In the middle of everything else there was this moment.
- Working on a busy little room renovation in our home.
- The oldest son turned 14. Sleepover and sugar included.
- Youngest son was referred to the oral surgeon. We knew this would be coming.
- Connecting with the heater repairman, the leaders for a meeting, doing planning for the retreat.
- Making a list of summer activities suited to boys by priority and price.
Meanwhile middle son is quietly trying to find his ankle brace, his mouthguard. He's watching his forms on the DVD, privately practicing his board breaking kicks. He's nervous and stops us from saying, "Sunday, after your test, we have..." or even from mentioning "Sunday" at all.
The young boy is turning to young man quickly, almost as quickly as it takes to switch the blue belt to red. But this was for brown and brown did not come easily. The four-and-a-half hour test poured out everything he knew from white through red onto the dojang floor; all the forms and combinations, all the grappling and breaking and sparring. He forged through the past four years of his life in one afternoon and stepped dogged into a new rank, the one he was becoming.
Oh, that we all could enter a new period as exhausted and proud and aware of what it took to get there.
It's the amazement that follows the gladness that follows the shipwreck. Because, yes, even at 11 he thought he'd never make it through. But he did and we do. Because there is always a "Sunday, after your test..." And if we do survive shipwreck -- if we wash up to a new shore, perceiving more adequately how life really is -- there is eventually, gladness.1
And a new form of meaning is forged in that frightful struggle. That gladness is not just relief but transformation. The belt actually changes from red to brown. The sensei ties it around our waist. We become and we see Becoming's power.
Brown is just before black, just before Master. And he is just before adolescence, where no one is really master at all. But he knows now that there is another side of shipwreck and that gladness will be there to meet him much to his amazement and honor.
1 Big Questions, Worthy Dreams: Mentoring Emerging Adults in Their Search for Meaning, Purpose, and Faith by Sharon Daloz Parks