Ninjas are very important in our house. It is impossible to over exaggerate this point.
They loom large in the minds of my boys who spend hours flinging themselves off beds, leaping sofas, hiding behind doors, and rescuing me (whether I like it or not) from unseen foes. I think they view ninjas as a cross between the Hulk, Superman, a Jedi Knight, and their dad.
I watch their boy hearts swell with pride at their own prowess. Acting out like ninjas is how they follow the map of their own DNA, leading them deeper into themselves. Deeper into the boy muscles they long to flex, the courage they want to own, the leaders they want to be.
“Boys in this stage of development tend to love superheroes and are fascinated by the concept of superpowers. Much of their imaginative play will revolve around these two ideas.”
Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys, p.44.
They are teaching me that what sounds like a lisped fascination with “injas” is a key to their rich inner lives and growing concepts of good and bad, righteous and evil. My goal is becoming to connect this inner world of fantastic heroism with the outer world where mom, dad and Jesus live.
So, forget gentle Jesus meek and mild. I want my boys to meet the Jesus whose cousin was a wild man living in the wilderness eating locusts and braving swarms of bees for their honey; the Jesus who spent hours working wood, building, hammering, sawing, chopping just as my boys love to do; the Jesus who sent a herd of pigs squealing, bellowing and charging over a cliff and into the ocean to save the life of a man everyone else thought was just plumb crazy; the Jesus whose best friends were rough, salty fishermen and who was just as comfortable camped out on the beach as in the homes of rich men and lawyers.
I want them to want to live and breathe the Jesus stories just as much as the ninja ones. But I want them to know the Jesus ones are real.
I want them to know the Lion of Judah in all his gorgeous, glorious awe and hear Him roar as he stood up for the kids all the other grownups were trying to shoo away. I want Him to become a central character in their childhood imaginings, so I introduce Him at every opportunity I get. Because I think He was anything but a pasty faced, long-haired, peace-loving hippie who smiled vapidly at life as it passed Him by.
I think He and His army of angels are more pulse-poundingly exciting than any “inja” story my boys might dream up. So we share with them in Technicolor descriptions until they own the heroic truth and the revelations fuse to their imaginations.
Because this letter I read today? It hurt me: “Our parents did not spend time teaching us to love God. They put us where we are surrounded by the Bible. But they didn’t take time to show us that God was important enough to them to tell us personally about Him.”
We want to tell them. At every bend, every bed time, every afternoon-movie-watching-marathon, every time we dig dirt or get stuck in the mud. We want to root their wildest imaginings of bravery right into their real lives.
Because we believe it. We believe Him.
We don’t always succeed. But we’re determined. So we keep on trying just as the hero of any good tale knows to do.