(This post is a little different. This time, I'm going to let music create the mood. So, my dear reader, FIRST, press 'play' on the video above. THEN, let it play while you read. Thanks.)
There is no stage of childbirth quite like transition. No stage requires such focus and such endurance. Shorter than the other stages, still...it is absolutely the most intense part of giving birth.
It is the point of the process when a woman's body moves from laboring to birthing. Out of transition comes birth. Out of birth comes the baby. So transition serves a wonderful, miraculous purpose.
But it is not fun.
I wish the birthing process was the only time transition occurred. But it's not; transition happens again when your children must undergo the birthing process of adulthood. Like transition, it doesn't last very long. But, like transition, it is intense and sometimes painful. It is also absolutely necessary.
It is no small thing to cross the line from childhood to adulthood. The journey to that place of maturity is hard. And it is hard for a parent to watch. It's like watching your child molt. His desire to be independent is so strong that he doesn't even realize the extent of his vulnerability. Our job as parents is to prepare them as much as we can for this point. We educate them so they can understand the world around them. We disciple them so they can understand their place in the world around them. But we cannot become adults for them. They have to do that themselves; and we have to watch.
I love the movie Thor.
Personally, I find superhero movies to be incredibly inane. Calling people 'heroes' because their bodies suddenly explode into a green mass of muscles or they have a special iron rocket suit is just...insipid. More than that, though, note the complete absence of a moral compass, and we move beyond merely insipid to downright tragic. As a society, we've inoculated ourselves against genuine heroism by elevating people who may be chronologically old but comport themselves with the self-absorbed maturity of a middle-schooler. (No offense to my middle-schoolers...) In short, Hollywood's heroes have never made the Transition.
Thor, however, is the exception.
Thor is the boy who would be king. But he is impulsive and proud, disdainful of his father's wisdom and quiet strength. Despite Odin's warnings and rebukes, Thor opts to pick fights rather than wage just war;
show off rather than show restraint;
mete out vengeance rather than practice longsuffering.
Though the law of Asgard declares that he is ready to be king, his wise father determines that he is not.
Thor's transition to manhood is the quest for maturity. And his father grieves over his foolishness. But the painful consequences of Thor's brash pride finally capture his attention in a way that none of his father's discipleship has been able to. It's more than a cognitive realization that he has made this mess; it's a willingness in his heart to accept responsibility, to make things right. And with that...Thor becomes a man. He returns to the halls of Odin and restores his relationship with his father--like a man.
My favorite scene is the profiles of the old father in front and the son--now a man--shadowing him.
Thor: There will never be a wiser king than you, nor a better father. I have much to learn. I know that now. Someday, perhaps, I shall make you proud.
Odin: You've already made me proud.
The world tells us that our children are adults when they turn eighteen. But parents who are paying attention know better, much better. They know that where there has been no Transition, there will be no adult.
Children insist that they are omnipotent and omniscient.
Adults realize that we are not.
When do I know that my children have made the Transition?
When they crave counsel;
When they demand accountability;
When they call home and say, "I really need to talk to Dad."
When they stop seeing authority as restrictive and start seeing it as protective.
We recently walked through Transition again.
It was not long...
But neither was it fun.
We sweat bullets watching the process.
It wasn't just questions; it was questioning.
You see the difference?
It was struggle and debate and experiment.
It was sleepless nights and gritty prayer and pounding hearts.
It was steely eyes and and clenched jaws and heels dug in for all of us.
The intensity of the Transition was palpable and unmistakable.
And then it was over.
There was a quiet, "I've learned."
And there was Peace.
A few months later, another very real crisis materialized, one caused this time by integrity...and Brett's phone rang.
"I need to talk to you, Dad."
The two men talked.
My two men.
And I was thinking of Thor again.
Two profiles of men of integrity, the younger borne of the older, both wanting the same good end.
The Transition had occurred.
He had made us proud.