By Pastor Michael W. Waters – Contributor
When a child is born, a father is born. A mother is born, too of course, but at least for her it’s a gradual process. Body and soul, she has nine months to get used to what’s happening. She becomes what’s happening. But for even the best-prepared father, it happens all at once…Even if he should decide to abandon it forever ten minutes later, the memory will nag him to the grave. He has seen the creation of the world. It has his mark on it. He has its mark on him. ~ Fredrich Buechner
To Michael Jeremiah, my son, and to Hope, my daughter:
I vividly remember the days you were born into my life, and subsequently I, into yours. Though days of unrivaled joy and celebration, your births were not without struggle and complication. But your mother’s courage, your will to live, and the grace of God proved to be the order of the day. I, too, remember the first time I held you. Suddenly, I became the embodiment of complex dualities as strength and weakness, assurance and fear, confidence and self-doubt encompassed my being simultaneously. Such was the day that I was born your father.
The day you were born was the day I met God. Not that I had not known God. I had confessed God in my youth. I had studied God at university and seminary. I had worshipped God at cathedral and seashore. I had dared to preach of God in city and country. Yet you introduced me to God in ways more intimate and true than I had known before. In grasping your tiny hands and feet, I met the Creator. I was able to declare “Your workmanship is marvelous” (Psalm 137:14) as I worshipped as never before the awesome magnificence of the Divine!
The day you were born, your mother’s grace and beauty unfurled before me in illuminated and magnified glory! Though hair disheveled, and body and emotions, weary, her beauty far exceeded the painted, polished, and pressed glory of our wedding day. I remain constant in awe of her willing sacrifice of comfort and body for the immeasurable gift of our family. I pray that you will one day know love as your mother and I have known it together.
The day you were born the Scriptures became alive, anew! I began to understand its witness with greater clarity. God’s own testimony to Jeremiah that “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5, NLT) spoke to me as though I had heard it for the first time. So did my confidence in another of God’s proclamations to Jeremiah: “I know the plans I have for you. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11, NLT). Hence your names, Jeremiah and Hope.
I am now able to offer my own witness to the testimony of Scripture:
Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him. Children born to a young man are like arrows in a warrior’s hands. How joyful is the man whose quiver is full of them! (Psalm 127:3-4)
Indeed, I am full of joy!
And for the gift of loving someone more than life, itself, I am forever in your debt! And I shall forever seek to repay my debt with love, though imperfect, yet seeking perfection.
With love and adoration,
The Rev. Michael W. Waters is the founder and Senior Pastor of Joy Tabernacle A.M.E. Church in Dallas, Texas and was named among America’s top young leaders by Ebony Magazine. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.