There is really no way to try and justify a twenty-first birthday being anything other than a purely adult birthday. I can say this with a level of certainty because I have spent an inappropriate amount of time today trying to justify the opposite of that statement. My first born is 21. I must accept it.
There have only been two of Noah’s birthdays I have not spent with him. This is the second one. I’m not a fan. I love the idea of celebrating the gift of my children, the life they have been given and the joy they bring to my life. I feel a little weird about this whole calling to wish you a happy birthday business. (Of course I did see him last night, but don’t burden me with trivial details.) There is nothing quite as sweet as holding that newly-aged being that you saw take his first breath. Somehow holding him on his birthday brings back a hug from every staged boy you knew along the way. It gives you about 30 seconds to say goodbye to the last-aged version of the person you celebrated as he took his first steps. Birthday hugs are essential. Even if your birthday falls on the dreaded mid-week days. Can we petition that birthdays only fall on Friday or Saturdays?
Noah has had the great burden of being my first born. He has endured every parenting experiment we have pro-offered and carried the weight of prideful expectations that curse new parents. He carried it all with extraordinary strength. He met or exceeded our silly expectations and loved us anyways. We asked much of him and he said, “Sure.” We owe him a lot of gratitude for enduring our ridiculousness. Jonesy and I could not be more proud of who he is. We thank God daily for the beauty of the loving grace that is Noah Jones.
This past week as he moved toward 21, God was opening doors of opportunity for him. At one point as things were falling beautifully into place, I exclaimed to Noah, “God is really showing out for you this birthday.” But for a soul that anticipates change with a slight bit of anxiety, even the amazing changes can feel strange. New homes, new housemates, new responsibilities, new freedoms, and a new chapter in his educational journey combine into some great big wonderful changes, and a whole lot of new. I pray that the fresh start that is offered becomes a canvas that God and Noah work together to paint a masterpiece of service, love and community. I pray that Noah revels in the patience it will require to see the strokes of change begin to detail the artistry that takes a life time to perfect.
Noah Jones, I see you in your loving goodness. I see how you love people well and want everyone you come into contact to feel their value. Your kindness and ability to see other people is a spiritual gift. I know that when you hold that gift, there are often times in your community you hold it alone, so you don’t receive in return the language of love you so easily speak. But I see you. I appreciate you and I will continue to pray that you never grow weary of being the spreader of loving kindness. I also see you in your weakness. It is a certainty that we have set a stage for you as our first born that makes you leery of showing anything that could be perceived as weakness. We repent of that flaw in our parenting. For your birthday we offer you the gift of accepting imperfection as a welcome part of who you are. There is nothing you must do or be to make us proud. You are our son. There is nothing more we could ever want from you that could make us anymore proud.
As you move forward from this 21st birthday, we hope you pursue joy like you do breath. May you find it around you everywhere. May you seek it out when it seems to be hiding. May you bring it into dark places and may you experience it completely first in your relationship with God and as a by-product in your relationship with your community.
It seems impossible. Yet, how could so much love and so many great memories be housed in so few years.
No matter where you go,
No matter what you do.
Keep it in your pocket…….
You know the rest.
Happy Birthday beautiful boy. You are an amazing man.
My joy is increased through you.