On Father’s Day 2012, I shared the following letter to my sons, for them when they turned eighteen. It was one of my favorite sermons, but it was six months before I’d launch this blog. So, I share it with you now, and tomorrow I’ll share with “A Letter to My Sons 2.0.” Consider who you should be writing such a letter to.
Now that you’ve turned 18 and are preparing to head out on your own, here are a few things I want to remind you of. I’m proud of you and who you are becoming, and hope that these things, which I’ve tried to teach you as you’ve grown, will stick to you and guide you as you enter adulthood.
First, speak softly and carry a big stick. No, wait. Speak softly and allow for God’s voice to guide your words. Words carry so much power, and yet we fail to use them well. Compliment others, be kind to others, and help them to be affirmed that God loves them and you, so much. Someone’s mom, might’ve been Eve, said a long time ago that if you didn’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. It’s still true.
Remember that God has a plan for you. In Jeremiah 29:11-14, it says that if we seek God with our whole heart, we will find him. I hope that you will always seek after God and see that the plan God has for your life is awesome!
Be yourself. You are a child of God and made in His image. Don’t obsess over how you look. Don’t worry about what other people say. You know who and whose you are.
Whatever you do, do it well. Find something you love to do and embrace it. Make it your calling, not a job, and you will go to work happy more days than not. Your mom and dad will be proud of you regardless of what job you take, so do it well.
Form relationships, not connections. The world is full of people who are either givers or takers. Break the mold. Be compassionate and gracious, and show others that they are important. Your Pepaw taught me that it was important to recognize every person’s worth, regardless of their place in the world—from those serving you, or taking out your trash, or your bosses, or your enemies—God loves us all the same.
Be a good friend. Find people who will challenge you and support you. Don’t worry about who looks cool but who is full of the things you know you want to be. Speaking of cool, don’t sweat that either. It changes. Remind me to tell you about the white neon pants I had in the eighth grade.
Be trustworthy, honest, patient. With your friends AND your enemies. Hopefully you got your Mom’s personality.
Remember who you are, and whose you are. You are my sons, and you are God’s sons. I have prayed over you since you were little, “Mommy loves you, Daddy loves you, and God loves you. May you grow up to be a man after God’s own heart. You’re a good boy buddy.” No matter how big you get or where you go, I will be praying that over you.
Speaking of which, call your mom. She misses you.
Don’t be afraid to say you’re sorry. You’re not always right. I’m not either.
Know that God loves you so much that he sent Jesus to die on the cross for you, and raised him up three days later. Treat others like Jesus died for them too—he did! All that other stuff? Worry about it later.
Eat your vegetables. Drink lots of water. Try to not get addicted to caffeine. It’ll save you money and health later.
Exercise. They told me my metabolism would slow down. I didn’t believe them. They were right. Get up off your keister and go play something. Just not yet… I’m not done.
No matter what happens, love your brother. He’s your family, and you guys should always have each other. I know you guys want to wrestle all the time, but remember that when push comes to shove, he’s got your back.
Read something. Sports Illustrated is fine, but try a book sometime! Yes, it’s okay to read comic books—let the story move you.
Read your Bible. Pray. When you don’t know what words to say, SING! If you can’t sing, hum.
Find a church where you can hear the word of God, and know that you are loved by the people there. Don’t worry about finding the perfect church- none of them are- but find a church where you know God is there and you get fed. Get involved with church- serve in whatever way you can. Don’t just be a taker!
Speaking of getting involved: don’t just coast. Whether you’re in school or working now, get involved. Make your world better. Your Memaw always said I was happier when I was pouring my life into other people, and she was right. This life isn’t about you, or me, or someone else. It’s for all of us to share together.
Wash your clothes. Don’t put the red clothes in with the whites. You’ll end up pink. It’s no good.
Get a haircut. Take frequent showers. Don’t forget to brush your teeth. I’m supposed to tell you to floss…
Give more than you get. You know your dear old dad has been obsessed with Christmas Jars for a long time, but seriously, give away money. Give away time. Give away clothes. You will always have what you need, and if you don’t, your mom will buy it for you.
Say thank you. Hold the door.
Speaking of which. Call your mom. She misses you.
Be a good listener. People want to know you care. Listening shows them. Your dad is trying to learn to talk less—he’s been trying for 30 years.
Don’t let the sun go down on your anger. I know that’s tough, but aim for never holding a grudge. Never lose a friend over something dumb, even if it was their fault.
When you get a job, be friends with the secretary. They know what’s really going on. If you don’t believe me, ask Gram what she knows.
Have fun. Enjoy being outside, playing games, being on a team. Have what everyone else thinks is a bad sense of humor—you got that from your mom.
Laugh a lot, just not at other people. Laughing at yourself is still the best. It’ll keep you humble, and you’ll always be entertained.
Don’t be afraid to say no. Sometimes, not doing something is the best answer. I’m still working on that.
When you get a job, tithe. God gave you the gifts and skills and opportunity you have, and it’s the right thing to do to give back what’s His already.
When you get a job, save. Your dad wishes he would’ve started earlier. You’re going to want to do something and need the money, and you’ll have it if you saved up. By the time you read this, your mom will probably have already reminded you five times… and used me as an example.
Tip big. Someone worked hard to bring you that meal.
I hope you find a woman who you love as much as I love your Mom, and that she loves you back. Don’t force it. Your dad took plenty of wrong turns—but in the long run, they all led to your Mom. Be okay with getting it wrong, but guard your heart for the right time. You’ll know. And if you have any questions, ask your Mom. (Just kidding.) Don’t worry about finding the perfect woman, but find the perfect person FOR YOU. And when you find that person, make sure that you tell her what she means to you.
Remember that hope never fails. I’ve always told you that the good guys always win. It’s true. Sometimes it just takes awhile. Go watch Star Wars or The Princess Bride. Maybe Spiderman (the Tobey Maguire one). We know already how our story ends—Jesus already won.
You will be someone else’s example, somebody’s hero. Are you setting an example you’d want them to follow? No pressure.
Live to please an audience of one. I don’t mean me or your mom. But you should be living to please God with who you are and what you do.
Speaking of being an example: I did my best. I’m sorry for the times that I failed at that, days I didn’t have enough patience, or didn’t show you the best way I should have. I thank God for the gift of you, and pray that we’ll continue to grow up together as you enter into your own.
I’ll never get tired of saying this: I love you. You are a great son and a wonderful person. I will always be proud of you, and I am always here—a phone call or car ride away. Don’t be afraid to tell people that you love them. Ever.
And one last thing: call your mom. She misses you. It’ll be on speaker phone. Because I miss you too.