Dear Ezra Owen Smith,
Welcome to the world! Your entrance into our lives has been eagerly anticipated for the last nine months, and your parents, Sarah and Ian, are so grateful that you are healthy, good-natured and beautiful. What a joy it has been for Gary and me and your other grandmother, Lauren, to be here in Florida to meet you.
I like the name Ezra. It reflects the Jewish heritage of your father and the Christian heritage of your mother. Some day you will read about Ezra in the Bible. Ezra was a scribe, scholar and priest who lived during the time when the Jews returned to Jerusalem from exile in Babylon. Ezra 7:10 says, “For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach the statutes and ordinances in Israel.” Ezra, along with Nehemiah, the governor, was single-minded in his desire that the Jews return to the LORD, obeying the commandments of a God who is always forgiving, gracious, merciful and abounding in steadfast love.
I have been very content over the past several days to simply hold you. When I look into your face, I see your father’s mouth and your mother’s eyes, but I also see the face of God. I don’t know what your vocation will be when you grow up, Ezra, but I do know this. God formed you in God’s own image to be a unique, one of a kind creation. My prayer is that as you grow up, you will be open to God’s leading as you discover your call and passion in life. How you earn your living doesn’t matter nearly as much as how you live your life. I hope that you will be kind, faithful, generous, grace-filled, peace-seeking, and loyal not only to your family and friends, but to all people in our world, especially the very least of God’s children. May others always see in your face a reflection of God’s goodness.
When I look into your face, I see a baby who has been born into a family that loves you. What we offer to you, Ezra, is not designer clothes, high end accessories or the latest in toys. Your parents are not wealthy, but they promise to provide all that you need to be a whole person: a secure home, the freedom to become who God created you to be, and the opportunity to enjoy a carefree childhood. They and we, your extended family, also vow to be role models of integrity, forgiveness and compassion.
At the same time, we know that most of the 5 babies born every second on our planet (432,000 a day) will enter the world under less than ideal circumstances. We yearn for the day when all babies are born into a loving family, have enough to eat, shelter over their heard and a warm blanket to cover them, and don’t have to worry about their physical safety.
When I look into your face, I think of all the books I read to Sarah when she was a baby, books that no doubt will be read to you as well. Last summer, when your mother was visiting, we went through our many boxes of children’s books, and she took her favorites as a child. You, too, will grow to love Where the Wild Things Are, The Giving Tree, Jumanji, Make Way for Ducklings, The Dream Child, Dr. Seuss books like Are You My Mother? and Berenstain Bear books.
At our house, your grandpa, Gary, will read longer books to you like The Chronicles of Narnia and The Hobbit. I’ll read to you Harold and the Purple Crayon, The Little Engine That Could, The Night Before Christmas, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, and my all-time favorite, Love You Forever by Robert Munsch, with this refrain repeated throughout the book,
“I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always,
As long as I’m living, My baby you’ll be.”
Ezra, I hope that as your family reads to you, you will also grow up with a love for reading, learning, and growing in grace, maturity and wisdom.
When I look into your face, I think of your mother, Sarah. Sarah was born in Traverse City when your grandpa and I were just starting our ministry as United Methodist pastors. As I was holding this tiny baby in my arms in the hospital on Sunday morning, I was a bit teary-eyed, feeling both awed and overwhelmed by the complete responsibility for another human being. I turned on the radio to listen to the worship service at Traverse City Central UMC, where your grandpa was helping to lead worship. Surely, the soloist that morning never knew that the song she picked out, “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands,” was actually sung for me. The tears flowed as I held your mother in my arms and heard, “He’s got the little bitty baby in his hands. He’s got the little bitty baby in his hands. He’s got the little bitty baby in his hands. He’s got the whole world in his hands.”
You are held in God’s hands as well, Ezra. As you grow up, may you help to create a sustainable and peaceful world where all children are held in the hands of those who love them.
There’s one last thing, Ezra. When I look into your face, I see hope for the world. I see hope because when you look at me, your eyes are innocent, vulnerable and trusting, yet wise. Yes, we will mold you and shape you, but you, Ezra, will also be our teacher. You have already begun teaching us that we can make a difference in the world. Each one of us can alter the course of this earth by setting our hearts on the law of love, one baby at a time.
Playwright, dissident and first President of the Czech Republic, Václav Havel said in his political autobiography, Disturbing the Peace; A Conversation with Karel Huizdala, “Hope is a state of mind, not a state of the world. Either we have hope within us, or we don’t. It is a dimension of the soul; it is not essentially dependent upon some particular observation of the world . . . (Hope) is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.”
Ezra, somehow, with you, hope makes sense.
The wolf shall live with the lamb,
The leopard shall lie down with the kid,
The calf and the lion and the fatling together,
And a little child shall lead them. (Isaiah 11:6)