Recently my middle son had his 19th birthday and like so many 19 year olds when asked what he would like for his birthday he said, “Cash, it’s the only thing I really need;” and he meant it. He’s at that awkward place in life where the carefree living of teenage-hood collides with the realities of adulthood and adulthood keeps sending overdraft notices, late notices, and the gas tank is empty, again. So, he really needs cash; it seems the part-time retail job that pays barley more than minimum wage isn’t going quite as far as he thought it would.
Smiling, I listen to him tell me about the budget he recently crafted. On paper every bill was paid and the gas tank filled, but in practice the money is gone long before his next paycheck arrives. “In real life”, he explained, “unexpected things come up and … the money is gone.” He could try to work full-time but that would compromise his grades at the community college.
So, emphatically he restates that the only birthday present he wants or needs is cash. I stare at my son, nodding my head in an understanding kind-of-way, but I don’t want to give him cash. The problem with giving cash as a gift is it won’t change his financial woes. The gift will be just enough money to fill up his gas tank and pay a bill or two, then poof it’s gone! But his financial situation will be the same next month.
Our conversation got me thinking about what my heart would truly like to give my son for his birthday. Would it be a new car whose windows open, or would it be a higher paying job, or maybe an I Phone without a cracked screen. No, those ideas are nice but not what my heart would give my son.
I’ve been watching my son’s entrance into adulthood with the eyes of a mother. Eyes that see his successes and failures through the filter of a mom’s heart and this filter sees and understands the value of his struggles to find his place in this word. I’ve watched as he fails and then struggles to fix the problem. I’ve watch as he succeeds, gets over confident, and then messes up again.
While contemplating my son’s journey into manhood I asked myself again what my heart would give him for his 19th birthday. If it was within my ability I would give him the strength and confidence to stand strong through adversity, the strength to be honest with himself, the strength to be honest with others, the strength to keep holding onto his faith, the discipline to do the right thing even when others aren’t, a heart that chooses forgiveness, the ability to laugh at himself, and a kind heart that resists harsh judgment of others.
This contemplation about what gifts I desire to give my son made me think about God and all the gifts and blessings He freely gives to us when we choose to believe in him. I find comfort in the fact that God understands our struggles with human nature as we mature in our Christian walk. I appreciate that He gives forgiveness when we mess-up and then mess-up again. How blessed we are to have a father who loves us completely.
Debora Shelford Hobbs