shared with me the ways in which Thomas, an honorable young man, as she called him, was helping some guys who needed some positive leadership, my fears subsided. I still pray for discernment for him, but see more clearly now how God has given him the gift of a magnetic personality to very good purpose.
I didn’t really want him to play football, but he was persistent in his desire. For good reason. In tenth grade he began his Pioneer Football League career and in three years helped to lead his team from a no-win season to a no-loss regular season his senior year.
I will never forget standing on the sideline at a game in Asheville. A man in the bleachers behind us was cheering and cheering as Thomas ran the ball, made tackles, and played his heart out against a much bigger and stronger opposing team. The man, after one particularly good run by Thomas, said, “I LOVE that kid.” I turned around and said, “I love him, too.” “Are you his mom?” “Yes.” “Know why I love him? It’s because he never, never quits. No matter what is happening in the game, no matter how badly they may be losing, he never quits.” He was right. Thomas never did quit. It makes me think a little bit of what Eric Liddell said in Chariots of Fire about feeling God’s pleasure when he ran. I wonder if perhaps Thomas didn’t feel a bit of God’s pleasure as he played. If you don’t love football that may not make sense to you, but having a son who has played like that for three years, and being drawn by this son into the love of the game, it makes sense to me.
He was not my most diligent homeschool student. I think he was a sleuth studier, hitting the books at times and in places that I didn't see. But he managed to do very well, often surprising me with insights from his reading and excelling in his outside coursework. I will consider it a major accomplishment if I ever read all of Shelby Foote’s Civil War, Volume I, which he did his sophomore year.
My friends and family teased me for what I said at his graduation. I commented that it might not appear that he was a deep thinker. They thought I was being negative, calling him goofy or shallow. But what I really meant was that beneath the ripples and splashing on the surface, there was a deep well. Most people see the surface, but I’ve seen the depths. I’ve cast a bucket down in conversation and brought up sparkling, clear, cool refreshing water. There’s more than meets the eye. The cool, handsome, nonchalant, charming, funny, sometimes loud and boisterous exterior hides a wisdom far greater than what either his father or I possessed at his age.
I also said that he had the misfortune to follow two overachievers. He has walked in the shadow sometimes of two very intelligent, accomplished older siblings. I’ll never forget when, after child number 2 received a prestigious scholarship, the same one that child number 1 had received two years earlier, this boy, child number 3, said, with dismay, “Oh no, now the pressure’s on.” My heart broke. Did he think that his performance or ability to accomplish the same thing his older siblings had done was somehow the measure of his worth? I tried to assure him that I had no expectations of him except that he do his very best and shine in the ways that God made him to shine. He has done that. He has not lived in the shadow but created his own brightness, his own shining path these last few years, and the sunshine of his personality has brightened the lives of all of us in the family and many, many beyond.
I’m sure I’ll have many moments of missing him and we’ll all be getting used to the way our house sounds different without Thomas’s (loud) greetings and his (boisterous) teasing. This boy with the ready smile that makes his eyes squint, who is the spitting image of his Daddy,
will light up and bring a spark to new friends these next months and years ahead. We are excited for him…and praying that he’ll remember what time he’s supposed to go to class!