Dear Joshua –
Let me start with this – the thing that I hope you know every talk we have starts with – but something that I should be saying more often: “You are my beloved son; and I am well pleased with you.”
That’s the truth, buddy – I love you very much, and I am very pleased with you and the young man you are becoming. I remember last year on your birthday, your mom asked you what kinds of things an 8 year old does that a 7 year old doesn’t. You told her that an 8 year old gets to get his own drink at a restaurant.
Well, if we measured the year by that alone, congratulations. But that’s not all an 8 year old does. At least not this 8 year old. I’ve watched you this year, Joshua – more than you know, though I suspect you’re catching on as to how much I observe given how many times lately you’ve turned around and just said, “What?” I watch the way that you love and play with your brother and sister as well as other kids who are younger than you. What I love about that is how you actually enjoy doing it. You don’t run as fast as you can when you’re playing tag. You don’t pin your brother to the ground when you’re wrestling even though you can. Whereas it would be easy for you to take a “too cool” attitude toward those younger than you, you make them feel special. Very special. But that’s not all I’ve seen.
I’ve watched you during the moments when you write and when you draw. And in those stories and drawings brimming with creativity, I see something else, too. Even in your imagination, I see that you know the difference between good and evil, right and wrong. Joshua, in a world where that line is increasingly becoming more and more blurred, you are growing into a young man who clearly knows the difference. It might seem like a no-brainer to you right now, but believe me when I say that there will come a time when you do indeed have to choose between what is right and what is easy, and it’s encouraging to me to see that you know the difference.
I’ve watched you as you’ve grown in your understanding of faith and the Bible. This year, Joshua, I watched one night as you came to me and Mommy on your own accord and articulated to us the truth of the gospel. Then I watched as you professed Jesus before our church and went into and out of the waters of baptism. Now I know that some might say this is a young age to become a Christian, and it is. I also know that at some point you will probably wonder about the validity of your experience. But I want you to know that had your Mommy and I not been convinced of the work of God in your heart we would have stopped you. And we did not.
Since then, I’ve watched you more than once tell us and others about Jesus and becoming a Christian. I know this, too, will probably become more difficult at some point for you, but I want you to know that I’m praying that the inevitable self-consciousness that will accompany you as you grow will not hinder your willingness to talk about your faith. But instead, I am praying that you will continue to think of Jesus as the most natural subject in the world to talk about at a given moment.
And then there was your appointment at the Survivor Clinic. You are a survivor, Joshua. I have watched you talk about your cancer like another kid might talk about a common cold, and I’m grateful to the Lord for that. I’m grateful that this will be part of your story, but not the defining moment of it; that it will help make you who you are but not determine who you are.
I’ve been watching. And today, on your 9th birthday, I want you to hear it again from me: “You are my beloved son. And I am well pleased with you.”