Our son came into the world completely awake and not missing a thing. The nurse brought him to me his first night saying, “This one is watching everyone and wants to see everything.” I remembered thinking awake and alert are excellent qualities for a disciple, but this will be an adventure.
Doing life with Joseph has been just that. Even as a wee boy he saw everything and watched everyone. And when Joseph played, he played hard. With the back of his head drenched in sweat and a grin reflective of his utter fascination with life, Joseph touched, manipulated, repurposed and reimagined everything he encountered. Even with his huge, advanced vocabulary, Joseph had little time for words. There were worlds to discover, parking lots to design, things to pull apart and put back together, speed barriers to shatter and sports legends to become.
Entering school was a challenge for our son. Not only did school insist on the use of words, school required Joseph to learn classroom boundaries and social etiquette. A man of action, Joseph entered the world of sports to balance his Monday through Friday world of words and rules.
Sports gave Joseph a place to pour his energy and later, his brilliance. Joseph was a powerhouse on the field and excelled in soccer, baseball and later, football. Over the years we found him asleep under his schoolbooks with at least one notebook holding his latest sketches of plays for not only his team, but for his beloved Auburn Tigers.
Having become a disciple of Jesus at age ten, Joseph thrived in youth group. He thrived not only because he was comfortable in his own skin and could articulate the epiphanies that came to him, but because his steadfastness, patience and perseverance steadied the entire group. As his personality blossomed, so did his good hearted mischief and sense of adventure. Behind the scenes, acts of love became his signature.
Joseph entered college determined to turn his love for football into a career as a high school math teacher and coach. As easy as math came to him, the physical demands of college athletics drained him. His junior year, Joseph changed his major to accounting and finance and made math his minor. His love of problem solving, puzzles, statistics and all things having to do with numbers flourished in his new degree program and in May 2015, Joseph graduated from Maryville College.
Through camp, worship, ministry opportunities, youth group, mission trips and doing life with others, we watched God instill in our son a heart for ministry and missions. Our numbers guy became a passionate and gifted disciple. As God continued to call him, Joseph’s transformation into a minister became complete.
At 23 he is a fascinating minister to watch as he leads, loves and serves others with his whole being. Honestly, I don’t even think he considers himself to be a minister. When asked, he simply defers that journey to his sister who is a seminarian following a more traditional ministerial path.
Our son may never attend seminary like his sister, but I have no doubt that he will minister in his church. I imagine he will be the cool professional who gives his vacation time to chaperone. He will be the one at the table of the finance committee as it imagines an annual budget. Having lived off church salary packages, Joseph will be the one to explain practically how much of a salary package actually gets into the minister’s paycheck.
Joseph will be that one at the table that advocates for creative ministry and missions. Joseph will be that youth parent the ministerial staff can count on for support and love, ideas and presence. He will be the adult who understands faith formation and establishes his family’s schedule around church ministries. Joseph will be the one who invites colleagues to church and passionately shares what is happening at his church. Joseph will serve his coworkers and engage them in conversations about Jesus. He will be the one to seek out discipleship opportunities and position himself to continue to seek God’s will and desire for how he lives life.
Regardless of how it happens, Joseph will minister. It is who he is at his core. Under his fascination with numbers, his curious nature, his insane problem-solving skills and his ease with finance and accounting, lives a disciple of Jesus determined to love God and love neighbor with all he has.
“Awake and alert,” he is on the greatest adventure . . . life.
Reverend Katrina Stipe Brooks has served as a pastor, campus minister and youth pastor. Part of a clergy couple, she is also a mother to a daughter in Divinity School and a son who just graduated college.