One Ring to rule them all

Caleb and I are reading the Hobbit (J.R.R. Tolkien) in the evenings.  We are just to the part where Bilbo finds the ring and escapes from Gollum.  For those unfamiliar with the story, there is a poem that describes a set of magical rings in Tolkien’s world.

Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.

The ring in the Hobbit that Bilbo finds was the “One Ring” to rule them all – the Ring that belongs to Sauron, the very powerful force of evil in Tolkien’s series.  The ring is so powerful and evil that it will corrupt anyone that wears it.  However, a special power it has is that it will make the bearer of the ring invisible.  And, this is how Bilbo, the protagonist in the Hobbit, escapes from Gollum, a foul creature that lives in a dark cave.

While we were reading through this passage, Caleb started getting excited, and we talked about being invisible.  I asked him, “What would you do if you had this ring, and you could become invisible?”

With an excited look on his face, he exclaimed, “I would look at bugs!”

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Dad, would you kill me?

There probably comes a point in every diligent Christian (and Jewish) father’s life, when his son asks him this question.  For me, this was last Saturday.  We were reading the story of Abraham and Isaac.  To be honest, this was always a bit of an awkward story to be reading together.  This is probably our third time visiting this story.  And as he stared at the picture of Isaac bound on the pyre of wood staring at Abraham with his arm raised holding a knife, something probably clicked inside him.  He turned to me and asked, “Dad, would you kill me?” 

To be honest, I was a bit stunned.  I guess I should have known that this question was coming at some point.  For about 30 seconds I was silent.  Like a deer in head lights.  I wasn’t sure what the right answer was.  In the story, Abraham is represented as being great for his willingness to obey God and sacrifice his son.  Was that the answer?  But the truth was, I probably couldn’t do it. 

Last week, I was tasked by my wife to pull Caleb’s front tooth out.  She pulled out one of the loose front teeth which was a bit of an ordeal, and she wanted me to “share in the joy.”  She gave me a deadline of Sunday.  I told Caleb that he should play with his tooth as much as he could, because I didn’t want to pull out his tooth.  Finally on Saturday night (same night as the Abraham/Isaac incident), I convinced Caleb to tie a piece of floss around his loose tooth so that he could pull it out.  I told him I wanted him to do it, because I didn’t want to.  For about 30 minutes, he valiantly tugged at the piece of floss.  Couple of times, he pulled it hard enough that the tooth would start bleeding, but not hard enough to actually get it out.  He probably didn’t know this, but I tied the floss in such a way, that the only way to get the floss off was to pull the tooth out.  (Maybe there was a way to do it with some fine razor blade work, but essentially there was really no turning back… )  I had suggested all kinds of odd urban legend type techniques like tying one end of the floss to a book and dropping it.  Or tying it to a door knob and kicking the door.  Finally, we had settled on tying the floss to a bedpost while he slept, and hopefully he’d roll over in his sleep, pulling the tooth out.  Luckily, my wife came in to intervene.  She invited him to the bathroom.  She inspected the tooth, and out of nowhere, she ripped on the floss, and the tooth came flying out.  Caleb was stunned.  I was stunned.  No crying.  Everyone was just stunned.  The tooth flew up and ricocheted off of the ceiling, and was nowhere to be found.   There was more laughing, than anything else.  In the end, I was just glad I didn’t have to do it.

Back to divinely ordered sacrifices – I probably couldn’t do it.  That was the truth, and that’s what I told Caleb.  I wasn’t sure if that was the right answer, but that’s how I felt.   That night and the following day, I spent some time thinking about the incident and question.  I’ve finally reconciled my answer.  Most of us shouldn’t be able to, because we love our children so much.  That is what makes Abraham’s actions so significant.  Abraham loved his son, his ONLY son, just as much if not more than any of us.  In spite of that, his love for God and his desire to obey was even greater than that incredible love between father and son.  What he did was extraordinary.  Thankfully, he didn’t have to go through with the ordeal, but the Lord saw his heart and what he was willing to do.  How Abraham must have wept – as he was journeying to Moriah, as he bound his son, as he unbound his son at the command of the angel, and as he stared at the burning offering kneeling next to his beloved son, Isaac.

I think it’s ok that I couldn’t do it.  I think God knows that I couldn’t.  He knows how much I love both of my sons.  And it’s because I love my sons, that I also understand what He has done for me.  I can hardly bear to pull my son’s tooth out.  How great is God’s love for us, that he would let his son hang on a cross and die for us.  Yes, I get it.

The following evening before dinner, Caleb and I were alone in the kitchen.  Since I had been thinking about his provocative question all day, I thought I’d return the favor.  “Caleb, if God asked you to kill me, would you kill me?”  He replied that I was probably too big.  Hmm… OK, logistical issues aside, “If God said he would provide a way for you.” 

“Yes, probably.”

“Would you be sad?”

“Yes.” 

Well… let’s just hope that neither of us are asked….  But, there’s probably a reason that God chose the powerful image of sending his only begotten Son…. and not his father….

Caleb rides a bike

Yesterday, Tenille got a bike from a garage sale for $5 for Caleb.  Even though Caleb already has a bicycle, I asked her to buy it, because I wanted to make a trainer bike.  I’ve heard that in Norway or Sweden, they give kids wooden bicycles without any pedals.  They just scoot along with their feet and eventually learn to balance on the bikes. 

So this morning, I spent some time modifying the bike by taking off the chain guard, chain, and cranks of the bike.  It was basically a frame with a seat, handlebar and two wheels.  I let Caleb scoot around on it in our driveway, and we quickly found out that the crank housing was a little sharp.  It scratched up Caleb’s calf.  So, I put some electrical tape around it to make it a bit friendlier.  We went to our local elementary school that has some big grassy hills.  My idea was to let Caleb roll down some of these hills, and likely he’ll take a few falls, but the grass would make it tolerable.  My wife thought that this was a bad idea.  You could tell that she was expecting us to come back with injuries.

We had been practicing riding a bike for the last few weeks.  It typically consisted of me holding Caleb’s shoulders while pushing him around a soft dirt field.  Sometimes, it seemed like he understood that he was supposed to turn in the direction he was falling.  But, usually when I would yell “turn turn!” he would turn the other way and accelerate the fall.  These sessions usually didn’t last very long, and we’d move on to other capers like bug hunting.

When we got to the school, the slopes were a little bit more steep than I had thought.  Caleb and I walked the bike up the hill.  I thought I’d better give it a try first, just in case.  I got on the tiny bike, and let myself roll down the bumpy, grassy hill.  It went a LOT faster than I anticipated.   It made it a bit more frightening because there were not brakes.   There was only one speed and you could try to adjust it by dragging your feet through the grass.  It was fine for me, but I thought that this might not ending being a great experience for Caleb.  Nevertheless, I walked the bike half way up the hill and invited Caleb to take his first ride.  I was pretty sure that he’d make it a few feet and dump the bike. 

Caleb put on his helmet.  He got on the bike (probably not understanding what he was in for.)  He gave himself a good shove and let the bike roll down the hill.  At first the bike gave a wobble in both directions, but he managed to stay on.  To my surprise, Caleb lifted both his feet off of the ground and rolled smoothly down about 50 feet.  He made slight turns to maintain his balance.  At the end, he put his feet down and turned around with a big smile.  He probably saw his father wide-eyed and jaw open.  I couldn’t believe what I saw.  It didn’t compute with what I’ve been seeing the last few weeks.  How could he have suddenly figured out how to balance himself on one ride down a grassy hill?  I remember my disappointment that I did not capture that in a video.  Nor did I bring a camera or phone with me to record any of this.  I can’t remember the last time I was so disappointed about not having a camera.   In disbelief, I ran down the hill toward him, and commended him on his awesome ride.  He was all smiles.  He seemed like he was a bit overwhelmed by how scary and exciting it was all at the same time.  I asked him if he wanted to do it again, and he answered excited, “Yes!”

We drug the bike back up the hill, and it reminded me of sledding.  Every time, we would go a little higher on the hill and try to beat the last record of how far he went.  Caleb kept getting more and more daring.  He had a few spills, but usually they were right at the end as he was running out of speed.  Eventually, I was wondering if he could actually steer the bike and go where he wanted to.  I put a couple leaves on the grass, and asked him to run over them.  If he ran over them, he could get points.  The first time he tried this, he veered way off course in the opposite direction and I was afraid he was going to run full speed into some bushes.  He managed to avoid the bushes, but it was clear that he was not driving deliberately.  We tried this 3 or 4 times, but it didn’t seem like it was happening.  That’s ok.   It’s good to save some things to try another day.  More than enough progress for one day for a proud daddy.