Last week we ran into a friend who had her new baby along. She talked about her little one with such sweet wonder and delight. I caught myself start to do what I hate when people do to me – feel the need to shatter that joy with stories of the havoc this little one would soon bring upon her life. “Oh, just wait until he can talk back!” And, “At least he’s portable now. Wait until you’re stuck in the house at night constrained by his bedtime.” And a personal favorite, “You feel that way now, but wait until you have two (or three or four)!” But thankfully, those unhelpful and mean-spirited words didn’t make it out of my mouth. Instead, I decided to let this new mom instruct me. After all, when was the last time I looked at my kids with wonder like she did hers? Well, honestly I look at them in wonder a lot. Like wondering, “Are you really a fellow human? I know your DNA says you are, but honestly your actions are tipping the scale in favor of your being part of the animal kingdom about now.” And astonishment like, “Did you really just tell your Dad in an extremely loud voice that the lady standing two feet away from us has a big nose?!”
Needless to say, running into our new-mom friend was a well-timed providence.
So, since our kids are still 2, 4, and 7, and we’re about to enter a three month period when they’ll each advance a year, and because I desperately need to remember what it’s like to wonder at my kids sweetly and delightfully as if I’m holding them for the first time, indulge me for a few minutes.
Stella – Our Information Gatherer and Passer of Judgments
When we were at Hobby Lobby in January to support them and their right not to provide certain abortive pills to their employees, your dad was relaying the situation to you. Within seconds of his explanation about the quandary and without his ever using the words, you exclaimed, “But don’t we have religious freedom in America?!” Spot on. You struggle with the complexities in people who can do so much good and still get some things so wrong. Like the Puritans and their views and treatment of African Americans. So you’ve joined us in examining our lives for what glaring sin we aren’t standing against and helping people be freed from. In keeping with that, you have learned more about social injustice this year and have declared, “There are two things I hate most: slavery and abortion.” Performing social services and pro-life activism hasn’t been difficult for you to navigate as a Christian. Upon hearing the abortion clinic had closed where we’ve invested hours of prayer and reaching out to men and women in distress you added, “But our work isn’t done yet since they still don’t know Jesus.” In just two years of involvement, you synthesized and simplified the complexities that have paralyzed some Christians to inactivity on the issue for over four decades! You are the self-declared “Ruler of Kids” in our house and are quick to detect the sins and shortcomings of those under your dominion. Actually, most of the time you’re right. But we’ve got to keep working on that whole beam sticking out of your own eye thing. However, that’s for another time.
Ruby – Our Determined Advocate
If you’re fighting for someone, I know you’re fighting to win. You informed us this year in no uncertain terms that one of your hobbies is winning trophies. Your dad and I joke that when a discipline is administered, we just have to wait for it. Sure enough we’ll hear your indignant voice, “He didn’t mean it that way! He’s just hungry!” or “If she can’t have one, I’m not going to either!” or “Are you being mean to Mommy or are you just teasing her?!” Your teachers have told me over and over how friendly you are to guests in your class. They’ve also said how you’ve befriend one of your classmates on the Autism Spectrum and how he has responded to you because you’re always including him in what your other friends are doing. Mrs.Traci even said you asked him to your house for a sleepover. One day when I had gotten some sad family news and was crying with Daddy on the couch you helped cheer me by generously giving me your most prized possession – your coins. Since justice is your delight, you are learning more and more about the righteous standard by which we measure our lives and the God who is just and the Justifier of many through Jesus. You love to go on theological tyraids and preach it with Piperesque passion!
Schaeffer – Our Enforcer, Instigator, and Unmistakably Third Born
When your sister asks if she has sufficiently finished the food on her plate you look over before we can and decide, “No! No treat!” And when we are correcting one of your sisters you’re quick to punctuate it with, “Happy heart!” You repeat our every admonition to them knowing just how to get under their skin. You and Ruby have become quite the pair. You play king and queen together trying to bring down the reign of the “Ruler of Kids.”
You “wash” her hair and yours with hand sanitizer when you’re supposed to be brushing your teeth. (I think she likes being along for the ride of your instigation. Guilt by association seems a much safer option to her than direct disobedience.)
You endure all the confusion of being the third born like a champ. Like my still desperately wanting you to be a baby in some ways and treating you as such and yet simultaneously demanding you exercise your independence. Like “Don’t you want Mommy to hold you?” and then “Mommy’s not holding you! You’re old enough to walk!” And my talking to you a lot about going potty but lacking motivation to actually equip you with the skills. So your sisters (one appauled at the dirty diapers and passing judgment on an incapable mom and the other advocating for your right to wear your Thomas big boy undies) have become much more serious about the effort – even making you your own sticker chart and reward system. As the third born, I’m counting on your absorbing a lot of information just by exposure (I just don’t have time to intentionally teach you everything I’d like) and you have risen to the occasion. We can’t help but crack up at the motions you know to the historical timeline the girls have memorized. You know George Washington was our first President, winter at Valley Forge was cold, John Knox was a Scottish Reformer, Martin Luther started the Reformation, and the US purchased Louisiana from France. You identify every boat as the Dawn Treader and every lion as Aslan. And, on some rare occasions, you even give me hope that you are learning to obey and won’t always be controlled by your horridly destructive impulsiveness.
I really don’t want to lose the wonder of these kids as I wander with them through life. I pray God will use their personalities and affinities and aversions to make them a gospel-driven force to be reckoned with. I wonder what they’ll become. I wonder. But God knows.
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” I Corinthians 2:9