Our struggle to conceive was certainly a reminder that you were a gift from Him. Even before you were born, He knew this would be your name. Matthew means gift of God.
“Meme” chose it for her son for a reason, her reason. Your mom and I chose it for our own. Some will call it southern and others may call it traditional. For us, there was no other name: Matthew Derrick Ham, Jr.
There were two events during your young life that called us to rest solely on the hope of His grace and His grace alone. They further confirmed that you were, in fact, a gift.
Seven months into the pregnancy, sporting her ever-growing belly, your mom and I went for an evening walk around our neighborhood–our nightly routine. It was a unusually cool June evening, but the pavement still radiated the heat from the sun’s rays. As we walked, we didn’t notice the slithering object on the sidewalk ahead: a snake taking advantage of the warm concrete.
Your mom hates snakes. She despises them. And lest you think I’m more manly than I really am, I hate them too.
The sight of the serpent sent both of us into a panic. In the dimly lit dusk, a simple corn snake might as well have been a rattler. My terror froze me in my tracks while your mom took off running. It all happened so fast. Just a few steps into her dash, her shoe caught the curb which sent her headlong into the street. Her hands didn’t break her fall, you did.
The impact from the fall sent her body into preterm labor. Her anxiety escalated into sheer panic. I remember her screaming, “Oh my God, I’ve hurt Matthew! Please God, not my baby.”
I don’t think I’ve ever seen your mother more terrified than she was in that moment.
I immediately placed her in my car, my hand holding fast to her stomach as we drove. I prayed for you. I prayed aloud to God for your safety as we raced to the hospital.
Son, tragedy will come. In those times, if you remember anything at all, remember His grace. Life can strip you of every freedom you have, but it can never take from you your freedom to trust in His provision.
In these moments, the world will provoke thoughts of fear. Fear is a thief. It steals from you the fullness of joy. Remember His words:
“Do not be afraid. Perfect love drives out all fear.”
The run-in with the snake and subsequent collision were frightening, but doctors were able to stall the labor process. Your mom suffered some nasty asphalt burns on her hands, knees, and belly, but we returned home after they stabilized her contractions. However, just when we thought we were in the clear, God had one more reminder in store.
On August 4, 2010 we welcomed you into the world. After nearly twenty hours of labor, our baby boy was finally here. The joy of the moment was quickly replaced by fear as the doctors noticed something. Your umbilical cord was tied into a true knot.
Somehow, you had configured your only sustaining lifeline into a knot. It’s a common occurrence, something like one in two hundred births. However, the tighter the knot becomes, the more damaging the effects.
You were just like your father. Your condition at birth was so incredibly similar to my own journey, tying a knot in my lifeline, suffocating myself from true life. Further wrestling for freedom on my own terms often tied the knot tighter and tighter.
Don’t neglect your lifeline.
When the doctor handed you to us, he said, “Everything looks to be ok. His Apgar score came back fine.” You were crying, so your mom and I figured we’d join you. The three of us sat in the delivery room and wept together.
Only now, as I look back on the five years of your beautiful life, I’m reminded: you’re my son by birth, but you’re my Father’s son first.
Matthew, you represent a small fraction of the grace and mercy He has shown me. For that, I am eternally grateful. My prayer is that you would come to humbly appreciate this for yourself, giving you great confidence in His provision in your life.
Last night, you woke up after an accident in your bed. I went upstairs, changed your clothes and wrapped you in my arms. You involuntarily placed your head on my shoulder although I don’t think you really woke up.
As I walked you down the stairs, I held your warm body close to mine.
These precious moments are few and far between. I paused for a moment, smelled your hair and kissed you on the crown of your head. I weep as I write this, but I smile because I remember a final passage from the book of Joel.
It will eternally remind me of you:
“And you will praise the name of the Lord your God, who has worked wonders for you: never again will my people be shamed. Then you will know that I am in Israel, that I am the Lord your God, and that there is no other; never again will be people be shamed.”
As we celebrate your birthday, I am reminded that in God, there is no shame.
Wherever you might be, son, I hope you would come to know the same.
I love you.