You are 18 years old today.
I can hardly believe I just wrote that.
This morning I was remembering the evening in late December of 1990, in an "upper room" of the Greater Baltimore Crisis Pregnancy Center. I was a volunteer counselor; it was my calling to minister hope and peace to women who found themselves in (or got themselves into) seemingless hopeless situations. Yet, here I was, happily married, mother of two toddlers, at Christmastime, terrified and waiting for a pregnancy test to run.
One of my coworkers, Candace Grasso, sat across the table from me and took both of my hands in hers as I wept and told her my fears. Three kids in four years? What would people think? How could I possibly handle three? Why would God choose me to mother a third child when I felt so lousy to the two already in my lap? Postpartum depression nearly killed me after Sarah was born. I can't go though that again! I can't do that to another child! How would he turn out with a mother like me? I had neither hope nor peace in that moment.
Candace listened. I don't remember anything she said except this: "Zo, all you see is the here and now. Just think: this child could grow up to be the next D.L Moody or Billy Graham."
And then a miracle took place in my heart. Candace read the test result. "Praise the Lord, Zo. It's positive." All the fear and dread was suddenly replaced with hope and peace. I can't explain how it happened, but in a flash, I was filled with an eager anticipation to meet you, my third child. However, unlike what Candace said, I didn't think you'd be a "he" but a "she" and I would name you Hope. (Guess I got that wrong.)
I could not fathom how easy you'd be to raise. You were a very happy, easygoing baby. Not a crier, not sickly except for repeated ear infections. You slept well, ate well, played well. You smiled all the time. Basically every mother's dream, especially after the nightmare of a colicky child and depression. You could memorize anything, including the first book I read a hundred times to you. Remember Bobby's Zoo? You can still quote it! We'd all get the chuckles hearing you race through it. You loved to sing with Sarah. The two songs I remember you singing most were "Jesush Yuvs Me" and "The Fwoot of God'sh Shpirit." Jesus called you His child at such an early age that you've been deeply convinced all your life of His love--and have borne much fwoot from that conviction.
Fast forward to this morning. It's 7:30 a.m. and I open my Bible study book, Believing God. The title of the day's text is "One Believing Man." It is a brief biography of none other than Dwight L. Moody. As he set sail for America from England, Moody received a verbal blessing from a London evangelist named Henry Varley. Varley told Moody, "The world has yet to see what God will do with and for and through and in and by the man who is fully and wholly consecrated to him."
Fully and wholly consecrated. That sure does describe you, Stephen. I have never known a teenager with the thirst for God's Word that you possess. It's uncanny the way you soak up scripture. By your bed is always the Bible, and resting on top of it is a book of theology, doctrine, or discipleship.
You love being at the church. Love it to the point I could say, "Zeal for his Father's house consumes him." A few weeks ago you went to men's reading group at 8:30 a.m., and at 11:30 you weren't yet home. I called you and asked why you were still there. You were cleaning bathrooms. To me that is the penultimate mark of humility: cleaning public toilets. Nothing is beneath you because you realize your lowliness in the the presence of a holy God.
I have seen this past year a mindboggling array of ways God has used you: as a drummer who truly worships with joy, as a camp counselor to 4 and 5 year olds, as a children's church helper, as an encouraging blog writer, as an employee at a Christian bookstore , as a computer problem-fixer, as a godly older brother to Joel and younger brother to Ben and Sarah, as a sound techie, as a student who proclaims his faith on campus, as an example to men more than twice his age, as a son who gives wisdom, peace, and hope to his parents.
This year I have heard, over and over, confirmation of what God spoke to me through Candace while you were being formed. The confirmation runs along the lines of your having the heart of a pastor and preacher. Just think...DL Moody...Billy Graham.
Those were two of the greatest evangelists who ever lived.
And I think of you as the third, on the cusp of a widespread ministry.
For reasons I'll only discover in heaven why I was chosen to mother you, I am deeply humble.
Blessings to you, my Third child. You are, by America's definition, a man now. By God's, you were a man years ago.
Truly, "the world has yet to see what God will do with and for and through and in and by the man who is fully and wholly consecrated to Him."
All my love,