This Clark family update comes to you in the form of thanksgiving.
So let’s jump in:
First, I’m very thankful for mojitos. I was first introduced to a mojito here in Puerto Rico.
Thank you, Puerto Rico.
And, of course, thank you, Cuba (the origin, I believe, of the mojito). Thank you, God, for things like sugar cane juice, lime, mint, and rum. Brilliant.
Second, the amount of joy I get from my family is incredible. We are presently in such a wonderful stage of life:
The twins are almost twelve, and we can talk about anything and everything (Sarah and I recently had a more extensive, detailed talk with them about sexuality, and it was beautiful–and humorous). Who knows what the future holds, but both of them show such a vibrant faith, an engaged enjoyment of Scripture, and a love for their classmates. I’m beginning to see in them what I began to have at their age: a sense of wonder at the amazing explanatory power of Christianity. It just makes so much sense of why the world is the way it is. That’s called wisdom, and it has everything to do with Jesus.
Almost five, Winston is mild-mannered and so enjoyable. It’s so much fun to just sit and watch him as he plays in his own world. He loves to help me with projects around the house and go places with me. He is a great brother to his sisters. Julianne witnesses everything that happens; she listens to everything that is said (especially by me) and then repeats it as best as she can. Her crooked smile is beautiful, and every day she is looking more and more like Shirley Temple (it’s uncanny).
Third (but still related to the kids), as you may know, all four of our kids were adopted embryos: we couldn’t have kids, and with all the unwanted frozen embryos in America today (“leftovers” from IVF), we decided to see if we could adopt some. As any adoptive parent knows, watching your child work through their adoption as they grow up is not easy. Recently, almost at random one of our twins said, “Wow, I’m so glad I’m growing up in this family instead of with my biological parents.” It’s not the first time they’ve made comments like this; but the older they get, the more meaningful they are (at least to us). It’s impossible to put a price tag on that. Thank you, God.
Fourth (and very randomly), lately I’ve been especially thankful for having a strong grasp of Hellenistic Greek and classical Hebrew, and a reasonable grasp of Latin and Aramaic. In my first year of seminary I had numerous conversations with pastors and classmates about whether or not it was worth it to learn the “biblical” languages. I had already taken four years of Latin in high school and three years of Arabic in college, and, for the most part, had enjoyed them. But would it be worth the investment to learn–I mean really learn–these languages? Well, I decided that I was “all in,” and after applying myself in seminary and then in my PhD (usually four hours each morning, getting up at 4am, for four years, and since then for about two hours each morning) I can now say without question:
It is absolutely worth it.
To be able to open Scripture and feed off of it in this way has been incalculably life-giving, giving a depth to Scripture and opening up whole new vistas of interpretative possibility (access to the “original” languages provides the student with no answers per se, but rather to far more questions that have already been decided for you in a modern translation). And there is no substitute for being able to teach and preach from the original text. Thank you, God, for the incredible generosity of others, who gave sacrificially that I might be able to receive outstanding training in the languages. (I will never forget taking a Hebrew translation class on the prophet Amos from Dr. Robert Gordon, who for 17 years was the Regius Professor of Hebrew at the University of Cambridge, UK, and is one of the funniest persons I’ve ever come across. I may have learned more about classical Hebrew–and languages in general–from him than any other person.)
Fifth (and to stay on the language theme, I guess), I’m so thankful for the chance to learn Spanish. Growing up, there were three things I always wanted to do: travel, learn (modern) languages, and, yes, learn to dance. I’ve done a lot of travel, and now the opportunity to learn Spanish (and to do it as a family) is so great. (And as for the dancing, there’s still time!)
Sixth, I just love the people I work with. There is no suspicion, superficiality, or feelings of superiority. There is no complacency, conflict avoidance, or passive-aggressive behavior. There is love, joy and faith; there is regular confession (and forgiveness) and vulnerability, commitment, charity, community and camaraderie and openness to critique. There is a passion for the mission, yet a love to just play and be silly together–practical jokes and all. There is prayer, prayer, and more prayer. There is a love for talking about Scripture and theology. There are challenging conversations about gender, “race” and racism, colonialism, and cross-cultural engagement, not to mention engagement with the under-resourced or disabled. There is a love for place. There is a sober awareness of spiritual warfare. All of this has been so refreshing. Undoubtedly, we will have our issues–probably deep issues (who doesn’t?). But they will happen with trust and community that is well established; and when those two things are in place, then the inevitable future conflict, when the gospel is applied, will become a means to even deeper intimacy.
Seventh, I’m massively grateful for Christmas. We did absolutely nothing, and it was absolutely wonderful. Rest, friends, beach, food, worship, reading, more rest and more food. Thank you, God, for rest, for the freedom to cease from our labors. (See some family pics below from Christmas!)
Eighth, I’m grateful for my job, because there is little (human) glory in it. For me, a glory junkie, this is very good medicine, nearly lethal and, therefore, truly liberating: whoever loses their life will find it. And blessing usually comes from places we least expect, not because God has whimsically hidden it somewhere, but because our eyes have been trained by the values of men, and what is highly valued among men is detestable in the sight of God. We often do not have in our minds the things of God but the things of men. And that grossly perverts where we think blessing is to be found. As Nathaniel unfortunately but honestly asked Philip, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”
Yes. Yes, it can. And it did. And the world was never been the same again.
Hallelujah. Jesus is Lord.
The Clark family