My youngest son, Ben, turned twelve last Friday. I am so proud of this young man. He is such a neat kid, smart, funny and sensitive to others. It seems his older brother, Jake, was just thrilled when Ben came along 23 months after him.
Ben has taken on much the role of an older brother, although he is the younger brother, and gently and graciously guides Jake in certain situations. For the most part, Jake has welcomed this, particularly relying on Ben in situations with peers. Lately, Jake has been shrugging off his younger brother, which is pretty age-appropriate, I’d say. As his confidence has grown, so has his desire to become more independent and make his own decisions.
Benjamin believes (at least right now) that he’ll be a pastor when he grows up. We have never encouraged this (really, who would in their right mind?) but he has shared it with us several different times. Did you know he led himself to the Lord? Yes, really. Friends from church experienced the loss of her parents that summer. Their grandsons were spending the summer with them, so they came and played at our house a few times while this couple sorted out the details surrounding their loss. It was the first time Ben had really paid attention to the issue of death, and especially now that his own friends were experiencing a loss. “If her body is dead, how is she alive?” The visible, invisible-thing really troubled him. When understanding that God is fully alive although you cannot see Him or touch Him, Ben asked, “So did God die?” No, why do you ask? “Because God is invisible and Jesus became invisible after He died…” (Excellent reasoning: you become invisible only after you die.) The best understanding of this concept came as Ben talked with his daddy over the phone. Terry was in Venezuela the week that Ben decided it was time to make it official with God. Although Ben could not see or touch his daddy, he knew Terry was still real and still alive when he talked with him.
As has continued to be the case, Ben initiates deep conversations rather out-of-the-blue, without prior warning. (Don’t get me started on how he has asked the various questions about sex. Sheesh.) Ben began to ask questions about death, heaven and God, only asking one question at a time and then going days between as he mulled over the answers. I have tried to keep in step with the Spirit’s rhythm as best I have discerned it, so I let Ben lead the entire way, responding to him rather than leading him. Eventually he had worked his way through the entire (basic) understanding of sin and what Jesus did for us, what happens to those who know God when they die, and what it means to ask Jesus to be Lord of your life. “You’re agreeing that He will be your boss,” I advised him. Ben’s a leader and a leader that willingly agrees to allow someone they can’t see or know yet be their boss is no small thing.
Out of the blue, as always, he approached me once again. I was on the back porch, sanding down and refinishing a dresser we owned, when he came out and said, “So God isn’t in my heart unless I ask Him to come in?” Not unless you ask Him. “Okay,” he replied and went on about his business. A little while later, Ben returned with a huge grin on his face looking very triumphant. “Well, I did it,” he said proudly. Did what? “I told God I wanted Him to come into my heart – now – right now!” (Typical leader-in-training thinking.) He beamed with excitement. He continued to return to the back porch after bits of time, telling me more and more about his time with God. He had been careful to tell God that he understood his heart was dirty because he did wrong and then asked God to please clean it up so He could come live there. His excitement was evident and he was thrilled when he told his daddy all about it when Terry returned from the mission trip. Every prayer in that time period was, “And God help everyone everywhere ask you to live in their hearts – in the whole wide world.”
To be sure I accurately presented this story, I pulled out Ben’s journal, the one I’ve kept for him since I was pregnant with him. I was fascinated to read all the bits and pieces of conversations we shared in that time, and have recorded them here word for word, just as they are in his journal. Once again I am caught up in the amazement of having the awesome privilege of nurturing and guiding such a magnificent creation of God. As a mother, I have had to wrestle out in the deep places of my heart that these boys are God’s children first. I am blessed with the tremendous gift of mothering them, but ultimately I am only a steward of sorts – they belong first and foremost to Him. His plans for my boys has not always been my plan for my boys. What He has allowed I would never have allowed. But God’s faithfulness, incredible revelation of presence and provision, and His indescribable way of bringing abundant life from any “death” He has permitted have answered all the questions of my heart regarding His goodness and my ability to trust Him.
Ben is a wonderful idea that God dreamed up and I am gifted beyond words to have the awesome privilege of helping shape him as a person and as a child of God’s. My Benjamin has a true warrior’s heart, a strong sense of justice and injustice (takes after his mother here) and an uncanny ability to see beyond the surface of events to the greater meaning just beneath. He is building a strong sense of character and responsibility for his choices, a desire to be generous to those around him, and the ability to see how God is connected to everything in his life, not just bits and pieces. I am so very proud of him and love him beyond words. My sweet son Benjamin turned twelve last week.