Your dad and I are suckers for comic book heroes. So recently (in keeping with our principle of only introducing you to TV shows we find palatable as well) we started you on the animated Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. From the beginning, your favorite was Captain America. While Iron Man is brilliant, he’s also a bit of a scoundrel. While Thor is honorable, he is not human, and therefore unattainable. Hulk seemed like a likely candidate for favorite since he is most effective when he gets angry (we call you Asher BASHER for a reason) and Hawk Eye is just plain mouthy (again another likely candidate for favorite ;). But you bypassed all these avengers (and their glorified human faults–Thor excepting) and set your sights on the venerable, physically enhanced, out of his time period, Stephen Rogers, aka Captain America.
It’s not hard to understand why. Three things about the Captain remind me of you, Asher.
Stephen Rogers was not given the rank of captain solely because of his enhanced physical strength. He was chosen to lead because of his inner strength. And when we look at you, we see some of that same inner strength in its raw form. School this year has been good for you. It has challenged your preconceived ideas that you should always lead. You were accustomed to playing captain to your brother and sister around the house–setting the playtime agenda, controlling the conversations, establishing the very mood for the day according to how you felt when you woke. Your imagination still often rules their days. You devise the games, set the rules, often supplying the very lines you want them to say. When you lead with kindness and enthusiasm, your siblings will follow your every order. You’ve learned since going to school, however, that your friends do not share your siblings regard for your leadership, and you’ve (mercifully!) been much more reluctant to issue orders and set the agenda. Nevertheless, this personality trait–this inner strength and desire to lead–is rooted deeply in you. You also tend to admire good leadership–especially when it wears a mask and carries an indestructible shield!
You, like Captain America, have an old soul. Captain America has to continually adjust to the less chivalrous age he finds himself in without losing his defining characteristics. You are still a little boy, Asher. But I continually see these “old soul” hints about you–like when you confess some of the bad (mean!) things you were thinking and ask me to forgive you. I see that “old soul” when in your fervency you tell me that you don’t know how to not think bad thoughts and sincerely ask for help. I see it when I hear you making simplistic (but good) applications from the stories you’ve listened to or even from the Bible verses you’ve learned. I detect it when I see fear in your eyes and then see you unprompted turn to pray and then “man up” and face your fear, or when I see you hold the door open for the other children filing in for school in the morning. I see this old soul in the self-control you employ in making your choices. You often turn down a dessert because you’ve already had a treat that day or because you know you will get one at a birthday party the next. On your 5th birthday shopping trip to Toys ‘R Us with Grandma and Papa Rodman, you walked past aisle after aisle of toys, undeterred and seemingly untempted by them to find the one toy you had predetermined you would pick. I love your old soul–at times so decided, so earnest, so scrupulous, so thoughtful, often serious and always intense. These things are countered so well by your good sense of humor, and by your enthusiasm for life. This last year has tempered these personality traits even more and I can’t wait to see how God continues to refine your “old soulness” and use it for His purposes.
Like Captain America, you have a strong sense of justice and a desire to make things right. You’re forever arbitrating between Jude and Haven. You’ve even been know to weigh in on a (ahem) dispute between mom and dad. If someone is being treated “unfairly” you don’t tolerate it. The time you told me that “you’re making Jude do too many hard things” comes to mind or when you told me that Jude was crying because I hurt his feelings is another. Once, when I was reminding you that there are some things we keep private as a family–that you should never tell your friends at school some things about your brother or sister, you were offended that I assumed you didn’t already understand this, emphatically saying, “Oh mommy! I would NEVER do that!” You’ve regaled me with stories about how you’ve defended friends at school who were being teased. And like any good mommy, I believed them all as they perfectly align with the portrait I’ve created of you. You’re a voice for social justice, always wanting us to buy homes for the homeless and provide bread for the hungry. It is almost too much for your sensitive soul to hear of the many injustices of this fallen world.
But, if you learn anything from Captain America, learn that to lead honorably and fairly all the time does indeed require some “enhancements.” Captain America’s strength is superhuman. He was given the superhuman strength to parallel his superhuman virtue. He alone was “good” enough at core to retain his integrity and use his newfound physical power for good. While we applaud your human effort and even your little inner strength, your old soul, and your love of justice, you need some “enhancements” of your own to be a force for good in this world. You need the life-giving “enhancements” of the Holy Spirit. You need the power of God that raised Jesus from the dead working in you to do what is good and right and just and glorifying to God.
While imitating Captain America–the comic book superhero–is good, we’d rather you imitate the superhero of a much more important book. That hero, rather than being physically enhanced, actually stripped himself of his glory and took on weakness–human flesh. And though we encourage patriotism, we would rather you invest much more in the coming kingdom. The hero of that kingdom doesn’t carry an indestructible shield for he has the power of an indestructible life! And He freely offers us the same! Imitate that hero, Asher. Jesus will never steer you wrong.
Happy 6th birthday! We love you more than ever. No, we will not call you “Captain” all day. Okay, maybe just at dinner…