What follows is something deeply personal. Last weekend I had the chance to attend a father/son retreat called Modern Day Knights with my 12 year old. It was really a fantastic experience for both of us for so many reasons. I’ve been really introspective lately about what it means to be a dad and to raise a son in this world. I’ve got to confess that there are few things that scare me more right now. Our children are under attack from virtually every side and especially our boys. So many boys just don’t seem to be discovering what their place is in this world. They aren’t sure of their identity, of their purpose. They are just becoming kind of lost. I don’t want to be an alarmist, but I don’t want to be passive or naive either. Our boys need to know, clearly and explicitly what it means for them to be a man in this world. I’m by no means the perfect man or father. I’m no expert on “being a man” (if there is such a thing), but like most dads, I’m trying to do my best and not screw this kid up. What follows is a letter I wrote for Logan. I debated whether or not to share it on this platform. On one hand, this is very personal and I wondered if it might be best kept between the two of us. But on the other hand, I asked some people I trusted who encouraged me that there might be something here that could be a blessing to other dads trying to figure it out on the fly. So after thinking about it, I’ve decided to share it.
The first thing I want you to hear is that your dad loves you and he’s proud of you. Always.
The second thing that I need you to hear is that you don’t have to live your life trying to prove that you are worthy of my love or my pride. That’s not how God teaches us to love.
It is my joy and my privilege to be your dad, Logan. You and your sisters are a sacred mission that God has entrusted with me and your mom. To raise up godly children to bless the world and glorify God.
Learn to value and respect things that are old and established. Your world puts a lot of value in things that are new and young, but the reason that things become old is because they have stood up to the test of time and have survived. Fools mock anything older than themselves. An oak tree takes decades to grow while a weed pops up over night. No one sits in the shade of a weed on a hot summer day.
This goes for older people too.
Love learning. Be curious. Be imaginative. Pursue truth.
Pursuing truth without filling yourself up with God’s word will leave you empty. Become a person who has been shaped by the message of the Bible. True wisdom comes from God. That wisdom can be found in his word.
Living human beings are more important than technology. And while I’m at it – you will never live a full life camped out in front of a television screen. Make memories that involve sunrises and sunsets, streams and forests and mountains, the smell of fresh cut grass and the sound of a campfire, long, open roads, and creating something with your own two hands.
Don’t settle for comfort. Do hard things. Don’t avoid a struggle. I don’t know a single great man who hasn’t had to overcome something in his life. In your life, you will face challenges and failures and struggles. Don’t be surprised by this. Don’t be overcome by this. Toughness and resiliency are only found at the other end of a struggle. You are going to fail at times. Everyone does. It’s not the failure that makes a man. It’s how he responds.
Watch the words that you say. Words are powerful things. They can either destroy a person or build them up. Which kind of impact do you want to have?
There are few things in this world more precious than a good friend. Choose wisely. A good friend is the person who never stops wanting what is best for you. A good friend is the person who loves having fun with you but is also willing to be bored with you. A good friend is the person who respects your parents as much if not more than you do. A good friend is the person who puts up with all of your garbage and loves you anyway. A good friend is closer than a brother. A good friend is hard to find. One of my most consistent prayers for you is that you would find friends like this.
Read Ecclesiastes. Then read it again. The world will offer you all sorts of promises about what can make you happy. Most of these promises are lies – a chasing after the wind.
Be true to your word. A man’s word means something. Don’t make promises you won’t keep.
Know the difference between ignorance and foolishness. Ignorance is when you don’t know. Foolishness is when you do know, but you don’t care. Ignorance is corrected by knowledge. Foolishness is corrected by wisdom.
Don’t waste your life worrying about the opinion of fools.
Stand up for what’s right even if it’s unpopular. What’s popular is bound to change. What’s right, won’t. While you’re at it, become known as a person who will stand up for others. Never join in the crowd when someone is being picked on. That’s what cowards do.
Read Matthew 5-7. These are words that changed the world.
Let me tell you a secret. No one really likes a person who thinks that the world revolves around them. Unhappiness follows these people like a loyal dog. They can’t stop making other people unhappy, and they can’t ever seem to be happy themselves. The best way to avoid becoming one of these people is to learn how to say, “Thank you.” Always be grateful. And learn how to joyfully serve others without expecting to be the center of attention.
Girls. (I know you hate to talk about this.) But girls are God’s most mysterious and wonderful creatures. They will sometimes frustrate you and confuse you. They will also sometimes be all you can think about. Your world is going to send you mixed messages about girls. I want you to remember that girls are precious daughters of God. Make it your rule to always treat them that way – with honor and respect. Be a gentleman not a dope.
Never apologize for being passionate. The world is only ever changed through passion.
Logan, there is not just one way to “be a man.” Some like to hunt. Some like to play sports. Some like to work on computers. Some like to read books. “Being a man” isn’t about doing certain things. Being a man is about your character. It’s about being trustworthy, honorable, self-controlled, responsible, faithful. The Bible calls it being “upright.” Character matters more than achievement.
I love to see you smile. Don’t ever become one of those soulless teenagers who for some reason forgets how to genuinely smile and laugh unless they are laughing at someone.
Love your sisters well. Defend them. Encourage them. Be an example for them. I know you guys sometimes drive each other crazy. This is normal in brothers and sisters. But having a sister who is also a friend is an awesome thing.
Be a blessing to your mom. She loves you more than words can say. Look for ways to serve her. Don’t you dare ever become so grown up that you won’t give her a hug and a kiss.
Be responsible and be accountable. Work hard and take pride in your work because ultimately you are working for God and not for others.
Worry about what you can change not about what you can’t change.
Always love the Church. No matter what. They are your family.
Love Jesus faithfully. No matter what. But don’t just love Jesus. Learn from Jesus.
This is not just a father’s advice. This is a father’s prayer for a son coming of age in this world. Following this wisdom will be hard. Believe me. The world will always want you to do the opposite. I want you to know that you are a part of a legacy of faith. I know you don’t necessarily get that yet, but you will. Hebrews 12 says that we must run our Christian race with perseverance because we are surrounded by a great crowds of witnesses cheering us on. It’s like the crowds at Wrigley cheering on Kris Bryant. There are people in your life and people in your past that are cheering you on, Logan.
I will never forget the two days that were the most fun for me as your dad. I’ll never forget going to get waffles at 2:30 in the morning after the Cubs finally won. I’ll never forget that night as long as I live. It was a roller coaster! It was almost as fun watching you as it was watching to game. The second day was February 2, 2015. That’s the day you gave your life to Jesus. Which day do you think brought me more joy? The joy of a World Series will fade (believe it or not), but the joy of knowing Jesus lasts forever.
Love you, buddy.