Dear Junia, Charysse, DeAnn and Greg,
Your Mother and I see the four of you as wonderful gifts of God to us. We have loved each of you from the moment we knew that you were on the way to our house. What an amazing thing it is for a baby to be born! For a new person to come into a family! Only God can do this wonderful thing. And of all the remarkable things that God does in this world, this has to rank up there right near the top.
Greg, when your first baby was born, Mom and I had the high privilege of being there at the hospital with you and Rachel in Carollton, Georgia. I will never forget the expression on your face when you saw baby Gabrielle for the first time. I forget the exact words you used, but you said something like, “Daddy, this is a real person!” It wasn’t so much the words you said as it was the unforgettable way you spoke them, all aglow with the pure delight of this grandest of grand occasions.
I believe we should recognize two wonderful things that happen at the same time whenever a baby is born.
First, is simply the arrival of the baby, that “real person”. The natural process which God uses to bring this new little “personal” being into our world is absolutely phenomenal. Eve got it right when she remarked at the birth of her first son, “With the help of the Lord, I have brought forth a man”, Genesis 4:1. 2.
We make a bad mistake if we read these simple words as if they were rather boring and common-place. Simple words they are, indeed, but there is every reason to hear in them the sheer wonder that Eve must have felt. She was the first person in history to experience the natural but awesome process of conception, gestation and birth. She had to be amazed, astounded, and delighted all at once.
Like other women after her who would bear children, Eve may have experienced excruciating pain and may have wondered whether she would live through the ordeal. Then, when she saw that amazing little creature outside her body, heard him cry and felt him move, a great torrent of joy and thanksgiving to God must have filled her whole being. Yes, those words she speaks are simple, but they were surely filled with a towering reverence and thanksgiving for the God who had helped her bring forth a man.
This was the first wonderful thing that happened to Adam and Eve, the birth of their baby. Another “real person” entered their home, forever changing their lives by bringing them into the world of parenthood with all of its delights and challenges. There is so much more to say here, but for the moment I will hurry on to that second wonderful gift of God.
Second, God gave us the gift of love for all four of you. We did not generate that love in our own hearts. Because we are sinners, God had to work a miracle in our sinful hearts so that we could love you. That love which God gave us for you is magnificent beyond words. This gift of God is the key to our raising you. Through this amazing gift, God enabled us to nurture and bless you in all the joys of living before God as His dear children.
Not that we did this perfectly! The sin that remains in our nature made us stumble and err seriously many times. We had to apologize often. But God’s love for us, His great grace at work in our hearts, overcame our sin sufficiently to enable us to guide you to Godly maturity. A wonderful result of His work both in us and in you is that we have become good friends. I believe that we are “best friends”, and that is one of the greatest blessings that parents could ever hope for.
How sad that so few parents today recognize the wonderful blessing this gift of God can be in their homes. Because of our fall into sin, parents can refuse to receive this great gift of God, His gift of love for their own children. We see the unhappy results everywhere. Parents do not live in a reverent and loving relationship with God, so it is impossible for them to live in a loving relationship with their own children. Fierce quarreling and hatred seems to characterize the lives of so many married couples and their whole families. Parents abuse each other and their children, so that even murdering their own children has become increasingly common. The murderous act of inexcusable abortion has resulted in approximately 55,000,000 infant deaths in the United States since the U.S. Supreme Court Roe vs. Wade decision in 1974. This kind of abortion is now legal in most of the world.
In a future letter I will try to speak helpfully to these great sorrows so common in families today. I will mention the problem here, just to underline for all of us the great importance of receiving from God His wonderful gift of love for our children.
Now I want to tell you how our gracious Lord led your Mother and me to receive this wonderful gift from God. We see this as a “special providence” of God which He worked in our hearts. This is the era of history when God works such miracles in the hearts of those who believe in Christ as Savior.
It happened this way:
We fell in love with each other during my second year in Faith seminary near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The next summer in August, 1956, we were married in Sandstone, Minnesota, Mom’s hometown. We then moved to Covenant Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri, arriving in that city with $8 in our pockets, a car payment coming due and no place to live.
We both got jobs, found an apartment, eked out a bare living (like many of our fellow students), and I began to study at the seminary. That is where it happened!!
I discovered the love of God in a special way in what the Bible calls: THE COVENANT!
Dr. J. Oliver Buswell was the teacher who led me, along with other students, into this discovery. “The Covenant” was just one of many subjects we learned under his able instruction from scripture. His teaching had the special value, moreover, of demonstrating that The Covenant is a central theme that binds the entire Bible and all of life together. The Covenant certainly included that gift of loving our children, but it was presented as far more than that.
I began to see The Covenant as a grand and glorious exercise of God’s love for the whole world. It was God’s means of saving lost people and then building them up in His own image. It was God’s love at work in believers to hold them in His redemptive embrace, enabling us to love God “with all our hearts, with all our souls, and with all our minds,”…“and our neighbor as ourselves”. The Covenant is beautifully summarized in the so-called “golden text” of the Bible, John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”
It was a great pleasure for me to bring Dr. Buswell’s teaching home with me. Your Mother and I had many valuable discussions on the Covenant and began to regard it as one of the keys to our life in the Lord. We also found these truths to be pervasive in the seminary. Because Mom had frequent contacts with the family of Professor Bill Sanderson, she became quite impressed by the way he and his wife were using Covenant teachings to train their children in the love of God. We began to observe this beautiful kind of family life in other seminary leaders and other Christians in our church world.
I will conclude this initial letter by reminding you that our lives were profoundly and wonderfully changed, first, by your births into our family and second by our discovery of God’s Covenant love for us.
We pray daily that God will continue to work His wonders of grace in your hearts and lives. And we rejoice daily in the evidence we see in you and your families that God is answering our prayers.
With all our love,
Mom and Dad Alexander
*1. Take note: I am changing the pronoun “My” to “Our” in this title. My introductory letter proposed: “Letters to My Dear Children”. I prefer that to be: “Letters to Our Dear Children”.
*2. Commentators on this first verse of Genesis 4 have frequently speculated on a variety of meanings that might be given to Cain’s birth here. I stand with those who give the simplest explanation, that Eve is remarking with delight that a baby boy has been born.
While the four of you were still living at our house, I started using a diagram in my Sunday evening preaching that you may remember. I am still using that diagram in an effort to graphically portray the Covenant at work in Jesus. Before I explain it, however, I want to mention a side trip I took during my own high school and college years.
During those high school years I became quite interested in Edgar Allen Poe, a writer whose message stood out in sharp contrast to “the Covenant” truth that I learned under Dr. Buswell. I believe it will be helpful for us to see the Covenant from that contrasting perspective, Poe’s perspective.
To be perfectly honest I became genuinely fascinated with both the poetry and the short stories of Poe. His mastery of the English language was amazing to me, but it was his preoccupation with the morose aspects of death and dying that truly captivated me. I got so interested in his “The Raven” that I memorized part of it. Then I found his “The Fall of the House of Usher” to be an unforgettable adventure into the macabre. In college I memorized my own abbreviated version of his “The Black Cat” and occasionally recited it at Halloween parties.
Why all this interest in this sadly unchristian author?
My interest in Poe took a somewhat psychological/spiritual turn. Throughout his life the poor man suffered one disappointment and sorrow after another. Through all this pain he never seemed to have meaningful contact with the gospel of Jesus Christ or the church. The joy of living under the care of a loving God, therefore, never touched his brief life (1809-1849). To the contrary his fascination with the morose, the terrifying, and the downright horrible got such a grip on the man that the brighter side of life never occurred to him as a subject worthy of his literary efforts.
Here I want to make my own private and abrupt observation.
Edgar Allen Poe desperately needed to discover the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the grave!
Poe’s life and writing might have been so different if this grand reality of the gospel had come into his life. If he had heard good preaching of this gospel truth or had been befriended by a Christian brother or sister who had given him clear witness of it, things could have been different.
Permit me an observation about our own present historical situation.
A sad reality of our present culture is that Poe’s dark, unhappy writing seems to be prophetic of much that is happening in the artistic, the literary and the film-making world today. The highly gifted artists who are leading in these important ventures today reflect a kind of “Poeism”. Like Poe, they desperately need a clear view of the bodily Resurrection of Jesus. Through that grand miracle they could witness the whole gospel of our Lord Jesus, transforming both their lives and their art.
This is the point that I hope we will see in our consideration of the Covenant. The Covenant is God’s means of leading us into the gospel, into the forgiveness of our sins, into a grand view of Jesus rising triumphantly from the grave in order to create a new world. That is the climax of the Covenant. I want to give a fuller definition of the Covenant in the next letter, but for the moment it is sufficient to see the Covenant as a promise of God’s love for us. It is a promise of His love which comes to glorious climax in the Savior’s redeeming work on our behalf.
On the next page, I am giving you that diagram I mentioned above. It is based on II Corinthians 4:6. Here I am using the “face of Christ” as a figure of speech for five redeeming acts of Jesus. The first four are His (1) Crucifixion, (2) Resurrection, (3) Ascension, and (4) Outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the church. Number (5) is His promised Second Coming. I call these five things “the face of Christ” because we recognize Christ in them. These five redeeming acts are His face “shining” the glory of God into our lives. By faith we receive God’s Covenant love for us through these loving acts of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Do I need to clarify that? Drop me a note if you think I need to say more. Meanwhile, I will doubtless say more myself, because the truth I am trying to demonstrate in this picture is so central to my thinking and teaching even today.