Sometimes we fail to say things to our children when we are thinking of them. Sometimes, it is because we don’t have the courage. Other times it is because we don’t have the time or the opportunity. Or, sometimes, we don’t know how they will respond. I thought I would occasionally post letters to my children to inspire others to share their hearts with their children, too. This first letter is to my son who is now 21 years old and who, last night, had to make a difficult choice to sacrifice a friendship he has had since first grade in order to try to save that friend’s life.
My Dear Son,
You have grown into a young man—one any mother would be proud of. You know the meaning of friendship—of true friendship. The Greek call this philia –fondness, appreciation, and loyalty to those you hold in community.
Your passion for life and those you care about drive every part of you. I admire it and at the same time I see it as a cross you bear. Your friendships have been characterized by loyalty, availability, honesty, trust, listening, nurturing, and a sense of finding a kindred spirit. But they also have been characterized by conflict, sacrifice, forgiveness, grief, and disappointment.
The depth of your friendships, the love you have for others in your life also means that you have had—and will continue to have—a sense of responsibility for those you care about. I know that you have had to choose, on occasion, doing what is right over the relationship. It has meant not just calling out your friends but also standing beside them when they desperately needed a friend they could count on. It has meant seeking help from family and friends to save the life of a friend. It has meant agonizing over the choice and ultimately choosing love and life, knowing that someday your friend might turn back to you, and may even thank you—hoping that you will have restoration.
It has also meant grieving deeply at the loss of some of your closest friends—whether the loss was because of death, or distance, or doing what was right. I have grieved for you, as I can’t imagine at your age having endured the loss that you have already endured. I know you have sought to understand loss and that, in many respects, it has eluded you. But I know that you have faith that someday you will heal, even if small scars remain. That somehow loss and grief will shape you in a way that will remind you that loving others was worth the pain of loss.
So I pray that you will continue to love deeply and value friendship above other things, for it is part of the fabric of who you are. It has been imprinted on your soul as long as I can remember. And, while it has been a burden at times, it has shaped you into a man of integrity and given you great joy. The way that you love others in community beautifully reflects Christ.
As C.S. Lewis wrote, “Friendship is not a reward for our discrimination and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument through which God reveals to each the beauties of a thousand other men; by Friendship God opens our eyes to them.”
With love always,
I welcomed 2011 in a little differently this year, as my friend and fellow blogger, Galen Pearl, suggested. I sat down and wrote a letter to say goodbye to 2010 — all the things it gave me–grace, peace, sadness, joy, and much more. And, I wrote a letter welcoming in 2011. I wrote a letter of hopes and dreams. Of anticipation and intentions.
It felt great.
And, as Galen suggested, I picked a word for the year. Galen suggests picking a verb and posting it in places where you will see it — on your computer, by the mirror, on the dash of your car. I picked the word live — as in “live every day to its fullest.”
I picked live not because I’m not productive or happy or can’t pull myself out of bed in the morning. Rather, I picked live because I find that I am often driven by my fears and the “what ifs,” which stop me from living fully. My hope is that by choosing this word and by praying and being mindful about living fully, that I will trust more, take more chances, love more deeply. That I will live for the possibilities of what God has in store for me than by the fears that hold me back.
I wrote two posts in 2010 on how I let fear and “what ifs” shape my life in negative ways. How these fears and this inner dialog of fear move me away from Christ. But, that trusting God to write my life story — a story of hope and grace and joy rather than fear and shame — moves me toward Him.
This year, I want to write the story God has planned for me. I want to live a life of hope and grace and joy. I want to trust Him to fill me and guide me. I want to rest in His arms and seek His face. I want to move toward Christ, not away.
I want to live. And, I want God to write the story of what it means to live. And, I want to see the story that emerges when I trust Him. So, welcome 2011. I’m ready!
Forgive my ‘what ifs’ –those that take the pen from your hand, that make me the editor in chief and relegate you to proofreader.
You write the story of my life. You provide hope and peace.
You imagined the story of life and the story of all things You placed in this universe.
You give life, hope, love, grace.
You are the author of all.
Let me see and hear the ‘what ifs’ You want me to imagine and to live out. Open my eyes and my heart to the possibilities You imagine.
Let me live every day as You desire.
Thank you Galen Pearl for your encouragement. Thank you for the word of the year.
Change can be difficult. When my son was small, he didn’t like his activities disrupted. He was a really content kid, until the unexpected occurred. He loved to play–especially with toy trains and legos. He would play contently for hours. But then, if we needed to go to the store or visit a friend, he would get upset, sometimes bursting into tears. Changing from one activity to another was hard. Overwhelming.
He needed a transition period. It took us a while to figure out how to help him make transitions better, but eventually we discovered a secret — a timer. I got one of those watches with a timer and when we had to leave to go somewhere or change from one activity to another, we set the timer for five minutes. We told him that when the timer went off, we would pick up the toys, or put on our coat, or get ready for dinner–whatever the new activity was.
I don’t know what it was about the timer–the five-minute warning–but somehow, it allowed him to build up the mental strength to change. He needed that preparation time. That time to adjust to the idea so that he could move forward without getting upset. As a young adult, he knows he still struggles with changes in his life. And, I am grateful that he recognizes this so that he can find ways to adjust.
I struggle with change, too. I wrote a few days ago about how emotion–compassion, fear, discomfort, and tears–help move us to action, to seek change. Other times, I recognize, desperately, that I need to change something in my life, but I’m too paralyzed to do anything about it. I’m stuck and it feels better to just stay the course. Or, I feel overwhelmed by the thought of the task. Or, with respect to social justice issues–like the global water crisis–I feel like anything I do will be too insignificant to have any impact. So, I do nothing.
I need that ‘five minute warning’–or some time period–to build up the strength mentally and emotionally before moving forward. And then I remember, Christ’s words:
So, I prepare for change. I know that I need to look to Christ. To have faith that, with Him, change is possible. I know that I need to get ‘unstuck” because He promises that faith moves mountains. I have to take the action, with faith in hand, and . . .
Christ will make the mountain move, not me. I just have to step out in faith.
I love the feeling of water flowing over me. It refreshes, soothes, calms, invigorates. Sometimes, I just want to stand under the flowing water for hours. Wishing I could just be wasteful. Wishing for just a few more minutes.
How fortunate I feel to have running water–warm and cold running water–when others have no running water or no clean water, period. I struggle to comprehend that so many people have no clean water. Over a billion people have inadequate access to clean water. Over 2.6 billion have inadequate sanitation.
And, the problem is getting worse, not better. With global warming, scientists expect it to get worse. Even today, the water crisis kills more people through disease than war kills people with guns. And, even though more people die each year from drinking dirty water, the water crisis rarely makes the headlines–unlike natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes, or floods.
And, here I stand, with plenty of water to drink and the privilege of running water for showers, toilets, gardens, pools. I am grateful for this resource. But, I am struck by our nation’s–and the world’s–inability to mobilize to solve the crisis. I am struck that I have been silent about this crisis for so long.
We, as individuals, as Christians, as fellow human beings, need to act. Whether it is conserving our own water resources, volunteering to help drill and maintain wells, speaking out, donating our time, or donating money, we need to mobilize to help put this crisis to an end.
The statistics are staggering–not just the deaths from unclean water, but also the related issues, such as poverty, lack of education due to illness from dirty water, and much, much, more. So, join me, today, World Water Day 2010, and pledge to do something–anything–to move towards solving this crisis. Be the hands and feet of Christ or just the hands and feet of humanity. And, next time you feel the flow of fresh, clean water rush over you, remember again and pledge again.