25 April 2008

To My First Born

My eldest is missing his soccer game this Saturday (gasp!) to go on a 6th grade church retreat for the weekend. We were asked to write an encouraging note to our children. Here is mine.
Some people think that a father’s job is to discipline children so that they don’t act up and get in trouble. Others believe the job is to protect them from all the bad people and circumstances in the world; that way, nothing bad can happen.

It’s a lot more complicated than that, and you’re just starting to see it. The job is really one where you try to equip your child with values and skills while creating an environment that gives them the best chance to be a terrific adult. Values and skills are two very different things indeed. Skills are abilities that you either have or can foster and grow, things like studying, playing a sport or instrument, and even being someone’s friend. Values are the beliefs that guide everything you do, from the very big decisions you make in your life to the quick choices that you make a dozen times a day.

It would be easier if parents could simply decide everything for their child, kind of like you were setting up a new character in a video game where you could determine everything they would become, everything they would believe. God didn’t make any of us that way; he gave us free choice. He designed you and me to decide a zillion things every day, from irrelevant things like what we’ll wear and eat to huge things like if we believe in Him, if we love Him, if we will follow His will in our lives.

As you know, I am a Christian, accepting Jesus as my savior when I was nine or ten, about when you did. My own faith has grown and changed over the last 30 years since I was twelve. It’s been difficult for me at times; sometimes I wasn’t cool (OK, almost all the time!), sometimes I was left out of things, sometimes people made fun of me. When your Mom and I were first married, we worked with high school students in Princeton, New Jersey as advisors at our church. They were so different than the kids I’d grown up with; super-smart, but most of them questioned everything and didn’t believe much of anything. We realized that just saying, “God loves you, Jesus died for you, and that’s all true because the Bible says so and I say so,” isn’t good enough.

God didn’t make robots, and you aren’t a robot. It’s OK to have questions about your faith. It’s OK if you hear something from someone and have questions about it or don’t agree with it. All of that is what it means to move from a child in Christ to a Christian. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:11 “When I was a child, I used to speak as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.“ God designed all Christians to not understand everything about Him and about how to live for him; that’s what it means when he says when he was a child, he acted like a child.

Becoming a man means to become smarter about God and also to start doing the things that God wants us to do in our lives. Sometimes, I ask God to show me what He wants me to do with the big decisions of my life. In Jesus, He showed us how we should live each day: to pray and speak to God, to love others and show them compassion, to do things and serve others, to read the Bible and learn through talking about it, and to understand the only way we can come to Jesus. That way? Not doing things, but simply admitting to Him that I sin and do wrong things every day, that I am really not good enough for God to love me, yet He not only loves me He allowed His Son to die so that I could have all these sins that I commit to be erased and forgotten.

God doesn’t ask you to be the perfect Christian or the best Christian. No, He simply asks you and me this question: I love you, do you love me? If yes, show me.




2 Comments:

Blogger joseph said...

Nicely done.

8:33 AM  
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4:06 AM  

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