Be Strong and Overcome!

May 15, 2015

To my recently turned 8 year old Asher, 


If I were to ask you to describe yourself, I’m fairly certain how you’d respond. You would say something along these lines, “I’m a good reader–but I don’t want to brag–and I’m a fast runner. And sometimes I hulk up at my brother when he annoys me.”

All apt descriptions.

You are both a fluent reader and an expressive one. When you were chosen to read the Eagle Report for Second grade this Winter, your teacher invited me to come listen because you’re such a “wonderful reader.” While I was working in your classroom on Valentine’s Day, a fellow classmate of yours regaled me with tales of that wonderful reading saying  “he even uses his hands when he reads.” (Yeah, I’ve got my eye on that girl =)  You were able to join the High Flyers reading club at school shortly after we moved, and you have burned through book after book after book these last few months. (A dozen or more Magic Tree House, Farmer Boy, Swiss Family Robinson, The Action Bible, Rush Revere series, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, and Secret Garden to name a few.) 


You’re not only expressive when you’re reading


before your second grade play at Inter-City

As much as you love reading, you love your developing physical strength and coordination more.

Dad and I love to watch you run. You are a little ball of athleticism. (Don’t cringe at the word “little,” please)  You are not tall (Jude is quickly closing the gap on you), but you are a stout, compact thing and when you run every muscle and limb is moving in coordination. I took you to the track at the Y a few weeks back and you easily darted past everyone in the outside running lanes, managing to keep up that pace for an entire mile.

Not only are you a natural sprinter, but you play all sports with your characteristic intensity.

You show no fear on the soccer field. When you’re hurt you stifle the urge to cry or quit, and you turn every tumble or fall into an athletic feat. Just a few weeks ago as we were leaving church, another kid darted out of the door in front of you, caught your foot and tripped you up. We all watched as you turned the trip-up into a dive roll and landed on your feet. Your dad and I just caught each other’s eye and enjoyed another “he did it again moment.”  


your flying leaps into the first leaf pile of the fall


 You also value others for their physical strength and athleticism. You’re always wondering who’s stronger. You can’t wait for the day when you can best your dad at wrestling, basketball, soccer or even a good old footrace. Your dad sees your 8 year old accomplishments and hastens to do another round of push-ups or run another lap around the track. Your best friend–another athletic 8 year old–spurs you on to greater physical feats. And although you’re both competitive, you somehow make it work. You place the greatest value in life on physical strength and athleticism. And you daily delight in your growing strength and coordination. 


I snapped this picture after a Sunday afternoon bike ride along the lake. I was in a state of panic that afternoon watching you run and jump all over those boulders. I know I did the same thing when I was little, but age and responsibility have dampened my free spirit and all I could think about that day was head trauma and a little boy plummeting over the sides of the rocks into the frigid Lake Michigan waters. I’m sorry if I spoiled your fun =)

Your physical strength isn’t the only thing that got a workout this year. At the beginning of the year, we moved to another state, another school, and another church, and the change has taken its toll on you. You have borne up under the loss of friends and family, but it has been a struggle. You still express sadness at having left the comforts of a Christian school and like-minded friends. And I grieve for you and with you. But I see how God is using this hardship to shape you. You have seen that most of the world is not like you. They believe differently. They act differently. They do not hold to the same worldview. Even your teachers–excellent as they are–do not treasure what we have taught you to treasure. You see your difference at every turn. And in your 8 year old way, you have done some soul-searching these last few months and you have gained some emotional muscle to parallel your physical muscle as you’ve learned to be sad without despairing, and as you have learned to see the good things God is developing in you through life’s little trials.


Saying goodbye to Owen just before Christmas


with Mrs. Howell after the 2nd Grade Fall Play

I am proud of your intellectual achievements this year. I love that you love to read. I love that you can get lost in a book and then retell the story in your own words to Jude and Haven later. I even admire your physical strength. I love to see you enjoy being a boy (with the exception of those rock sprints)  I love to see you test your physical limits. I love to watch you push yourself to be braver, stronger, and faster.  And I want you to energetically pursue developing these strengths, and to enjoy them with gratitude in your heart toward God who gave them to you. But there is another kind of strength that I admire even more. And it it this kind of strength that I would like to truly define you. As I  was reading through I John several weeks back, I came across this verse from chapter 2:

“I write to you, young men,

because you are strong,

and the Word of God abides in you.

and you have overcome the evil one.”

John wrote with such confidence in the strength of these “young men” and of the outcome of that strength. But his confidence did not arise from their physical coordination and athleticism, but rather was drawn from his knowledge that the Word of God was abiding in them–a sign of true life–the kind of life and strength that over powers and finally destroys the evil one.

You too will overcome that great deceiver, Asher, but certainly not by your physical strength. His “craft and power are great, and armed with cruel hate. On Earth is not his equal.” Indeed, as John would go on to write in the same letter: “the whole world lies in the power of [this] evil one.” (5:19) The best reader and the fastest sprinter in the world are no match for him. You’re going to need the “right man on your side” to do battle with him. A truly strong man. A man who came to “destroy the works of the Devil.” (3:8) and to rescue the world from his power.

Your days of physical strength are numbered even though you have not yet reached your prime. But the strength of one who has the Word of God abiding in him is formidable indeed; it is not weakened by old age because the source of that strength is God himself who “disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities, putting them to open shame by triumphing over them by the cross [of Jesus].” (Col 2:15)  And you reveal that you have this indefatigable strength–this resurrection power–by living as Jesus lived. So live, Asher, and love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbor (that includes siblings!) just like you love yourself. This year, Asher, is the year to learn to selflessly love that brother you hulk up at so often. Jesus came to destroy that angry temper that flares so quickly. It’s a work of the Devil. But you have the word of God abiding in you. You are strong. And you have overcome the Evil One.

Happy Birthday, 8 year old!


You Might Also Like