“What then is this child going to be?” (Luke 1:66).
Desperate times call for desperate measures. Last week, I noticed a teenage girl standing on the corner of a busy intersection in town. She stood out because she was holding a large poster board. I craned to read the words she had written on it. It said, “I lie and steal from my family, and make bad choices”. The girl looked miserably embarrassed. I watched as she turned back to a woman, who I assume was her mother, in the parking lot behind her. The mother mouthed something to the girl and made a wild, exaggerated turning motion with her hand. She seemed to say with her body language, “Turn back around, girl! You will stand there as long as I tell you to stand there!”
My heart hurt as I realized what was going on there. The pain I felt was part identification with the situation and part post traumatic stress disorder. I have been “there”, and I am not in a hurry to go back. I saw a mother at the end of herself; horrified and at a loss for what to do with her child. I saw a mother willing to try anything, whatever it takes to correct and influence…while there is still time. I know the terror of time running out on a child who is not ready to enter adult life. At least, not the life you had envisioned. You suddenly don’t know where your child’s life is headed, but you do know one thing: it’s not good and there is little you can do about it. This thought chokes you with fear, and fear is what compels you to stand them up on street corners with large signs announcing their degenerate, and possibly criminal, behavior to the entire community. Speaking from experience, this type of action does little to change a child’s course. I know how hard it is for a parent to withstand the powerlessness of “disciplining” a child who has reached this point. I put discipline in quotations to highlight the futility for both the parent and the child. But hope emerges from this desperate place. When a mother reaches the edge of herself, she just may fall into the lap of God and find her destiny – the fullness of the greater role He has given her for her child’s life.
We name our children at birth, and the names we give them have personal significance. Maybe we named the child after a specific person, or took a name that is a family name. Or maybe we just liked the name. But contained within the name is our heart for this child. Our desires for them are planted like a seed within their name. Eugene Peterson says, “Names not only address what we are, they also anticipate what we become. Names call us to become who we will be. A lifetime of growth and development is announced by a name. Naming is a way of hoping”.
Mothers physically birth children. We soon discover this is the easy part. The spiritual birthing process is another matter; one without a definable gestational period, and no due date. You can’t measure their development on a machine. There are no pictures you can frame for their scrapbook. There is only a mother, pregnant with the hope that her child will one day be born again in Christ.
Romans 4:16 tells us, “the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring”. Abraham and Sarah’s hope for a child was more than a physical birth. They hoped for an heir and a legacy in answer to God’s promise to them. The text says, “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations” (Romans 4:18). His belief preceded his becoming. He believed and so became. Like Abraham, we believe according to God’s promises to us and the children after us.
When the angel appeared to Zechariah and told him he would have a son, Zechariah doubted. He asked, “How can I be sure of this?” The angel answered, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their proper time” (Luke 1:18-20).
Zechariah and Elizabeth did have a son, just as the angel had foretold. Zechariah remained unable to speak throughout the pregnancy and physical birth of his child. When it came time to circumcise the baby, everyone assumed he would be named after his father. “But his mother spoke up and said, “No! He is to be called John”. This was a surprise because there was no one among their relatives with that name. “Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John”. Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue was loosed, and he began to speak, praising God” (Luke 1:59-64).
When Zechariah believed God and named his child in faith, his mouth immediately opened, and he burst into song. “Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied” (Luke 1:67). He spoke life-giving words over his new son, “And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High” (Luke 1:76).
We make all kinds of signs in our desperation to name our children. Sometimes we even have them hold signs on street corners if we think that will serve our purposes of getting them to cooperate with our plans. We soon discover our efforts are as mute and ineffective as Zechariah’s silence. Stepping into God’s presence, and seeking His purposes and promises for your child, is an act of faith. It requires us to let go of our own doubts, fears, and desires. The Holy Spirit loosens our tongues and opens our mouths to praise, pray, and prophesy over our children. Living-giving words are birthed in His presence; the power to name, to believe and become. There is nothing more powerful than a mother pregnant with hope in the presence of the God of all Hope.
“The God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were” (Romans 4:17).
 Run with the Horses, 1983 InterVarsity Press, Chapter 2 Jeremiah, Page 28
 See Genesis 12:1-3 and Genesis 15