Thursday, April 28, 2016

Note To My Sons On What I've Learned So Far

Yesterday was my birthday. While working in one of my stores, someone I know wished me "Happy Birthday" and, as we were talking, asked me, "What have you learned from the years you've lived so far that you want to pass on to your sons?" Not the usual conversation one has with co-workers, but then I never have the usual conversation with anyone. My first thought on hearing this was, "HEY! I only turned 48, I'm not Joseph on his deathbed offering sage advice to his loved ones." But the more I thought about what she'd asked, the more I paused to reflect on what exactly would I pass on to my boys.

It was only as I sat in the car line at school to pick up Cava that I began to put words to paper.  While this is hardly King Solomon writing down his Proverbs, here is what I came up with:

- God made us creators, not consumers. Live in that.

- Never lose your sense of wonder.

- Delight in play no matter how old you are.

- You are not a failure if you fail but only if you quit.

- You were fearfully and wonderfully made. This means you should celebrate your quirks and your uniqueness as they are a gift from God not a curse.

- Pursue joy and contentment over happiness and pleasure.

- Think beyond the moment. Consider your choices in terms of generational thinking.

- Your purpose is to praise, not popularity. Seek God's glory, not your fame.  Character is more important than celebrity. Wealth and fame only deepen insecurities they don't erase them.

- Spend more time praying for others' needs than your wants.

- All honesty should be tempered with compassion. Offer your hand more than your opinion.

- Gentleness is not weakness.

- There is no such thing as a "real man." Focus on being a "godly man." The "real" in that is called authenticity. We need more of those and less of the world's "real men."

- Be mindful of the grace God has shown you that you might extend that same grace to others. This means choosing the path of peace over power, mercy over might, and humility over hubris.

- Be hopeful, not hurtful. You may be the difference in another's life.

- Our culture objectifies women. You should edify them. When looking for a girl to date and, even more so, to marry, look for one who is able to make you think, who challenges you by her own intelligence and gifts, who balances you out.

- Know that real love (not the kind in movies and TV) is sacrifice. View that as a gift, not a hardship.

- Don't be afraid to be vulnurable. To be vulnerable with another person is a spiritual act.

- Be guided by Christ and not culture.

- Seek real community. Real connection comes over deep conversations, not likes on social media. One of the greatest gifts you can give someone is your presence. Be present. Be a good listener.

- Choose hospitality over hatred.

- See the holy in the daily. There is no act too small that you can't do it to the glory of God.

- Attend to place. Pay attention to the world around you or else you might miss the miraculous beauty God has created for those who take the time to notice it.

- Be still. Find moments of solitude.

- Find patience. Patience is a fruit of the Spirit and, like all fruits, does not grow overnight. It must be tended and nurtured first. Have patience for yourself as well as for others.

- Your biography will always reveal your theology.

- Don't be afraid to doubt or question. Doubt is not unbelief, it is just trusting even when one doesn't have the answer.

- Know that hurts are going to come along in life. That's a given. But use them, use your brokenness to have empathy and compassion for others. Remember every one has their own stories and their own struggles. When we stop and listen, we begin to understand.

- Live a thoughtful life.

- Lastly, if someone offers you a paper crown: Put it on! Immediately! Don't think about it, just put that crown on! Yes, you will look silly but so what? Looking silly may put the smile on the face of someone who desperately needs it.

That is what I would offer my sons from my forty-eight years.

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