Thanksgiving always makes us think about what is truly important in life. For us, Christ and His sacrifice that have shown forth the love and favor of God upon us while we were yet sinners is truly the uber Thanksgiving acknowledgment to make. Where would we be headed without Him? So for God's unfathomable love and mercy in Christ, we are truly thankful.
But I also want to discuss God's love and favor upon Allison and I through our children. They each have taught us lessons of God's providence and compassion on our lives, and much of it has humbled me in so many ways.
Jonathan, our firstborn, came at a time when I was planning on taking the academic world by storm. My longtime goal, to go to Cambridge University in order to get my PhD, was shattered at his birth. I realized the difficulty of going, and that it would just not be possible anymore, so when I had the application ready to go, I didn't even send it in. Allison and I were committed to let the Lord decide the "when" and "how many" of our children, so we let Him decide, but down deep, I was still holding on to my own self-direction, and even though complying because of a principle I did not yet fully understand, I was angry that my dream was destroyed. But then something happened that had not happened before. I began to love someone else unconditionally. I never realized that I hadn't before, but when Jonathan came, he taught me to love. I then soon realized that what God had given me was not a backlash for trusting Him, but something more valuable than gold. In fact, when I speak of my children now, that's exactly what I refer to them as. They are my gold. Jonathan's name, which means, "YHWH has given" became a lesson from God that he was given by God, in God's wisdom (rather than in my own), and I began to understand why what it is that Allison and I had decided to do in giving God the control was so important and the best thing. So my feelings caught up with my theory and practice, and Jonathan became a symbol of trusting in God's goodness toward us for all of our children. His middle name, Michael, which is a Hebrew question that means, "Who is like God?" is also an apt lesson, as God taught us through Jonathan that no one knows what is the right or wrong course to take in the moment, but God alone. There are no better hands in which to place one's life and the lives of one's children.
Alexander is my little "Conqueror of Mankind." He is the one always asking questions. He is my mathematician, my logician. He thinks very technically as a child, but that will soon turn into an asset to him, as he learns to use his logic to question the foolishness of mankind. It is my prayer and thanksgiving to God that he is beginning to fulfill his name in this way, so that no human philosophy and evil in the world will be able to dominate him, but only the wisdom of God that transcends the box in which all of the rest of mankind is held captive.
He too came at a time when human wisdom would have said, No way. This was the first of hopefully his many escapes from human foolishness. The pride of man has also not taken over him, as he is the eager servant of others, like Christ, always quick to wash the feet of those who may have need of it. The love that we learned from Jonathan, and the understanding of the rightfulness of our decision to trust God, grew bigger with him.
Peter is my sweet boy. He truly is the type of rock to which his name refers. He is always the one reminding me to read the Bible to them. He is the one asking me question after question about God. He, like a little David, makes up his own songs to God and sings them to the family. The mischievous ways as a little boy have given way to his concern and care of his younger siblings. It is my prayer and thanksgiving to God that he is already showing signs of living on the foundation of Christ as His Lord. With Peter, again, our love and understanding of the rightfulness of what God had decided grew even larger.
Lily is my little princess. She is perhaps the cutest little girl on the planet. Lily came at a time that was especially profound for my wife. As my only daughter, she was providentially given by God in a time of uncertainty and turmoil. Allison was 8 months pregnant with her when I was abruptly and unexpectedly fired from my pastoral position in Maryland. When you are a pastor, your whole life is put into the ministry. It's not just like losing a regular job. It's really the uprooting of almost everything you are and have come to rely upon (in an earthly sense). If anyone who believed the pagan idea espoused by the friends of Job, we were certainly cursed and abandoned by God. But that's where Lily's name comes in. Her name isn't actually a name in Scripture. It's, of course, the name of a flower. My wife had always liked it and we decided to name our child, if she was a girl, Lily long before we saw any further significance with it. The week we left the church, Lily was born. In a time when we didn't know what would become of us and our family. Having no savings and only a couple months of severance, as well as many months (and years) of turmoil to follow, God gave us a little girl. And this is what the passage in Scripture, from which my wife got her name, says:
"And who of you by being worried can add a [single] hour to his life? "And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. "But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is [alive] today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, [will He] not much more [clothe] you? You of little faith! "Do not worry then, saying, `What will we eat?' or `What will we drink?' or `What will we wear for clothing?' "For the people who are without God eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
What would seem as one calamity after another, and all of the humility that comes with it, has taught us to trust in God all the more. Lily is our sweet little girl, who in all of our lack, wants to pursue motherhood anyway. And I am grateful for this, and pray that she will remain on that path so that she can one day come to understand and love as we have been given understanding and love by God through her.
Andrew is my little, sweet, two-year-old tornado. If a room is clean, and he enters it, it will soon turn into a full fledged disaster area needing emergency federal aid. If a box of doughnuts is left open, and he is left alone in the room with it, it will be empty within seconds. He is without fear of retribution. But he is also the one who approaches everyone without fear. His name also means "manly," which is very fitting. He'll walk up to strangers and start playing with them (as with all of our children, their strengths are also a potential danger, but that too calls us to trust that God will direct them). In the Bible, Andrew is often seen as bringing people to Christ. He is the one who is not afraid to approach others and tell them about the Lord. I pray that this will be his future as well, and am thankful that his lack of fear is already showing. Again, he has increased our understanding and love.
Edmund is my only child who does not have a biblical name. It is true that Alexander's name is taken from the great Greek conqueror, but the name does appear in the Bible (although that particular Alexander is a bad guy there). Edmund is actually taken from C. S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia. We liked his name, but even more so his character. Edmund in the series is a symbol of redemption. He is a selfish and self-willed boy, who sins, and when brought to repentance, becomes a great man of wisdom and might. To us, Edmund is a symbol of the gospel.
He, again, was born in a time when human wisdom would have had us do otherwise. In the rolling of many eyes, and the slander of many tongues, he has been born into our lives, much like the gospel itself. I am thankful for this little one, who continually smiles, as if to say, "It's alright. God has brought what is good and not what is evil into your life. I am good thing." He, like the gospel, is something that others would judge as an imposition of life, a further burden that a life already loaded down with burdens does not need. But he is an alleviation of burden, precisely, because we have come to understand the choice we made to trust in God, something we knew we should do in theory, but we did not understand so long ago. We are done letting the world have a say in how we feel about letting God direct our paths. We are done with letting the devil tempt us from seeing our family (as God has made it) as a good thing by offering us sweeties instead. Edmund means "the protector of riches." That's a fitting name to one who represents redemption and our family. His birth marks that our children, present and future, will always be valued higher than the sweeties of life. Our gold will be protected from the naysayers and the winds and waves that howl in opposition. He, the one born in the worst time possible (humanly speaking) signifies that we have learned our lesson well, we have understood because we have come to love beyond ourselves, and God has used our children, most of whom would not exist today if we had trusted in our own wisdom instead, to teach us that love. And that is a love we would not have known without them.
So I am thankful today for my children. Not just because we should thank God for family. But because God has saved, and is saving, me, a selfish man, through them. They are not just my children, but also a huge part of my sanctification, as I know they are for Allison as well. I am, of course, grateful to God for the woman, who long before she ever met me, decided to give such a difficult decision into God's hands. She is my partner in crime, a crime against the logic of the foolish world that sees children as a product of a mechanical machine rather than as a much needed, providentially decided, and vital gift toward our sanctification in love from the hand of God.
For these I am truly thankful, O God, Lord of all wisdom and understanding. Your ways are not our ways, and we have been blessed with riches that cannot be obtained by human hands alone. I thank You on this Thanksgiving Day for the love of Christ as I have come to understand it and have it cultivated by You through my wife and my children. Hallelujah. Amen.