The Binding of a Boy

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And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together. And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood. Genesis 22:7-9

I’ve had him almost eight years now. And from the moment he first drew breath, I kept him as close to me as I possibly could. But no matter how tightly I clung to him, and no matter how closely I watched him, my fears grew anyway. I used a positioner in his crib to keep him from movement. I allowed no loose blankets because SIDS hung over me. When his Nonnie laid him on his belly to sleep, she jumped up to reassure me that she was right there beside him. As he grew, I gave him teeny, tiny bites of food in order to avoid choking hazards. Even to this day, I cut grapes in half. Well, at least the big fat ones. And you know, even as a little thing, this guy knew. He knew my fear. Perhaps he could smell it. Because when he was only 2 and a 1/2 years old, he delighted in cramming as much food as he could into his mouth, only to look over at me with his lips stretched out as wide as they would go. He wanted me to see inside. It was as if he were saying, “Look, Mama. Look at this choking hazard.” Honestly, I believe my little boy took pleasure in witnessing the panic as it reached my eyes.

With each new year and with each new milestone, a new fear presented. When he could walk, I feared he would be hit by a car. When he could run, I feared he would get too far ahead of me in a store and be kidnapped. When he could jump in a body of water, I feared he would drown. When he became curious, I feared his little prodding fingers would be struck by a copperhead or a black widow. And the list goes on. And on. And on. Fear. And so, I’ve  been working on this. For at least two years now, I’ve been trying to get to the root of my fear. And I’ve made great progress. I know where it stems from, and I know what spurs it on. But no matter how far I’ve come, fear still presents when I least expect it. Like a truly horrendous nightmare a couple of months ago… my son abducted by sex traffickers. Or like last week when I read about dry-drowning on the verge of summer activities. The fact is, despite all I’ve learned about conquering my fear, it still rears its ugly head every now and then. Fear.

Funny thing is, through the story of Abraham and Isaac, I see fear and worship are linked together. When Abraham was called to sacrifice his son on an altar of wood, he called it worship. Imagine the fear in that. And Abraham lay the wood on Isaac’s back while he himself carried the fire and the knife. And when they got to where they were going, Abraham bound his son. He bound him. That means he tied him up before laying him down. Can you imagine? But at the last moment when Abraham reached out for that knife… God intervened. An Angel of the Lord cried out, “Abraham, Abraham!” Oh, the relief Abraham must have felt when he answered, “Here I am.” And there in the thicket was a ram. God provided a substitute sacrifice and Isaac’s life was spared. His son would live. Abraham was told, “Now I know you fear God since you have not withheld your only son from Me.” Yes, Abraham surely feared God. And so did his son. It’s apparent that Isaac followed his father’s footsteps by what I read in Genesis 31:42. “He is the God of Abraham and the God Isaac worshiped.” Or as the HCSB puts it, “The God of my father, the God of Abraham, The Fear of Isaac…” See, fear and worship. They’re interchangeable here.

And then, there’s my son…

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This picture is priceless. There’s my little boy on his tractor with his own baby… as close as can be. And can you see how tightly that little bear is bound? When I finally started using a blanket, the one I used was wound just as tight around my own baby. The only difference is my son’s blanket never extended beyond his armpits. No, that blanket had to go under the arms to be tucked in behind his back. No way would I have allowed it to hover around his neck and ears. Way too close to his nose and mouth… too close to danger. And so, this picture evidences that my son is following my footsteps for sure. And in more ways than can be seen. See, when my son began riding that tractor, he stuck to one path only. A small, round one. He’d spend all his time making that circle… around and around and around. Despite having a whole yard to navigate, he stuck to what was comfortable. The circle. And so it appears that my ways have rubbed off on him. And despite his taking glee in my own panic, I find that he avoids his own. For he has become a cautious little guy. He avoids danger as best he can and is incredibly careful. Like me. And today, I wonder if perhaps that’s not always such a good thing. For I fear I’ve wrapped him too tightly with my overbearing nature over the years. And in doing so, I fear I’ve bound him not to the God above, but to the fear below. And my worry? That he will become what I became in life. Too scared to really live.

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Here’s my boy today. Literally. I took those shots this afternoon. This was the first time on his very own four-wheeler. And I was scared. Fretful. Him? I’m not a hundred percent sure, but I believe he had just a touch of trepidation. For there was a lot of careful riding. And the path he chose? A small, round one. He went around and around and around. He stuck to what was comfortable. The circle. Like when he was three. Daddy told him he could go off in another direction. But when he tried, he was unsuccessful in managing that small incline. See, he needed more speed and he was reluctant to go faster. So, he went back to his circle. Yes, it’s quite clear I’ve rubbed off on him. But again, is that really such a good thing?

Fear. We all have it. Me? Perhaps more than my fair share. But the fear that lays claim to my heart is not meant to be shared. Least of all with my son. Because fear of the unseen and fear of the world and fear of trying new things is not from God. It’s from below. Oh, there’s nothing wrong with being cautious. But from experience, I know that when I’m overly-careful or fear holds me back, I’m prohibited from living. I’m kept from being fully alive. In fact, before I know it, I’m bound. I find myself tied to an altar I don’t want to be tied to. Because it’s the wrong altar. And before I know it, I find I am bowing down to fear… not to God.

And then, there’s my son. Without meaning to, I find my actions bind not just me, but my little boy. Without meaning to, I’ve bound him to the wrong altar. And so by following my faulty footsteps, my son is led astray. I cause him to bow down in worship not to God above, but to a god below. The god of fear. Because he can worry so. And he can be so utterly careful. Too careful at times. And in the binding of my son, he finds himself tethered to a point on this earth that causes him to go around and around in circles. The careful path. And I don’t want that for him. I want for him what Abraham wanted for his own son. I want my child to be bound to one thing only. And I want for him to fear one person only. God. This is how my son can worship. For fear and worship go hand in hand. They’re interchangeable here.

My prayer is that my son will follow my footsteps. But only those steps that lead him in the right direction… the ones that lead him to the proper altar. God’s altar. And by my leading him, perhaps Levi’s own offspring will follow the same path. And when they speak of God, just maybe they’ll say, “He is the God of Pam and the God Levi worshiped.” Or in other words, “He is The Fear of Levi.” See, fear and worship. They’re linked. Hand in hand. But only one fear is the right fear. That’s the fear of the LORD. That’s worship. And the other… well, that’s just plain fear. That’s the fear that will bind you.

No weapon that is formed against you will prosper; And every tongue that accuses you in judgment you will condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, And their vindication is from Me,” declares the LORD. Isaiah 54:17

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