A Birthday Letter to My Oldest

Dear Jon,

Many people think that going off to college or getting married is the big leap to independence, but I think that getting a car of your own is when the transformation from child to adult really begins. In two days, you turn sixteen, and you will get your driver’s license shortly thereafter. In the years that follow, my responsibility for you will shrink, as yours for yourself grows. Many parents face this time with fear, but I face it with joy and absolute confidence that you will fulfill and exceed all my expectations for you. God has blessed you with a sharp mind, strong body, and sweet spirit, but has given you a “thorn in the flesh” (diabetes) to keep you humble, just as he did me (adoption).

I know you are well-equipped to face the three major choices life presents: choosing Christ, choosing a spouse, and choosing a career. The first you have already done, although in reality it is Christ who chose you and called you to Himself. The second is merely a matter of finding someone who loves God, is committed to marriage in general and to you in particular, and is compatible in temperament and ability with you. The key is to be the sort of person you want to marry (friendly, hardworking, etc.), look in the right places (church, not bars), and not waste time on relationships destined for failure (non-Christians, etc.). The third is an issue of finding something you enjoy doing, that is inherently good, but allows you to provide for your family. For me it was medicine, and I suspect for you it will be the same, but I leave that to you and the Lord.

Beyond that, life is merely a matter of finding a balance between the many things God has given us to do to serve Him, while keeping in mind His command to love Him with all our heart, soul, and mind, and to love others as ourselves. There is really only one priority – serving God, but many manifestations of that goal. Taking care of ourselves physically by eating right, exercising, etc. is a part of serving God, just as taking care of ourselves spiritually by prayer, Bible study, and serving others is part of serving God. In fact, treating others the way we want to be treated is merely another way to honor and serve God. After all, people are eternal; everything else is temporary. I remind myself of this by never having anything I’m not willing to let go of and entrust to God, including my life, including my children, and including you.

I love you,

Dad

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