To Cor, on the Occasion of His 15th Birthday

Bryce Canyon National Park

Dear Cor,

Happy Birthday, my son! Everyone seems to be talking about how quickly you’re growing up these days. People ask, “What grade is Cor in?” And I’ll say “He’s a sophomore in high school.” And they’ll say, “What?!? No Way!”

Or, they’ll say, “Gosh, how much did Cor grow over the summer?!?” And I’ll say, “Probably three inches. His feet grew a full shoe size between May and August, too. He’s growing like a weed.” And they’ll say, “Pretty soon he’ll be taller than you.” And I’ll say, “I know.”

Chasm Lake with Cor

These aren’t very original courses of conversation. In fact, I remember when my aunts and uncles would say similar things about me in childhood. Still, I’m intrigued by what these refrains reveal about us. I suspect that the observations about your advancement have to do largely with the advancing age of others. It’s a reaction to you being the youngest person in our family. You hold a position as “the baby” (even though you’ve been out of infancy for, like, fourteen years now). So, it messes with people’s understanding of the world to see that the ones we thought of as truly “little” are now indisputably among the ranks of the “grown-up.” And you’re just a particularly noticeable point of reference.

However, in your case, it’s actually true that you’ve grown a lot in the last year. Especially in the last few months. You’ve grown physically. But you’ve also grown emotionally, and you’ve grown spiritually. And I just want to pause and say right now that I’m incredibly proud of the young man you are and are becoming.

Golden Spike National Historic Park in Promontory Point, Utah

We had a weird tradition when I was a kid. My Dad would give me a “Birthday Spanking.” He would take me over his knee and pantomime a real whooping, with one smack of his hand against my rump for every year I’d lived on earth. And everyone else at the birthday celebration would count the spanks out-loud: “One… Two… Three… Four…” At the end, he’d squeeze his index finger and thumb together in a mock gesture to say, “A pinch to grow an inch…” and then he’d form his hand into a fist while finishing the phrase, “And a sock to grow a block!” It was a very different era: to have all of this enacted corporal punishment considered a part of the “birthday fun.” Still, there’s something in that ritual that I understand.

Don’t worry, Cor. I will not take you over my knee. I won’t pretend that growing up is something for which you must be disciplined. But I would like to let the world know that I encourage and even appreciate the ongoing acceleration your development. The proverbial “pinch to grow an inch” and the proverbial “sock to grow a block.” If people are flabbergasted by how big you’ve gotten now, I want to see the looks on their faces and hear the tone in their voices when they see you another year from now, or ten years from now — seemingly propelled into the future with a powerful punch of blessing that results in you growing on a scale that has to be measured in city blocks.

Cor and the RHS Cross Country Team at the Bill Heideman 5K

You’re growing up beautifully. You make me proud with your continued development. So, I want you to keep going. Stride confidently into that bright future, young man.

I love the way you’ve leaned into running over the last year: Track, Cross Country, and just running for the joy of running. It’s fun to connect with you about all of the running gear and running statistics and Strava posts about running. It’s a joy to have this interest in the sport in common with each other. And that we even get to go running together sometimes. We’ve had some especially epic runs this year: making ourselves practically die on the ascent of Bible Point… striding through the wheat fields of Honeyville, Utah… and running up the Lost Canyon near Great Basin National Park… You’re getting stronger than me and faster than me. But I don’t resent it.

This is how it should be for a younger man, in his teens, and an older man, in his forties. I’m looking forward to seeing you run forward with this “torch,” into the future.

Cor and the RHS Cross Country Team at the Bill Heideman 5K

As I pray for you on this, your 15th birthday, my mind is drawn to the New Testament Book of Hebrews, where it says, “let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2). Cor, you’ve got the heart of a champion. You love winning, and you hate losing. So, let me just encourage you to keep your eyes on Jesus. His spirit already lives in you, I can tell. Still, you need to keep throwing aside the burdens of sin and self-centered thinking in order to keep God as the priority in your life.

You’ve got so much going for you, Cor. You’re smart, and funny, and talented, and social. You’ve got that “Scunge Factor” that allows you to persevere through difficulties and endear yourself to others (even though it can also, sometimes, drive your mother and me crazy!). Just keep running with Jesus — through sports and friendships and romantic relationships and school and college decisions and getting your driver’s license — and you’ll go far.

Cooling Down by the Stream at the Hole in the Mountain Cabin

I’m here for you, when you need me. And you’ve got a ton of other people in your corner, too. I love you more than words can ever say. To borrow the biblical words of blessing: You’re my beloved son, with whom I am well-pleased. I wish you a very Happy Birthday, with many blessed returns of the occasion.


H2O Staff at Cleveland Guardians Game
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