Today is Eli J’s birthday! It is so hard for me to wrap my mind around the fact that the little fella who came 3 weeks early, weighing in at a whopping 5 pounds 3 ounces, is starting his fourth year of life! But don’t worry, little man did not have a hard wrapping his mind around this truth. In fact, at a cookout with all our SDSU college friends last night, Eli walked around proudly announcing, mostly to perfect strangers, “Tomowwow is my birthday.”
I am a gift-giver, and I have been collecting his birthday gifts for like a month now (when you are a gift-giver on a tight budget, you start early looking for awesome finds at thrift stores and good coupons and such). Ty and I wrapped his three modest gifts like a week ago, and since then all of us have been equally anticipating Eli’s opening them.
After our birthday waffles and opening gifts (think early), the boys set to work building all their new Lego contraptions. I sat on the couch, just listening to their joy and the way they were sharing so well with one another (Enter angels singing hallelujah chorus). I figured I would revel in the peace and spend a little time in the Word. It just so happens that I am finishing up a study of 1, 2, and 3 John and today was beginning the last letter.
What a present it is was for me. In this super short letter from an older brother in the faith to the younger generation, the Lord gave me sweet insights into parenting and priorities and presents. You see, on this day, my heart and mind were full of longings for Eli and his little life. As much as I want to give him every Lego we can afford under the sun (even though my feet and my vacuum will most certainly regret that urge in the weeks to come), I want even more so for him to grow into a man of God, a warrior for what is right, one who loves the Lord and people with all that is in him.
In verse 2, John writes, “Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers.” When I looked into the meanings of the words in the Greek, the passage just opened up to me. You see, there are 2 Greek words commonly translated “pray” in the New Testament. The one John uses here is “used of wishes not necessarily God-birthed,” meaning things we hope and want for others, but do not know, cannot claim to certainly be God’s will for their lives. The word translated “prosper” literally means to have a happy road or journey, meaning to wish someone a smooth and easy road.
What stuck out to this momma’s heart was this: John hoped and asked for good things for these beloved children in the faith, for good health and a smooth road and prosperity on every front. But John longed and lived to the end that their souls would prosper, that there would be a life in them that neither trials nor misfortunes nor sickness could touch. And John knew that life could only come from abiding deeply in the gospel of Christ.
He goes on to talk about how he had no greater joy than to see his children walking in the truth. My heart immediately prayed that my children would first walk into the truth, that they would own and abide in that truth, and that they would spend the rest of their lives venturing deeper and deeper into that same truth.
I was overjoyed to see how much Eli loved his presents. But I know that tomorrow the dog will eat the Lego Police Man’s head and that the crayons will break and get lost. He probably won’t remember the Lego cakes and cupcakes I spent hours yesterday making. And, to be honest, I hope he doesn’t. I hope that in 20 years, he is most thankful for the sweet time the Lord gave me in prayer for him and his soul today. The best present I can give him, my highest priority is the prosperity of his soul. And to that end, I pray that God would give me the grace to keep on keeping on in the hard work of caring for his body and brain and shepherding his soul. As C.S. Lewis says, “The Cross comes before the Crown and tomorrow is a Monday morning.”