Our second daughter, Heaven, had her ninth birthday a couple of weeks ago. Below is the letter I wrote both to remember the graces of God’s kindness in knitting our family together and to point her to King Jesus.
Today is your ninth birthday—nine years of drawing breath, nine years of ups and downs, nine years of mercies upon mercies from God the Father. Every birthday is a chance to look back, to remember and reflect on the stories God is weaving together in the lives of the Bell family. And writing your letter always brings with it a reminder of your past, of the upside-downness of this world and the many effects sin has had on you in particular. All our stories are filled with sin and its effects, always trying to taint our stories and bring us to ruin. It’s what the Enemy wants, and has been ever since the garden. So much of the sin we deal with is our own sin. We rebel against a good Father and his rule, and we’re left with the consequences of those actions. Sin destroys and it always leaves a mess behind. But all stories also have chapters and chapters detailing how the sins of others hurt us or shape us. People don’t get to choose if they’re born in war-torn countries or if they get mistreated by others. Our sin doesn’t just impact ourselves, but others as well. And so while we’re having to struggle with our own sinful tendencies, we’re also dishing out our sins on others while they too lop their sins over on us. It’s ugly and it’s messy.
I say all of this as a reminder that your story has had twists and turns that are frankly uncommon. The effects of others’ sins have been particularly pungent for you. It’s not fair. And it’s not good. We’ve never tried to deny your past. You’re now a Bell because of the sins of others around you.
But—you see—there’s the rub. There’s the twist ending, the last-minute save by the hero. And I don’t mean Mom and Dad are the heroes here. I mean Jesus, the one who secures futures and takes away the sins of the world. He’s the King of taking the bad and making it good. He’s the master of taking the ugly and making it beautiful. He’s the Perfector of the imperfect and the Fixer of the broken. So, while it was the sin of those around you that brought about ruin, it was this same Jesus who secured a new family for you—this one.
We’ve told you time and time again: God always planned for you to be a Bell. And he always planned for you to have the story you have. That doesn’t make him a bad God, because bad things happened to you. He planned from before he first said “Let there be light” to chart this story for you. He planned a future and a family and a hope for you. He wanted you to get here, to go through what you’ve gone through, because it’s the way he wants you to see grace and redemption and forgiveness and hope.
So, I simultaneously hate your past and rejoice in it, because it was both terrible and it brought you to us. Despite all the struggles we have had (and still have), you are our daughter. Heaven Leandra Bell: that’s you. We want good for you, even if it pales in comparison to the good God the Father wants for you.
So, today, my daughter, if you hear his voice, don’t harden your heart. While the effects of the sins against you might haunt you and chase you, you can’t undo them. But in your heart even now, sin is still crouching at the door, desiring to rule you. This is your sin, not someone else’s. The sin of wanting to be queen of everyone around you. The sin of wanting to be a pretty, pretty princess so that everyone will adore you. The sin of still wanting to push boundaries, because obeying feels like losing. The sin of wanting less for yourself than the Savior wants for you.
The Creator of the universe brought you to this family because he wants you to know his son, the good King Jesus. He wants you to reign with him as a queen. He can make you more beautiful than any princess in history. He can take you to the edges of creation and show you the glory of the universe. He wants good for you.
But that good comes from believing that these things are true. And from believing that you can have these things. And believing that they come through Jesus, who is master of you now and forever. Believe, my daughter. Another year gone and another approaching. Find in Jesus your all in all. And watch that sin be crucified, killed, trampled, mutilated, and dead. You have a new name. We want you also to have a new heart.
Dad and Mom