I can remember the day—August 4—but not the year. All I know is that my sons were in elementary school. Somehow, the older I get, the more those years get confused.
I will say to Jeremiah or Caleb, “Do you remember when you hit a home run in the third grade?” and he will say, “No, Dad, it was a double, and I was in the seventh grade.” I have learned just to start out with “Remember when… ?” and let my boys fill in the details.
I’m sure I remember the exact day because it was my oldest son Jeremiah’s birthday. I felt bad for him. We were driving the eight hours from Grandma’s house in Hannibal, Mo., all the way home to Tulsa. No child should spend his birthday in the back seat of a car. How could I make this day special?
As we approached Springfield, Mo., I remembered a “Steak and Shake” restaurant there. If I know anything about Jeremiah, I know that he loves meat. As a boy, I saw an episode of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom that featured footage of a cow wading into a river. Within 10 seconds, a school of piranhas ate the poor animal clear to the bone. Watching Jeremiah eat meat brings back that episode—in living color.
I said to him, “Do you know what a man should have on his birthday?”
His eyes got big. “No, Daddy, what?”
“A man needs a steak. A big, juicy steak—that is what a man should have on his birthday.”
I could sense the wheels spinning inside his little head. “It’s my birthday. I am a man. That means I should have steak today.”
My next words made the wheels move even faster. “That’s not all, Jeremiah. Do you know what else a man should have?”
“What’s that, Daddy?”
“A shake. A thick chocolate shake to wash down that steak. That is what a man needs on his birthday: a steak and a shake.”
By now, his little wheels were turning double-time. The only thing that Jeremiah consumes faster than meat is chocolate. I could see his thoughts: “Today is my birthday. I am a man. I should celebrate with a steak and a shake.”
I spoke once again. “Jeremiah, would you do me a favor? I need to keep my eyes on the road. Could you watch for a place that serves steaks and shakes?”
At this point, Jeremiah was leaning over the back seat, straining to find… that place. I knew that in a mile or so, we would reach a sign with directions to the “Steak and Shake” restaurant.
Every 15 seconds I would ask, “Have you found anything yet?” and he would shake his head, “No.”
It’s a good thing I anticipated the sign. When Jeremiah caught sight of it, he screamed at the top of his lungs, “Look, Dad—a place that sells STEAKS AND SHAKES!”
“Good! Let’s go there and celebrate your birthday!”
Jeremiah is now in his 40s. Recently, he asked me, “Dad, you remember when we ate at “Steak and Shake” for my birthday?”
Of course, I did—although I’m glad he didn’t press me about the year.
“Dad, what you did, that was pretty cool.”
I just smiled.
Isn’t that what our heavenly Father does? He plants dreams, desires and hopes into His children’s minds and hearts. He knows that if we keep looking ahead, we will soon discover the place where He brings… fulfillment.