In the Bible book of Genesis we read these words: “Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God” (6:9). I really like this Noah. He was faithful to God when nobody else was. He was obedient to God when God asked him to do this strange thing of building an ark among people who knew little of rains and floods. To pull an image from the godless philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, Noah exercised “a long obedience in the same direction.” Noah wasn’t perfect. He had his flaws. But the man loved and followed God as best he could through strange and amazing times. Since I am a pastor by vocation, you’d expect that this is my favorite Noah.
But you would be wrong. I surely love the biblical Noah and look forward to meeting him in heaven, but on August 2, 2001, another Noah bumped him from the top of my favorite Noah list. That would be Noah Scott McCallum, my first grandchild. And on August 2, 2011, that boy turns 10 years old—double digit years, all eight fingers and both thumbs, a decade.
What a great kid! He can be pretty funny when he wants to be—like the other day when he heard his grandmother and me talking about “back in the day.” I told him he was too young to be able to use that phrase. And he said that no, he could use that phrase. He said, “If it was 9:00 at night I could say, ‘You remember when we had lunch back in the day?’” Clever, huh? Or like the time he told the leader of his basketball camp that the leader’s gray hairs just meant he was “closer to heaven.” Funny kid. He’s also a good student: all A’s in his first four grades of school. He loves whatever sport is in season and is pretty good at all of them. And he’s a big fan of Cardinals baseball, the Dallas Cowboys and the Arkansas Razorbacks. Even better, Noah is a follower of Jesus, and it was my good pleasure to baptize him in his own church three years ago.
But what I appreciate most about Noah is that his life has not been storybook. He comes from a broken home. His parents have joint custody so that Noah and his sister rarely spend more than two or three nights in a row in the same bed. Out of that brokenness, I have seen that boy walk through some pretty deep sadness. Honestly, I don’t know how he’s done as well as he has with so much underlying sadness and even bouts of anger from time to time. Divorce-Care for Kids helped some here. A little counseling his dad got him helped a little too. And the fact that both his parents love him helps as well. Mostly, I believe the Lord has carried that little boy along on eagles' wings through his times of pain—a pain he can’t easily verbalize or fully understand. As you can imagine, a lot of prayers have gone up in his behalf. God listens and God helps. Blessed be the name of the Lord! Having come from a broken home myself, I am especially sensitive to what he struggles with and to the quiet mercies of God that tend to the heart of the child that seeks Him. I think this common pain has knitted my heart to his in some way. As I have listened to him talk about his hurt, I feel my hurt all over again. A kid’s wounds can heal, but those wounds leave scars that never quite fade away. Thankfully, as Noah turns 10, he seems to be better in this regard—open wounds are becoming scars.
As you can see, I think Noah’s pretty special. But my love for him is not blind. I know he’s far from perfect. He can be a whiny-butt sometimes—like his dad before him and his granddad before that. He can put up a good argument when he’s allowed to. He lapses into selfishness from time to time. And he can be short-tempered with his little sister more often than anybody would like. He’s a kid after all. Like all of us, he’s a sinner in need of grace and forgiveness, discipline, direction, and help. At least he knows where to find that help.
Can you tell I’m proud of him? Well, I am—very proud of him. I’m proud that he carries the McCallum name into the next generation. I’m proud that he and I share the same middle name, Scott. I’m proud that he carries the surname of one of the Bible’s great characters: Noah. And on his 10th birthday, I pray that at the end of his life, no matter what he does for a vocation and whether his years be many or few, people who know him will say the same thing about him that the Bible says about the original Noah: “Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God.”