To my son on his birthday…

“…love I have beyond all men, love that now you share with me. What have I to wish you then but that you grow both good and free? That grace to you our Lord would give, and stronger days to live…”

Today my son Israel turns seven years of age.

We had already observed the occasion in a small get-together at the local park on Sunday (as his birthday fell on a weekday this year) but today is the actual day.

On March 30th, seven years ago, the Lord blessed me with the healthy birth of my second child, a son, whom I named Israel Elias Kirk. Israel…  a name I gave him to keep him humble, and also as a reminder of the sorry birthright he inherited from his father.

Israel is a most peculiar little boy. Though he remains greatly inclined towards machines, structures, and technology in general, a burgeoning interest in natural science, philosophy, and far-reaching questions of religion have become readily apparent over this past year.

My son greedily devours books of all kinds…  he can engross himself in the most trite of children’s fare to the sweeping Epic of Beowulf, one of his favorite heroes of history and literature. On the same rainy day that I overheard him giggling in the bathroom while reading a Calvin & Hobbes collection, he later looked up at me (while reading one of my theological texts) to ask: “Daddy, what’s reductionism?”

The teachers at his school praise his sweet temperament and distinct intellectual gifts, while chastening such sentiments with politely restrained allusions to his…  uh, “energy” in the classroom.

But I know all too well of the sort of disruptions his shiftless and nebulous mind brings forth. If nothing else, it takes a thief to catch a thief.

Israel maintains a curiously musical quality with language, as well as a “linguistic” approach to music. There are certain words that can cause him to spontaneously erupt into laughter…  just by thinking of them.

There are melodies that he will memorize on a single listening and then sing subtly, often at rather inopportune times. A couple weeks ago he kept singing the chorus to Handlebars by The Flobots during the time for announcements and prayer requests at church. There was a teenage couple in a nearby pew that thought it endearing and even I could not help but smile…  even as I told him to hush up and listen to Brother Daron.

For all of his precious little glories, my son also has a dark side about him…  an impetuousness and fervor that can and does get him into trouble from time to time. The same passion that drives his focus can also become unhinged into a rage. Though he shows such tenderness and tactile affection for his family and friends, the storm clouds of temper have brought forth a striking-out at others on more than one occasion.

While these instances are rare enough, I am given enough of a glimpse at the latent terrors that hide behind his wide bronze-colored eyes and winsome little-boy smile.

The name Israel means “One who struggles with God” and, as an old friend once told me, I hope he does not struggle long. Or, if he must struggle, that it would be as His child and not as an adversary.

So today my son turns seven years old…  my God give me the strength to raise him well. To represent true masculinity to him well enough to provide proper example for manhood, all the while directing his gaze above the horizon…

…that he might soon find his true Father, ruling all Creation from above the starry heavens.

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