No Greater Joy (Jude’s 10th Birthday)

January 24, 2019

“Just tell me what to do and I’ll do it!” You were three. It was the dead of night. And the bane of toddlers and the wintertime dread of every parent struck. It was your first experience with the stomach bug and you. were. terrified. You looked up at us with big, blue, pathetic eyes and begged us to help. And then you listened. Really listened. We explained what was happening and what you could expect over the next several hours. And then we reassured you that it would all pass and you’d feel good again. You just had to get through it.  Your fear subsided as you took our words to heart and endured the long night before sacking out on the couch the next morning.

In the face of something new or scary, you’ve always displayed that childlike trust in us. If a stranger started talking to you while we were out, you’d catch my eye before responding—just making sure everything was ok. You followed my lead in uncertainties.

But you are by no means an insecure kid. You may know when you’ve met your match and when to get help, but you also know exactly what you’re capable of and when you can act independently. Sometime later that year, we took a family bike ride around our neighborhood, and stopped for a break at a parking lot with a brick half-wall enclosure. There was another family there with a boy Asher’s age climbing the wall. He took one look at you and said, “You’re too little.” Approximately thirty seconds later, after you had scrambled up the wall you defiantly announced, “I’m NOT too yittle.”

You’re pretty good at knowing your strengths and weaknesses. You know you’re good at math, but Owen is probably better. 

You know you and Carl are the best readers in the class, and that you’re likely the best speller, if not the best writer.

You know you aren’t the fastest on the soccer pitch, but you know you can mostly strike the ball with precision. And you know that you generally remain calm under pressure. 

So when the school nurse called me several weeks ago to tell me you were sick with panic about the spelling bee and refusing to participate, I was really surprised.

The nurse put you on the phone and I listened to a hot volcano of words about how you couldn’t do the spelling bee because you were really sick. And then I asked you to be quiet while I talked. First, I had you do some good old yoga breathing while I prayed.  As your heart rate returned to normal and oxygen starting flowing again, reason returned to you and I heard you listening as I prayed for God to give you everything you needed to face this fear. And he did. Not because you exceled, but because in the real temptation of worry and fear, you listened, trusted and obeyed. We were so proud of you. 

When this handwritten note came home from your teacher at Christmas break, our parental pride was brimming. We’re glad to see how God is forming your character, and how he has used a string of good teachers to do it. 

We celebrated your 10th birthday almost four weeks ago now. Your birthday fell on the Sunday before New Years. We pushed back birthday celebrations by a day because dad was preaching and the soccer team had arranged to surprise him that morning by showing up at church and then joining us afterward for lunch at our house. 

We celebrated later that night by watching the Chelsea game we had so diligently avoided hearing any spoilers about all day and then took your 10th birthday celebration into the city the next day where we were rained on all day long. But traditions are traditions.

It’s hard to believe you’re 10. A tween! You look the part and you certainly act the part. It’s shocking how much you’ve grown this year. And filled out too. I miss your baby face. But I’m glad you’re still  affectionate. I keep wondering when you’ll ask me to stop hugging you in public, but that day has not yet come. You even still reach for my hand when we go for a walk.

You’re your own person, sweet middle child of mine. When I look at you, I often think of Gigi. “All chiefs, no Indians” she would say about all five of her children. And my goodness can I relate. You’re the middle, but no one would ever know it. Independent, goal-oriented, reasonable, focused, and belligerent determined—you possess those first child qualities in spades. Though sometimes this mom is desperate for a peace-maker in her brood, I know God equipped you with these traits for your own survival in this family. 

We’ve been watching you grow and mature these last ten years. And it is has truly been a delight. But it’s even better to see your soul grow and mature—to see you learn that FIFA isn’t life, or soccer or friends or always winning or knowledge, but that true delight is found in soul communion with the one who made you and graced your life with an abundance of health and provisions.

A few weeks ago I saw your face light up when I read our family devotions about how we were made for God. We talked about how the belonging and love we feel in our family helps us understand the even more satisfying belonging we were made to feel with God. And just this last week when dad asked if reading your Bible ever makes you feel happy, you honestly responded, “Sometimes.” That’s soul-growth we’ll take.

So now Jude, it’s time to listen again. You know you have limitations and you still need your parents. So hear us when we say:

If we’ve nourished your body and mind but neglected your soul; if we’ve forgotten to point you to the one for whom you were made; if we let you spend your life looking for joy in all the abundant gifts God has given, but failed to point you to the Giver, then we’ve failed you.

We’ve done our job when we’ve fed your soul on the feast of God’s love and promises. We’ve done our job when we’ve led you to the well of living water and urged you to drink. We’ve done our job when we’ve directed you to Jesus—the only way God has provided for you to find your soul’s rest in Him. There is no life without God and there is no path to God without Jesus. So though we’ll teach you many things in this life, this is the one lesson you must hear.

As the apostle John said of his many spiritual children, we have “no greater joy” than to know that our child is “walking in the truth.”  3 John 1:4. Amen. We love you, dear boy. Happy birthday!


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  • Charisse Compton January 24, 2019 at 6:16 pm

    Awesome, that was Jude 🤡🤖🏹

  • Conni Devore January 25, 2019 at 10:59 pm

    What a blessing to read your blog on Jude’s birthday! Beautiful job! Wonderful message.