As a little boy you told me, “I’ll always want you to hug me, Mom.” You were frustrated because your big brother had just said I hugged him too much. Not only were you concerned my feelings had been hurt, but you couldn’t imagine not wanting hugs.
I said I wouldn’t hold you to the promise once you were 11 or 13. But you never changed. That sweet little boy who loved his momma’s hugs let me hug him through those insecure preteen years. Even in front of friends you’d hug me good-bye. You were never too cool for love.
Recently as you watched (and grieved) your older siblings leave the nest, you promised to hug me at least once a day. It was your remedy for my tears, I think. And you’ve kept your word. You’ve always been good at loving, Sam–and letting others love you, too. Some people have to learn to love, to say kind words, to hug, to lovingly tease, but not you. You make loving look easy.
Your faith, too, seems as natural to you as breathing. I’m sure during the hard times you were like anyone else, questioning the pain. Two hip surgeries and the struggle to return to your passion as an athlete tested it for sure, as did the times money was tight, and we didn’t know how to give you what you needed. But I don’t remember you having deep questions or anger. Mostly I remember you speaking faith to me when I struggled with my own. Fear would close in on me. I’d wrestle with God, reminding Him of the needs I couldn’t meet. Then you’d waltz in with your natural smile, put your arm around me, and say, “Don’t worry, Mom. God has this.” It makes me grin to remember the twinkle in your eye when God would solve the problem, and you’d say, “I told you everything would be okay.”
It’s delightful to see you hit a home run, write a creative story, or earn academic awards, but it’s your passion for God and people, your faith, your love, that bring me the most joy. Your favorite time of the week is volunteering in kids’ ministry at church. I love that you’re considering this as a career. I love that you chose to raise money to go on a mission’s trip this summer. I can’t wait to hear all about everything God does in and through you.
This year you have truly stepped into a new place, successfully completing two semesters at college while still in high school, working an insane amount of hours at your new job, and keeping up with a demanding varsity baseball schedule. I worried and fussed about all the demands upon you, but I shouldn’t have. You handled it. There were times you were exhausted. I wanted you to quit work or at least ask for time off, but you persevered, building a savings account and enjoying paying your own way. Just another part of manhood you’re stepping into. I’m proud of you. Of your perseverance, hard work, and determination.
As I prayed about this special day, this day when you are honored as a high school graduate, I asked the Lord what He saw. My pen flowed across journal pages thinking about how you bring such joy and love into this world. How you notice beauty. Offering uplifting words. (It’s a good thing you also have your daddy’s ornery streak and quick humor to help balance all that sweetness!) Love making people happy. I felt like the Lord told me to let you love life and help other love it and not impose upon you my hyper-active need to work and succeed. That you would be one of the lucky ones who could be productive without having to first get stressed out. That’s pretty cool. He also reminded me that you are becoming a wonderful communicator. I can’t wait to see where that goes.
Then He brought three men from the Bible to mind, all communicators. The first is your namesake, Samuel. Like Samuel you have been learning to discern God’s Voice from a young age, and like Samuel God will increasingly speak to you, and you will be able to share hope and wisdom with others as you listen to what God says and speak when He nudges you to speak.
The second one who came to mind was King David. Like you, he was a worshiper. He was passionate about God and God’s people. He noticed and celebrated beauty. He was creative. Somehow David was a fierce and manly warrior while maintaining a tender heart that produced the Psalms, some of the most beautiful poetry ever written. You have a heart like David, and the Lord is making you a strong, mighty man while protecting that heart that bring Him and others such joy.
The last name I wrote in my journal was Paul, again your namesake. Paul was passionate about God’s grace. His understanding of grace continues to affect how we see God and ourselves over 2,000 years later. Though one of the most powerful leaders of the new church, Paul struggled with a weakness. He asked God three times to simply take it away, but God told him to look to Him, that His grace would be sufficient for him. Like Paul you are passionate about grace. You long to see yourself as God sees you and to help others see themselves the way God sees them. Like Paul you have weakness (don’t we all?), and God said this was okay, that your struggles help you look to Him and rely upon Him in ways you wouldn’t without them.
As I finished my prayer time yesterday I felt the Lord remind me that David was the youngest of his brothers. As the youngest I know you sometimes struggled to find your own place. You had three awesome older siblings you looked up to. You wanted to excel as each of them had. In life. In character. It had to be hard sometimes to forge your own path. You loved them so much and wanted to be yourself even as you wanted to be like them. But you have succeeded, my son. You have stepped into manhood uniquely you even as you share many of the same traits I love about them. And as I prayed yesterday I feel the Lord gave me a promise for you, that He has seen your heart, and He is pleased. That though you are the youngest, like King David you will not be overlooked. He is raising you up to be a man of influence who will impact this world for good.
And so I release you to it, Sam. With pride. Joy. Confidence. I know His plans for you are good, and like God, I trust your heart.