May is a special month for the Reyes-Chow/Pugh household. Two of us celebrate birthdays one day apart. This year, our middle daughter Abby turned eight and I hit the big 40.

Birthdays are a funny thing. On one level, it is another day to be thankful to be alive. At the same time, it is an opportunity to reflect on how one is doing on one’s walk with God, and how we as parents are doing in caring for these gifts God has left under our care.

On Abby’s birthday, I left this status update on Facebook: “Bruce Reyes-Chow is giving thanks to God for the life of “Middle” today on this her eighth birthday and hoping that we are helping to create a world where she may grow into who God intends her to be. Happy birthday, sweetie!”

I think about our hopes for humanity — for those close to us, those who oppose us, those we love, those we call stranger, and those we may never meet face-to-face. Do we really want them to grow into who God intends, or do we want them to grow into who wethink they should be? 

Too often, we want to strictly define and control God for the other, rather than trust that we can each listen to God well enough to be guided and molded into God’s vision and reality here on Earth.

Sometimes, to allow others to grow into whom God intends, we have to allow room for them to discover God on their own — even at the risk of them making choices we would not make. As a parent and pastor, I find this difficult because I want to guide my children and the community I serve in a particular direction.

Yet again, I am reminded that rather than holding on tighter to the control I think I have, God best uses my gifts when I let go and trust that God is working amidst and among everything. Easier said than done, but as I look back on my own life, I appreciate those who have given me the room and guidance to discover and follow God in a way that I trust allows me to grow into the person God intends.

If we could do that for one another, imagine the church we could be.