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Today my son turns five.

Explorer

I took this photo at Woldumar Nature Center last year when he and I were “hiking” through the woods. I stood back, proud to see that he ignored the stairs and chose instead the natural path. Instead of the easy way, he chose the harder way. If this picture had been taken in the fall, it would put me in mind of “The Road Not Taken” by Frost.

Then in the car a week or so ago, the boy and I were listening to Hard Way Home by Brandi Carlile. When the song was done he asked, “Why doesn’t she take the easy way home?”

“Sometimes,” I answered, “you have to take the hard way. And anyway, sometimes it’s more interesting than the easy way.”

This seemed to suffice. We arrived home and he went off to play and I’m sure he has given it no more thought at all.

But in the next five, ten, fifteen years of my boy’s life, he will have many opportunities to choose either the easy way or the hard way. If the easy way is the path of least resistance, an unchallenging, popular path that leads him to a sense of entitlement-because-I-breathe and success at the expense of his faith or his self-respect, I hope he chooses the hard way, the little-bit-strange way, the peculiar way of hard work, personal responsibility, earned trust, generosity of spirit, and faithful devotion to God, family, and friends. I hope he has the strength to eschew the cultural stairs, endure the stares he gets for being different, and press on toward a meaningful life amid a culture that is all too often focusing all of its energy on meaningless things.

And I hope that, as we guide and love him, his father and I will have that strength as well.

Happy birthday, Calvin. Let’s take the hard way together.