I am the most ignorant of men; I do not have a man’s understanding. I have not learned wisdom, nor have I knowledge of the Holy One. Who has gone up to heaven and come down? Who has gathered up the wind in the hollow of his hands? Who has wrapped up the waters in his cloak? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is his name, and the name of his son? Tell me if you know! Proverbs 30, verses 2 – 4.
I’m skipping ahead a few verses to cite some from the next (to last) chapter of Proverbs. I want to commemorate a special day. Twenty-one years ago today my oldest child, my daughter Gretchen, came into this world. Today, she’s old enough to buy her first legal drink: a milestone so many of us anticipate, and it’s satisfying for a moment. It’s a fun birthday, and there’s something satisfying in being able to finally take your place anywhere as a peer among adults, partaking in a ritual of adulthood. Once you buy the drink, though, it’s past. The next milestone on life’s calendar is nine years from today, and who knows what will happen in those nine years?
What I do know is what’s happened in the last twenty-one. They’ve been eventful. We’ve lived in two countries and three US states. In 1991, I was a buck sergeant in the US Air Force; today I’m an overpaid healthcare consultant writing a blog about the Proverbs. Gretchen was born in Bedford, Indiana during the early days of the Gulf War, a few months after the Soviet Union disappeared and long before hope and change became political rhetoric to ridicule. She was born in Bedford because we lived overseas and, because Desert Shield had closed down the military hospitals in Germany to US dependents. Her mom and I didn’t want her born in an Italian hospital, so my wife flew back home to Indiana during the fall of 1990. A few months later, I was able to be there to see my little girl draw her first breath.
All these years later, my little girl is all grown up. I’m very proud of her for the solid young woman she’s become. She’s hard-working, dedicated, loving, fun, and she still roots for Indiana’s pro football team (or at least for Peyton Manning). On this important milestone day, I want her to remember the verses above so they may serve as a theme for the next twenty one years (when she turns 42, she’ll be younger than I am now…and I’ll be in my late sixties).
The world is much more than we know and we can’t know even a small fraction of it alone. In a lifetime, we can learn much and still be ignorant if we know not God. Our ways are not His ways for His ways don’t include our sins. But His ways redeem us from our sins, and His ways lead to another twenty one years (and another after that and more after that and so on until we come to the place where time no longer exists). My young lady is in college now, studying to become a teacher while working as a pre-school teacher full time. She teaches little children how to behave, count, socialize and be good kids.
Her biggest calling, though, is to serve as the example to them of how to live in love, God’s love. All else that she has learned in life, will learn, or will ever teach matters little compared to this love. It’s true, that kids learn useful things in school, and I thank God Gretchen is answering the honorable calling to lend her talents in teaching others. Yet that calling is to not just teach the three R’s, but also to teach how to use them in fulfilling others’ lives in their mission of learning to love God. To do that, one need not teach Sunday School, postulate online about Proverbs or Bible verses, or wear a breadboard on a street corner. Those things work, but they aren’t necessary and I can’t see her doing them at this age anyway.
Instead, part of her mission, her calling, will be to teach God’s love through living it out in her life. Holding a child who needs a hug, instructing on how to live selfless but disciplined lives, teaching others to love without expecting anything back, and how to become good citizens without betraying what you believe in are all part of that. They’re part of living out Christian love that will assume a more important place in her life the older she becomes. Sharing it through practical faith, through tangible grace, will be more important than grading all the papers for all the students in all the grades ahead. That’s not to say those things aren’t important, just that this Divine love is more.
After all, there truly is so much more to the world, to this life, than we know. Who among us can recount the amazing things in verses 2 through 4? Even when we know, we are not God, and we cannot be. All that we know here, all that we learn of the world and learn to teach about it is just a glimmer of what we know in God and what is to come in Him. Today is a day in which my daughter (and all of us) can stand next to other adults and enjoy a fruit of maturity. In a larger sense, today is a blessing to stand as a member of God’s kingdom, to share the Savior’s love, and enjoy much more fulfilling fruit. To live, then, in reverence for the God who lovingly gives us this life and the marvels in it is the greatest calling of all.
It’s a greater calling than simply buying your first legal margarita.
But that’s something we’ll probably do tonight. We’re having a family dinner at a very good Brazilian restaurant down in Addison. The kids have never been there, but their mom and I have, and we’re going to share the experience with oldest daughter on her special day. Yes, part of it will be going to the bar to order that first legal drink, and that’s a good thing to celebrate. Enjoying the fruits of adulthood – along with the fruit of the vine – is a blessing of time and circumstance. It is my hope and intention, though, that she would learn these other more important lessons that are the real fruits of life, then that she would live them out and pass them on to the children in her care. To do that would be honorably answering the highest calling of all. Happy birthday, Gretchen Marie, God bless you, and I love you.