9/26/2008

To Jonathan Phineas Moothart

Son,
Your mother and I took the task of naming you very seriously. We wanted to give you a strong name, a Biblical name, a name with meaning and purpose, and a name that wouldn’t be a source of excessive teasing in grade school. Your mother vetoed Hector for exactly that reason. At any rate, your middle name serves the same purpose, and more besides – more on that later.

You share your first name with two uncles and the Jonathan of the Bible. Jonathan is a strong name, and the Jonathan of the Bible exemplifies this. He was strong and true in his friendship to David. He was strong and brave in battle against the enemies of God’s people, going alone with his armor bearer to a Philistine garisson and igniting with God’s help such a panic that the battle was won for the Israelites that day.

You are called Phineas after the third High Priest of Israel - son of Eleazar, son of Aaron. When the people sinned by taking to themselves foreign women and foreign gods, God sent a plague among them in His anger. Phineas stopped it by taking up his spear and running it through a man who had done this publicly and the Mideanite woman he had taken. And God stayed the plague because of the zeal Phineas had shown for His glory.

In our world zeal and strength do not take such forms, of course. But warfare remains a helpful metaphor, in the New Testament and today, for the struggle between God’s people and spiritual evil.

Lastly, you are a Moothart. You are the son of Gabe, the son of Tom, the son of Harvey. I need hardly tell you who I am – my actions will say more than my words anyway. But I will say a little about what I feel your grandpa has passed on to me (although there is certainly more than I can list or recognize), and that is a sense of duty to and sacrifice for family. Grandpa sometimes worked a lot of overtime when I was growing up, and wasn’t home as much as I would have liked. But it was always clear to me that he was doing this for the family – so that Grandma could stay home with us, so that we could have nicer things, go to camp in the summer, and later go to a Christian school.

I once seriously considered a job offer which would have been challenging and fulfilling for me, but required long hours away from home. It doesn’t do me credit that what your Grandpa did for the family I wanted to do for myself. But the moment of clarity cam when I compared myself to him (and to you).

Neither Grandpa nor I ever really knew your Great Grandfather. He died when Grandpa was 4. I don’t know much about him – only snippets, really. He was a teacher. He joined the navy late in WWII, but the war ended before he saw combat. Great Grandma’s photo album shows him fixing up their first house, and beside pictures of her he had scrawled “my gal”. They had 4 children (Grandpa was the second) in their 6 years together.

I guess I’m saying this because I think it’s important for you to know where you come from, and who has gone before you. I do not in any way mean to be telling you who I expect you to become or place borders around what you can do. You’ll have to make those decisions and follow God’s call yourself. In fact, recently I was meditating on Jesus’ call to James and John, wondering how Zebedee must have felt to be left in his boat like that. But when God calls you, I hope that I can let you go with grace.

Vocation aside, however, I do hope for you to grow up a moral and righteous man. I already see in you passion, intensity, and, yes, a temper. It is my prayer that through your choices and helped by our parenting, you may learn to focus your passion, direct your anger against those things which God hates, and be used by Him – like the sword of Jonathan and the spear of Phineas.

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