The father was leading his son to a new home.
They were going to have to go through the desert, but for now they were walking through the jungle.
“Stay close to me, son,” the father said often.
“Daaaad.” The son protested as he ran circles around him. “You’re boring! I want to go have fun!” He was 7 years old.
The father said. “I love you. I know what you can become, and I don’t want you to become like what you find out there.”
The boy went anyway. He met lots of interesting animals. The jungle piglets taught him to play in the mud pits, and sloths taught him to sleep for hours. Monkeys threw bananas at each other.
Each time the son came back, his father noticed the son was becoming more like the messy, dirty, wild animals, and less like his dad.
Eventually the father got to the end of the jungle and waited to head out into the desert. He called for his son, “My s-o-o-o-onnnnnn!!! Come back. Please stay close to me!”
After several calls he finally heard a rustling. His son emerged from the bushes caked in mud, eyes half-closed, and groaning that his stomach hurt.
“My son!” He reached down and hugged his son, so glad to see him. They set out.
Within ten minutes under the hot sun, the boy was exhausted, and his father had to carry him. But the father cherished it. He whispered into his son’s sleeping ears. “I love you. Stay close to me for I know what you can become.”
When the son woke up he felt good enough to walk a ways. And his dad gave him water to quench his thirst. But the son had drunk bad water in the jungle and had gotten sick. Now he threw up a lot. Because of this he had to drink a lot more water than he should have. But the father gave it to his son whenever he was thirsty. He also used a bit of water to wash the boy’s face and hands so he started to look like his son again. And they hiked on, side-by-side.
The father watched his son’s crouched and bobbing, almost monkey-like walk and was sad for him. And his son’s face stayed on the ground, only able to see a few steps ahead.
“Look upward, my son,” His father said. “Put your eyes on the mountains at the horizon. And stand up straight, you will be able to walk farther.” His son tried it out. It took a little more effort but he didn’t tire as quickly. He also saw his father’s long gait, and strong heel to toe step. Slowly the limp slap of the son’s footsteps became less like the monkeys and became a stronger, longer stride like his dad’s.
The father still carried the son when the son got tired but the son began to be able to walk farther and farther, as long as he stayed close to his father. The hot sun was blistering but if he stayed close to his dad the son would be protected in his shadow, he could drink the water, and then the heat was bearable.
Eventually the son noticed his father rarely took drinks and he asked him, “Dad, don’t you need water?” He looked up at him for the first time in a while, for his heart had been fully focused on himself. But when his father looked down, the son saw his dried and cracking lips, and his burnt cheeks and his bloodshot eyes. “I do, my son, but we do not have enough for both of us to drink all that we want and still make it through the desert.”
From then on the son stayed close to his father, step for step doing his best to keep up with him, and didn’t demand water every time he had the impulse, drawn close by his father’s sacrificial love.
By the time they got to their new home, the son had become very much more like his father. And he often still stayed close to him because he knew he would teach him to be stronger, more self-disciplined, more generous and wise. Because by staying closer to his father he had seen how much his father loved him and what his father dreamed his son could be.