Charis, it was a quarter of a century ago today, on Sunday, April 12, 1987 in Shawnee, Oklahoma, that you entered this world. Your name means "Grace" and your mother and I felt from the very beginning that we were immeasurably graced by God to be your parents, but in time we felt even more favored to be your friends. We have written you a private birthday note which you should receive in the mail, but I felt impressed to write this public post to express my deep love and respect for you as a person and to encourage you with a specific word about your personhood. There are so many things I admire in your character including your faith, your perseverance, your kindness, your selflessness, your loyalty, your generosity, your wisdom, and countless other excellent qualities. There are so many additional attributes you possess, including your bulldog determination (a chip off the old block!), that cause us incredible joy! I could write a veritable book summarizing what your mother and I think and believe about you. We know you are not perfect, nor are we, but it is His grace and mercy in our lives that have taught our family to be quite comfortable in the skin, personality, and temperament He has given each of us. Your fiance Travis is a truly blessed man. He, like I, has been given by God a remarkably strong and gifted woman. Soon, you and he will marry, and your surname will change. As you know, Shakespeare once wrote, "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet." That is so true of you! Though your name may change, you will not. You will always be the special person of charis that God has made you to be.
I have tried during your life to help you capture the truth that who you are as a person has never been defined by your pastor-father, nor will it ever be tied to the identity of any man. Contrary to what some of our Christian friends believe (and teach), you have no need of any alleged 'covering' provided for you by a male. You didn't need any covering from me, nor will you need one from your future husband. The only covering you need you have; and it is given you freely by your Savior, Jesus Christ. He is the only Person from whom you can find real and eternal personal identity. Your mother and I have sought to model for you what a biblical, godly marriage is all about. Your mother is my equal. She is my friend. She stands alone in her personhood. You've been taught that you are the equal of any man, and we believe you know that to be true! We are excited that you have the privilege of marrying your best friend, and we do not believe there is a better man you could have chosen to marry in the entire world! We are confident Travis will remain your best friend throughout your life. But you have a Friend who is even closer to you than your future husband, your father, or your grandfathers. No male in your life was ever designed by God to be the source of your life, or the basis of your happiness, or the stability of your future. Christ is all that to you and more. He is your Source. He is your Sufficiency. He is your Stability. For this reason, no matter what you hear in the future from well-meaning pastors, I would encourage you to remember what your mom and dad have taught you over the years. You are the equal of any man in worth, value, signficance, purpose and abilities. You can both lead and follow, serve and be served, encourage and be encouraged in every area of life, including the emotional and spiritual level.
When we get to heaven you will be given "a new name" (Revelation 2:17), you will not be married (Luke 20:34), and you will no longer give birth to any children (Luke 20:34). Of course, those you love who are "in Christ" and those who love you who have also come to faith in Christ will be your BFF's, and we are delighted to be included in that group! But your identity for eternity, your significance forever, and your personhood in glory will be defined by Christ--no man. It is for the women in my family, particularly you, that I have sought to remind Christian women what the Bible says about God, women, and female personhood. Contrary to what many others would want Christian women to believe, the Bible reveals God has chosen to liken Himself to a female, and we are the fruit of His womb. In short, you have as much of the image of God in you as any male. You were created in HIS IMAGE, and your identity is in Him. This birthday greeting is public because many of my friends are at a conference this week called Together for the Gospel. They read my blog, and some of them don't yet understand the importance of this issue in the Kingdom of God. I want them to know that when I write on the subject of women, I am primarily concerned with being biblical, but my motivation is practical, not philosopical or theological.
I write for you. I want you to know I see the Image of God in you. I rejoice that the Life of my God is in the soul of my daughter. You, Charis, are a beautiful human being, and it is because God's love for you and Christ's life in you. Happy Birthday! I look forward to being your friend for all of eternity.
In Our God's Grace and Love,