A Birthday Letter
In northwestern Ohio, on a blustery autumn evening in 1981, we were a young couple getting ready for bed about eleven at night. We would not sleep that night. Pain would force us to dress and drive through the night to Coldwater to the hospital. Through the night your mother would labor and then at about 8:45 in the morning on October 30, 1981 you were born. Now you have a wife and two little boys of your own, so you understand the wonder, the weight, the joy and the thrill of fatherhood. That was 29 years ago today.
A few days before you were born we bought a 1979 Mercury Monarch. It was a very nice little car. It was four-door and deep burgundy in color. It had what they called an Aviator Package interior with air and cruise and electric windows. Big deal. It also had rectangular headlights. I was the first year for rectangular headlights. Before that all cars had round headlights as standard.
You stayed in the hospital with your mother over the weekend. On Monday morning there was some rain and wind when I strapped the car seat into the car and came to pick you up. The water beaded on the finish. I had freshly waxed the car. It was freshly vacuumed. On the way home my heart beat fast with excitement. Your mother was very quiet. I noticed the leaves that had clung to the trees on Friday were mostly gone. For years I would notice that the leaves would usually blow down between your birthday and mine.
We had taken the shelves from the study out and moved them to the church. That room would be yours. We meant to paint it powder blue but it ended up pretty bright. We spent money we didn’t to get you matching Jenny Lind style bed, changing table, and high chair. We bought you a swing that you could wind up and it would automatically rock you to sleep. When it wound down you had to rewind it. When you did it make a loud ratcheting sound which inevitably woke you with a start. I used to love doing that. Your mom always rebuked me for that.
I got you an Ohio State outfit. I’m sure you’ve seen pictures of that. My grandfather Pierpont had died in October a year before you were born. I always thought you were the kind of boy he really would have thought highly of. You know you have his middle name.
I suppose you have heard all these details. They are sweetly burned into my memory because they are so precious to me.
Today Wesley will play his last football game of the year in Saline. They will play the only team in the league they have lost to. They have lost to them twice. They lost to them on the first game of the year and last week. The last game was a meltdown just before the half. Still it is fall and it is football and it is my last son to do such things. From here on out it will have to be grandsons.
Reading over the letters I used to write for your birthday and read aloud to you over our birthday breakfast, I realize they were just stuffed with advice. You have followed it and you have a blessed life.
David was a man after God’s own heart who would do God’s will. (Acts 13:22) I have always seen that in you. You are a man who longs after the heart of God and the things of God and you have always wanted to do the will of God.
You have always been at your best when you were humbly responsive to truth and tender to the voice of the Spirit in your life. Now that you have precious sons of your own I’m sure you understand what I mean. Above everything else your desire for them is that they would have hearts tender and yielded to God. If any of us ever outgrow that we will not finish well.
This week I heard of a pastor friend whose grown son made devastating, sinful choices. They are picking up the pieces. I am teaching 1 Kings this week. It is the story of the meteoric rise and tragic fall of Solomon. It was a sobering reminder to me of the possibility of men who have every advantage overriding their good sense and descending into devastating folly.
By the grace of God I want to live close to the heart of God, continually engraft the Word of God into my soul, a seek him with a whole heart that I might not wander from His commandments. (Psalm 119:10)
You are a man after God’s own heart. You have a deep, embedded desire to do God’s will. It’s like a glowing ember lying in the bottom of your soul. Fan that ember into roaring life and burn for God with an unusual flame. Many will gather to warm their hands at the fire of your faith if you do. When you look up into their faces, some of them will be very familiar and very dear to you.
I love you, son, more than even many words can express. I look forward to seeing you on Monday. I will try to remember to bring you some nice books I have been saving for you.
October 30, 2010