Yesterday was my oldest son’s sixth birthday. When he was born, almost every seasoned parent I knew told me, “Enjoy these moments, because they go so fast.” It seems like only a second ago I was holding a little babe in my arms, overwhelmed by God’s craftsmanship and utterly changed by Benjamin’s entrance into our lives.
I also remember thinking I’d never sleep again or be able to visit someone else’s home without constantly following my toddler around to keep him from destroying breakable objects. I remember the days when it was all poopy diapers, spit-up and crying.
And then he got a little bit older and the sweet infant got a temper, learned the full body heave and started saying “no” a lot. It seemed like all we ever did was spank him. If I had a dollar for every time I asked him, “Do you know why Daddy spanks you?” and then explained, “Because Daddy loves you,” well, I’d have a healthier bank account these days.
Those were discouraging days. Did we do something wrong? we’d often ask ourselves, wondering if our discipline and love was doing anything at all. I remember one battle in particular, which was over the appropriate response of “Yes sir” and “Yes ma’am.” That lasted at least a year-and-a-half. Every time was a struggle.
It’s not that today doesn’t have its own struggles, but all those faithful, veteran parents were right—if you faithfully discipline and teach your children according to God’s promises and wisdom, it gets better. They learn. Not right away, but years from now.
The other morning, after hugging the birthday boy, I said, “Please grab a book and go to the living room.” He turned and said, in a sweet refrain, “Yes Daddy.” No fuss, no floppin’ on the ground like a fish out of water, no dragging his feet in protest. That’s a moment to rejoice in—a moment six years in the making.
The Gospel in 3D
Benjamin has also been much more than a field to sow in and learn parental diligence. He’s been a constant parable of gospel truth in my life—a constant reminder to face God’s grace in flesh-and-blood ways.
His birth brings me back to a time when I, the prodigal, was welcomed home by my Father. Even the verse that provided some inspiration for Benjamin’s name has proved true over the years:
“Your procession is seen, O God, the procession of my God, my King, into the sanctuary…There is Benjamin, the least of them, in the lead” (Ps. 68:24, 27).
It’s pretty amazing, this thing about children leading adults into God’s kingdom. It’s not, after all, that they must become like us, but that we must become like them. Everyday I’m confronted by my kids—and Benjamin in particular—about this reality. He constantly reminds me of the things I’m trying to teach him, and he is often God’s instrument of grace when I need it most.
A baptismal liturgy from the French Reformed tradition captures well the beautiful notes of the gospel in the life of our children. A version of these words was proclaimed over Benjamin at his baptism, and they stand as a covenant declaration over our lives as Christians. They are among the most treasured words in my life—because of what they mean for my son and for me; they are worth pondering today.
Do not fear, says the Lord, for I have redeemed you, I have called you by name, you are mine. Even when the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed, says the Lord, my kindness shall not depart from you, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed. Little child, for you Jesus Christ came into the world, labored and suffered; for you, he went through the agony of Gethsemane and the darkness of Calvary; for you, he cried, “It is finished!”; for you he died and for you he triumphed over death; yes, for you, little child, the declaration holds true, “We love God, because he first loved us.”