Some years ago I knew of a young man with what was, to all appearances, a fine and stable Christian walk. After leaving home, he fell badly, and unrepentedly. His parents were utterly heartbroken.
Knowing this situation led me to reconsider what I was doing with my son Josiah, who was nearing his teen years. Proactive is my watchword, when I can help it. Nothing brews a more bitter cup than regrets, and my own mistakes and follies have served up quite enough of it as it is.
Josiah was around twelve, and a professed Christian. I thought: "What better text than Proverbs?"
And so the Two-Man Men's Fellowship was born.
The title was lifted from the Men's Fellowship I'd attended at church, only our group was much more exclusive. (I think it tickled young Josiah to be going to a "Men's Fellowship" with his dad.)
Each Saturday morning, we'd go out to the nearby Peet's Coffee, get our fine and fresh joe, sit down with our Bibles, and go through the book, verse by verse. Sometimes we'd do a couple of verses, sometimes a few. There was no hurry. It took years.
The way we did it was to trade off chapters. I led us through the first, Josiah the second. Whoever was leading was responsible for doing his best to guide us through the chapter. Having Josiah lead a chapter gave him some ownership, some responsibility, and ideally some added incentive to dig in and ponder before we met to study.
The times were delightful. And discouraging! More than once we came on a verse that I'd sweat over, in Hebrew and multiple tools, before figuring out what it meant — and, seemingly without effort (and none of that struggle), Josiah would just hit the right meaning. As if it were the easiest thing in the world. I kinda hated him.
No, that's not true. I'm his dad. I loved it. And I made notes of his remarks in my beloved BibleWorks notes feature. With Josiah's permission, here are some choice examples. (Josiah was born in 1995.)
- Proverbs 2:2 — Like turning your radio to a specific channel, so that it will receive it and broadcast it to your brain. (8/15/09)
- Proverbs 4:14 — Solomon speaks of this choice as if it is a trailhead that splits. Two trailheads: righteousness, wickedness. (10/3/09; I think we had recently been on a hike)
- Proverbs 10:20 — If the tongue of the righteous is choice silver, his heart must be mithril! [If you don't get that, Google it or ask a Tolkien fan.] (1/9/10)
- Proverbs 12:13 — If this is true of human words, how much truer of God's words? (4/3/10)
- Proverbs 13:25 — This has both a physical/financial application, and a spiritual/intellectual application. (6/5/10)
- Proverbs 14:17 — The second man is more deliberate than the first. The first acts in a fit of rage; the second lays plans. (6/26/10)
- Proverbs 16:19 — "Better to be a humble hobo." (1/1/11)
- Proverbs 17:19 [notoriously difficult to interpret] — The person who loves to sin loves fights, and making the door high is making a fancy, decorated gate that invites people to come and attack it, knock it down. Application is not to be proud, but humble and embrace God's Word. (No date; would have been 2011)
- Proverbs 17:21 — Part of the sorrow is the pointed fingers, the assumptions about a fool's father (3/12/11)
- Proverbs 18:9 — Made Josiah think of the Death Star in Star Wars. (4/23/11)
We tried one place, but it was too loud and Josiah noted (accurately!) that the coffee "tastes like stewed tomatoes." We tried another, but it was too loud.
Finally, we settled on Panera Bread, whose coffee (when fresh) compares well with Peet's, and which usually has a very nice atmosphere...when they aren't playing "soul-destroying Emo music."
I started these meetings publicly for two reasons: first, to make it special to my son; second, in the hopes that we might catch someone's eye and have a Gospelly dialogue.
Josiah and I went on to spend some time in Richard Phillips' book on manhood, and have recently watched Sye Ten Bruggencate's debate with an atheist (Josiah is a Sye-fan, as am I), and have begun Thabiti Anyabwile's discussion with a Muslim.
I began the same tradition with my youngest child, Jonathan (now 15). We went through a Bible book also, and are now reading together a childhood favorite of Spurgeon's, A Sure Guide to Heaven, by Joseph Alleine.
You're the best judge of what your child needs. But does this sound like a good, doable idea to you, to frame some good one-on-one time in the word for those formative years?
If so, launch your own one-on-one fellowship! (If you want to do Proverbs, Douglas Wilson has a recommendation.)
For my part, I know that the day is fast approaching — too soon! too soon! — when Josiah and I will have our last regular Two-Man Men's Fellowship coffee together. When that happens, ol' Dad will be very sad indeed.
But I'll cherish the prayerful hope that all the golden eternal truths we enjoyed together, over good coffee, will stay with and guide Josiah (and then Jonathan) long after Dad's there to do it in person.