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24 Years of Being a Dad

24 Years of Being a Dad

It was on this day 24 years ago that I became a dad. I suppose I had already been a dad for the past nine months and 10 days—a full term of pregnancy plus a few extra days of waiting. But on March 5, 2000, I finally got to meet my firstborn, my boy, my sweet Nick. I watched with wonder as he emerged into this world. I took him in my arms for the first time and gently kissed his forehead. I studied him from the tip of his toes to the crown of his head and declared him perfect. I marveled at what God had given me, at what he had given us, at what he had given the world.

I watched that baby grow into a boy, and that boy grow into a man. I watched him grow not just in stature but in character, not just in age but in wisdom. I watched him profess faith and be baptized, fall in love and get engaged. I watched him begin to prepare himself for a life dedicated to pastoral ministry. I watched with joy and delight.

Twenty times March 5 came with great gladness and sweet memories—with gifts, treats, and celebration. And four times it has come with a combination of gladness and sorrow and with memories that are both sweet and bitter. Four times it has come with Nick no longer here to celebrate or to be celebrated.

March 5, 2021 was the hardest. Nick had been gone for just four months and we were still so new to grief, still so raw. We had been warned that the first would be the hardest and those warnings proved true. That was a hard, hard day. March 5, 2022 was a little easier and March 5, 2023 a little easier still. By then the sharpness of the pain had settled into something more like a dull ache. We had better learned how to cope with our grief and to come to terms with it. Perhaps better said, we had further submitted it to the Lord and further bowed the knee to him—to the God who is sovereign and kind, to the God whose purposes are always and only good.

And now we have come to the fourth birthday in which Nick is in heaven and we are on earth, the fourth March 5 we have faced with this combination of sorrow and joy. We grieve that we cannot see him, hug him, speak to him, express our love to him. We grieve that his presence has been replaced with absence, that our memories of him are always accompanied by the sorrow that we have no more memories to make, at least on this side of heaven.

But we also rejoice that we had the privilege of knowing him and loving him. We rejoice that he lived a life worthy of the gospel and that he has now been delivered from all sin, suffering, and sorrow. And we rejoice, of course, that we will see him again. It’s a strange place to be—this place of already and not-yet, this place of faith and not sight, this place of promise but not fulfillment. Yet we are content knowing that it is God himself who led us here and God himself who will eventually lead us out. We have confidence in him, in his love, in his purposes, in his goodness and glory.

I don’t know if birthdays are a thing in heaven. I don’t even know if and how time passes there. But I do know that right here a few of us continue to count it special because we continue to love the one who was given to us on this day, 24 years ago.

This poem is on my mind today and seems a fitting way to close.

Whate’er we fondly call our own
Belongs to heaven’s great Lord;
The blessings lent us for a day
Are soon to be restored.

’Tis God that lifts our comforts high,
Or sinks them in the grave;
He gives; and when He takes away,
He takes but what He gave.

Then, ever blessed be His name!
His goodness swell’d our store;
His justice but resumes its own;
Still we the Lord adore.

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