“What a gift.” This was my repeated thought over the first several hours after our son, Charles Job Eldridge, was born. The whole time we were in the hospital I had a profound sense of being undeserving of such a delightful and precious grace. What a joy to have a son. How humbling to be a father.
As I did for William, I want to honor Charlie and recount why his mother and I named him the way we did.
As the story goes, I have a great-, great-grandfather named Newton Napoleon Eldridge. Not surprisingly, this name wasn’t super-popular with Newt’s childhood friends, and they changed it for him. For an unknown reason, the nickname chosen for him was “Charlie.” And when Charlie became an old man, he was fondly known as “Papa (pronounced more like “pap-uh”) Charlie”.
Well, eventually Papa Charlie’s son named his son Charles after his dad’s nickname. This Charles is my grandfather pictured in the middle to the right.
My Granddaddy was very dear to me. In him I saw a man of strength, wisdom, tenderness, and humor. As a young boy we had a world of fun on his western Kentucky farm, driving his truck, fishing for catfish, pulling weeds, herding cattle, growing vegetables and fruit, trapping raccoons, neutering calves, riding his pony, harvesting honey, visiting the Mammoth Cave, watching basketball games, holding his hand on a long walk, and singing songs around a campfire. My mind is graciously filled with happy memories with Charles Leroy Eldridge. In the strength of his embrace, the sincerity of his love, and the beauty of his farm, I tasted heaven.
After Charles Leroy came my dad, Charles Edward Eldridge. I will probably never know how much my dad has shaped me. His affection through his hugs, kisses, and words of love meant everything to me as a young boy. And I’m still amazed at how much encouragement I can draw from his simple words of affirmation and assurance. Like many little boys, I had these superlative judgments about my father. He is a pediatrician and would often take us with him to the hospital when he “made rounds on Saturday morning. I remember visiting the hospital nursery with him when I was seven or eight years old, and I noticed how he moved so deftly, so intelligently within this massive building, caring for these vulnerable patients. The nurses loved and respected him. His patients listened to and appreciated him. “Wow,” I thought to myself, “my dad is the greatest.”
So for these reasons and more, I am glad to have named my new son Charles.
Now what about Job? The name Job has gotten an interesting and varied response. Several times Meg and I have gotten a “Job? Hmmm… That’s…nice,” kind of response. But, no worries. We were sort of expecting that. Job, after all, is a rare name for our context. And Job, the character in the Bible, has a mixed legacy: “Didn’t he suffer a lot?” “Wasn’t he real angry at God?”
Since Charlie was conceived, Meg and I have faced varied difficulties and disappointments. One painful trial seemed to follow on the heels of another, trials relating to work, relationships, personal struggles, and unrealized dreams. Despair, sadness, shame, guilt, confusion, anger, contempt, regret, and envy have been achingly common over these months that Meg has carried Charlie.
So we were struck when we stumbled across several sermons on the book of Job starting in the month of August. This series of sermons is titled, “Walking with God When Life Goes Sideways.” And the crux of the sermons, much like the crux of the book of Job, is the mystery of suffering and God’s faithfulness to us in our suffering. In light of our own pain, Meg and I meditated on God’s profound dealings with Job and Job’s rawness in relating with God. And in doing so we were drawn to name our son after the man from the land of Uz.
Muse on some of these lines from Job’s story:
After losing his wealth and his children, Job utters, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. Yahweh gave, and Yahweh has taken away; blessed be the name of Yahweh.” (Job 1:21)
Next Job loses his health, and his wife says to him, “‘Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.’ But Job said to her, ‘You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?’ In all this Job did not sin with his lips.” (Job 2:9-10)
After expressing the grief in his heart (especially in chapter 3), and after facing some unhelpful counsel from his friends, Job hangs on to hope in this well known line, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth.” (Job 19:25)
And finally after so many chapters of silence, God speaks to Job, “Then Yahweh answered Job out of the whirlwind and said: ‘Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.'” (Job 38:1-4)
And after Yahweh’s humbling words, “Then Job answered Yahweh and said: ‘I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know…I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.'” (Job 42:1-3, 6)
“And Yahweh restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends. And Yahweh gave Job twice as much as he had before…And Job died, an old man, and full of days.” (Job 42:10, 17)
This is barely a sampling of God’s intimate and powerful dealings with his servant Job. But these words are testimony to God’s wisdom and faithfulness in Job’s suffering, and they are testimony to Job’s enduring faith through unimaginable loss. Meg and I long for our son to relate to God with Job-like vulnerability and trust.
Another wonderful line from Job’s book is chapter 13, verse 15: “Though he slay me, I will hope in him.” A few years ago, a group called Shane and Shane released this song, which is, in part, a meditation on this verse. May Charlie hope in the Lord as did his namesake.