JACKSON, Tenn. (BP)–Our son Joshua is beginning his freshman year at Union University where he plans to major in engineering and honors. With hundreds of other families, we will move pillows and pots, lamps and laundry detergent, clothes and a myriad of others little and big things into a dorm room not much bigger than the closet off our master bath at home.
It is a milestone for our family. For almost two decades Pat and I have been able to walk down the hall to talk to the J-man, hug him, challenge or correct him. We have played with toys and talked theology, played games and discussed practical issues related to growing up in a very complicated world.
For 15 of those years Joshua and his sister Anna have talked, argued, loved each other, played together, fussed and celebrated one other. Together, on a daily basis, the four of us have shared meals, music, worship, work, books and a great deal of laughter. Yet, this phase of our lives is coming to an end.
It is an exciting time, but a time in which the ground seems to be shifting under our feet, the unfamiliar scratching at the door, letting us know it is on the doorstep. But of course, none of us would have it any other way.
Fling open the door.
One evening in March 1998 when Joshua was 5, he called his mom to his room. Already tucked in bed, he asked Pat a question. The conversation, recorded in a journal she has kept for him since birth and just handed over to him a week ago, went like this:
Joshua: What was Elisha?
Pat: A prophet.
Joshua: I want to be a prophet.
Pat: What made you think that?
Joshua: I really believe in Jesus and I want to tell people about Jesus.
Pat: If you have a willing heart, then God can use you to do that.
Joshua: What is a willing heart?
Pat: It is when you tell God you will do whatever He wants you to do. You can tell God that just like you just told me. You can talk to God the same way you talk to Mommy and Daddy. Goodnight Joshua. I love you.
Joshua: I love you too.
At this point Pat left the room but listened outside the door. She heard Joshua pray, “Dear God I love You and I want to tell people about You. I really want to be a prophet and I really love You and I will do anything You want me to do. I will do whatever You tell me to do. Amen.”
About a week later — the week before Easter Sunday that year — we were driving home from church, and Joshua and Anna were gazing up at the stars through the windows of the car. Suddenly, Joshua spoke up.
Joshua: I want to go to the moon.
Pat: Maybe someday if you are an astronaut you can go to the moon.
Joshua: (in a very matter of fact way) Prophets don’t go to the moon.
Now, some 13 years later, I am not so sure. Last summer, Joshua traveled by himself to southern Sudan to meet with a team who install wells funded by Dollar for a Drink (www.dollarforadrink.org), a nonprofit Joshua started three years ago. At times Sudan felt very, very far away, almost as far as the moon.
As a professor at a Christian university, I see “prophets” of all shapes and sizes, of many callings and passions and pursuits, young men and women set on changing the globe for Christ. Is it tough for us to send them out, beyond our immediate reach, out of our daily lives, to craft their own place in God’s great world? You bet. But that’s what happens when you raise a prophet.
George H. Guthrie is the Benjamin W. Perry Professor of Bible at Union University in Jackson, Tenn., and author of the book “Read the Bible for Life” (published by LifeWay Christian Resources, www.readthebibleforlife.com).