"Wrestling with an Angel" The Book
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Saturday, April 10, 2010
A Birthday Letter to My Son
It’s hard to believe that you are 17 years old today. I woke up this morning wondering what happened to that little red headed boy that used to sleep on my chest at night and ride around on my shoulders everywhere we went during the day.
It seems like only yesterday when your mom came to me with the news that you would be our son. You were so tiny. We named you Jacob, after the grandson of Abraham, the youngest son of Isaac in the Bible; the son who was born small, weak, and insignificant but who was nonetheless chosen by God to be a Patriarch of a nation.
I still have the picture of you nestled inside of my old baseball glove wearing that miniature Cincinnati Reds baseball uniform. I didn’t have dreams of you actually becoming a patriarch, but I was sure you would grow up to be an All Star.
I can remember coming home from work late at night (actually early in the morning), just in time for your 2 AM feeding—getting you out of your crib, warming up a bottle and holding you all to my self. It was one of my favorite times of the day.
There in the peace of the morning, I was so content, just sitting in a dimly lit room watching you watch me—your eyes glued to mine—both of us speaking in deep, father-son conversation, without ever saying a word.
As you lay there on my lap taking your bottle, I would fascinate over your tiny, perfect hands, your smooth white cheeks and your fine strawberry hair. I couldn’t believe that I was a dad and you were my son. I was twenty-five when you were born and it was one of the happiest times of my life.
Then, just after your first birthday, you got sick and had to spend a lot of time in the hospital. Your mom and I were young and scared and didn’t know what to do when you stopped breathing and had seizures. We spent that entire year in hospitals and doctors offices trying to figure out what was causing you to be so sick. No one could give us any answers. No one could help you get better. We cried a lot that year. It was one of the most difficult times of my life.
Then, just as we were about to give up, we found someone who could help. He picked us up off the floor of our hopelessness, held us up with His strong arms, wiped away our tears with His gentle hands, and healed your seizures with His mighty power. He changed our lives forever. His name is Jesus, and you know Him well—for it was you that introduced us to Him.
From that point on, everywhere I went I told people your story, which has become my story, which is still today God’s story. He turned your tragic disability into a wonderful ability to impact lives and spread His fame. I am still amazed at your one simple life, so well lived in His amazing grace, with such a display of His fantastic glory. You were (and still are) an All Star on His team.
In John 9:1-3 Jesus proclaimed that a certain man’s disability existed, not because of sin or tragedy or misfortune, but that “the works of God might be displayed in him.”
Today, as you turn 17, the works of God have clearly been displayed throughout your life.
Today, thousands of people have heard your story. Many have been helped, healed and even saved. Someday, perhaps millions will hear of the power of God in your life. I’m working on it.
I am now 43, and as I sit here writing this letter to you I cannot help but wonder where the past 17 years of my life have gone. I found a box of pictures yesterday that took me back. You were so little; I was so young. Today you stand eye to eye with your dad, and I can no longer carry you in my own strength.
Your strawberry hair has turned rust and your face is in need of a shave. Your voice is a deep baritone and your hands are as big as my own. But as I look into your eyes I still connect with the silent conversations we had at those 2AM feedings—when all our dreams were so young, fresh and new. And I wait patiently, in hopeful anticipation, for the time to come when you are set free from your disability—a moment of eternity where we will walk steady and talk of deep things like father’s and sons do.
The past 17 years have been most difficult for us all. But I am amazed that when I look back, especially in pictures, I don’t see the difficulty. I see your smile and your magnetic personality. I see the moments where you and your brothers (the“Three Amigos”) did everything that brothers do. I can hardly even find your disability in those pictures. I guess that’s what it means to live life forward and to understand it backward.
It has not been easy being your dad, but it has been great. Greatness never comes with ease. I am proud that you are my son. I love you more than you will ever know this side of heaven. I cherish the memories of the past 17 years, and I look forward to the adventures to come in your life as you display more and more the works of God for all to see.
Happy birthday buddy,