My son, Matthew John, will be 35 this March. Hard to believe that all these years have passed since I first looked at my little firstborn as an infant at Central DuPage Hospital on a cold March day in 1973. Life has a way of passing us all by, or so we feel when we are in the middle of our own story and nearing 60. My second born, my precious daughter Stacy, came into the world four years and one day later. Anita insisted that our children would not share the same birthday so she endured labor on Matthew’s fourth birthday in hopes of making it, somehow, to the next day. Sure enough she delivered Stacy the next day via c-section, and our kids have ever since had "their own day." (In our household birthdays are big. Anita is my party girl!) Good girl, that Anita, planning ahead as much as possible for our kids to be unique and to have their own special date in the family story. I would never have been so brave or thoughtful.
Last year I began to enjoy a monthly father-son lunch with Matthew. I wish I had started this tradition much sooner but I can be way too busy and often quite dense at times. Anyway, Matt and I usually just catch up, talk a bit about what we are both doing and enjoy chips and salsa and our usual meal at Chili’s. (Dad always buys but that is one things dad’s should do!) It is an easy-going, laid-back, fun time for me. I think Matt enjoys it as well. I learn so much from my son. I am always amazed at what God is doing in his life. His deep and growing faith, his strong commitment to Christ and the catholic Church, his loyalty to the truths of core Christian doctrine, his visionary spirit, his knowledge of contextualization in mission and his abiding love for his family all profoundly encourage me when we meet. He is always learning and never remaining pat about much of anything. He is a cool Christian guy and a young man who makes me have real hope about the future. I love him and I learn from him. Most of all I admire him beyond words. I sometimes drive away from these meals and say to myself, "Lord, thank you. You gave me a son who is a far better man than I ever was or could be. You are so merciful. I am a supremely happy man to have two wonderful children who love you, love your mission and honor me as their father so deeply."
Because Matthew is a model missional church planter I will write more about these conversations and Matt’s teaching me about missional church Christianity on my new site at transformissionalchurch.com. (I hope to get him to write some things for that site as well since it is totally dedicated to missional church thought and practice.) Check out today’s blog at this site if you want to see more of Matt’s thoughts that have personally helped me think about the issue of missional theology, the issue that lies at the heart of my own national teaching ministry. For now, I have to tell you that I am a man blessed beyond words to teach missional theology, both at Wheaton and in churches and through writing, and to have, at the same time, a son who is a wonderful practitioner of the very things that I believe and teach.
If you want to know more about Matt’s church and his related youth ministry in the community public schools check his work out at two sites: New Hope Community Church of Streamwood and Crossroads of Illinois.
By the way, the best two kids in the Crossroads Kids Clubs are named Gracie and Abbie, my delightful grandchildren, who are six and ten years old now. What more can I say? A grandfather is entitled to a few boasts about his grandchildren now and then.