for my Stephen

Twenty-one years ago today, twelve days after his due date, my son arrived after a mere four hours of labor weighing over ten pounds — and so began a life that has been marked by a refusal to conform to expectations.

Born to two extremely type-A personalities, this kid is so laid back that behaviorists have almost decided to create a type-C.  He does everything when he wants to, not when convention has determined he should.  For instance, he walked at nine months, but potty trained at three years. At six, he read Popular Science and asked if he could learn how to play the violin– about the same time that we were trying to teach him how to ride a bike.   When all his classmates were looking forward to senior year, he decided to take the GED and try out college.  At twenty-one, he still doesn’t have a license to drive a car, even though he’s driven many vehicles, including large Army machinery.

Some people are impressed with my kid. I mean he’s good-looking, he’s run hundreds of miles already this year, and for his job he has fired weapons and jumped out of planes.  He can talk about any kind of music, or history, or art, or religion or simply laugh with you while watching slapstick. He can clean and reassemble a weapon in no time flat, cook a killer breakfast, and alter or embellish his own clothing.

Some people get annoyed with him. I’ve been there myself — when he disassembled the thermostat when he was two, tried to melt crayons in my oven when he was seven, and got kicked off the school bus for ‘testing’ the emergency door when he was ten. Teachers wrung their hands when he couldn’t be bothered to do homework because he had a “philosophical objection to it.”  He argues sometimes just for the sake of arguing.

Most people are confused by him. Why would he not want to graduate with his class? Why would he decide to join the Army at seventeen? What do you mean he doesn’t want to drive or buy a car? He runs how many miles a week? Studies Art History? Attends college classes when he’s home on leave?

Me? I love the kid. He invades my space, pushes my boundaries, alters my plans, and makes me laugh.  He has refused to be what others have expected him to be, even when they have mocked him, bullied him, or shunned him.  He has continued to stand tall and determine for himself what paths he will take. What could make me prouder? Not one thing.

Over twenty-one years ago I was sound asleep in my bed when I suddenly woke in the middle of the night.  Although I was large with child, we had no idea if we would be having a boy or a girl. In that midnight moment, I felt an overwhelming urge to pray for this unborn child who I felt compelled to name ‘Stephen’.  I felt led to pray that he would have the staying power, as did the Biblical Stephen, to stand in the middle of the rock-throwers and not crumble, to hold true to his faith and his convictions even when others didn’t agree or understand. I was a little overwhelmed in that moment — not knowing what our guy would be up against.  But I’ve watched him for twenty-one years now. I’ve seen him defend his faith, share it with others (even during boot camp or in the belly of an aircraft), and I’ve seen him take his share of rocks.  Let me assure you that God heard that prayer so many years ago. He has made my boy into a man who can stand and not crumble.

 Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom…. and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit..

from Acts 7

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