“All babies are glorious before God.” – The Shepherd of Hermas
G.K. Chesterton once said that he learned more about God from watching children than from all the books in his library. And I’m starting to understand what he means by that.
That quote at the beginning is from an ancient Christian document from around 150 A.D. We hear it today and it sounds like the kind of common sense you’d read on a fortune cookie or on a Taco Bell hot sauce packet…but in it’s day it was absolutely revolutionary. In the world that it was written in people didn’t think that babies were glorious before God. Babies were a risk and if you were lucky a retirement, and while parents loved their kids back then too, nobody would have thought to make such a sweeping statement like “All babies show us something about God.”
Yesterday as I was sitting in the Hendrick Hospital room in Abilene, I kept noticing their signs saying stating their mission was to be an institution that embodies the healing ministry of Jesus, and it dawned on me once again that we’re having a baby in an environment that values children largely because of a Jewish Carpenter who never had kids of his own, but said that we should not just welcome them…but become like them.
Yesterday morning, Leslie and I showed up at the hospital around 3:30 A.M. and after about 14 hours of labor she gave birth to a healthy 7 lb 10 oz baby boy we named “Joel Jefferson Storment” Actually, at the time he wasn’t named “Joel Jefferson” he didn’t have a name until late last night. We had decided to wait until we actually met the new little guy before naming him. We wanted to spend a little time with him before we named him, you know, just in case we named him Malachi and he came out looking like a Gus.
We now know that is a mistake because no one should be able to name a child after 20 hours awake and an empty stomach.
Leslie once again had a natural childbirth, each time we go through this I’m reminded how incredibly tough she is. I get lightheaded when I watch House, but when it comes to delivering kids she’s like General Patton.
Last night, after Joel was born, it kept washing over me that I’ve got a better life than I deserve, and if I killed over tomorrow I’ve already gone over the amount of joy anyone should have in a lifetime.
Eden, Samuel and Hannah are so great with their new brother. A camera can’t capture the wonder in their eyes as they look at him. Samuel immediately started trying to teach him about Star Wars and Legos and Eden started singing him the Razorback Fight song (a big parenting win!) Hannah just wanted to hold him and give him all those hugs and kisses that she’s been saving up for months (while practicing on her doll) .
And since one day this little guy is going to look back and wonder where he got his name, and so this is what we want to tell him:
I want to tell you about why we named you Joel. Your name means “The LORD IS God” and In the Old Testament there’s actually an entire book called Joel (you could’ve been named Obadiah) it’s from a really bad time in Israel’s history when the Israelites are losing everything from a bizarre natural disaster. The locusts are eating their crops and destroying their livelihood and God tells Joel to remind Israel that even though things are bad now, God hasn’t given up on them. Even though they didn’t plan out their future this way, God has Joel tell them not to lose heart because God plans to give back what has been taken away.
Actually here’s how God says it: “I will restore the years that the locusts have eaten.”
I love that idea. That somehow all the years that didn’t turn out exactly the way you’d hoped…God was going to restore. I don’t know how God runs the universe. I know that there is a lot of heartbreak out there that we all contribute to, and these days it feels overwhelming. You are being born into a world that is terrified and divided. Today’s newspaper was covered with news of the Ebola virus and another flare-up of violence between races…somedays it feels like the locusts are winning. But we still believe God plans to heal all harms and that the word He started and said was good he has never let go of.
So we named you Joel, he was a prophet of Restoration…because we believe that’s who God is and we believe that’s a good thing to give your life for.
I want to tell you about your second name. That’s important too: Jefferson. I know it sounds quite presidential, but that’s one of your grandad’s name (technically Cletis Jefferson is my dad’s full name but…) We gave you this name because we think that names matter, at their best they give you a kind of trajectory for what a good life might look like, and we know that there are a lot of temptations to think a good life is something shiny and expensive. But on the day you were born we wanted you to know what a very good life looks like.
As you get older, you’re going to hear and see a lot about men pursuing women as objects, as if they were something to be collected, and the person with as many as possible has the best life. We don’t believe that’s true. So we named you after a guy who has loved only one woman and loved her well, and will die 10,000 times happier than Hugh Heffner (I’ll explain who that is when you’re older) could ever dream of.
As you get older, you’re going to hear a lot from a lot of people who assume that the best life involves lots of money and prestige, but we named you after a guy who’s highest paying job was an assistant manager at Wendy’s, who’s T.V. repair business quit because he didn’t have the heart to charge the people who he served, but who laughs easier than anyone I know and sleeps well at night. We named you after a guy who’s rich where it counts.
As you get older, you’re going to see lots of people trying to position themselves for status in the world, and some of them will be good at it. We named you after an un-assuming guy who’s quietly served others with a disarming humility for 70+ years. We named you after someone who never won an award, but did win a lot of people’s hearts with the ability to make fun of himself in a way that brings joy into whatever room he’s in.
We want you to know that’s what a good life looks like.
And we want you to know how much your family already loves you. You’ve got grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins that can’t wait to meet you.
You are very loved little buddy.
Welcome to the world and welcome to the family.
P.S. In the interest of full disclosure, I had also tried really hard to let Leslie name him “Joel Danger Storment” but apparently Leslie thinks that might make it hard for him to ever book a flight..
P.P.S. It still might be a nickname.