As Father’s Day is coming up, here’s an archived post from three years back:
Advice Is Overrated, Encouragement Isn’t
[My son K is 22 and recently graduated from UC Berkeley. My daughter J is 20 and a third year student at UC San Diego. A lot of parents write advice letters to their young adult children, laying out what they want their children to learn. I’m not one of those parents. Instead, I’m writing them a letter pointing out what they’ve already learned.]
How old were each of you when you first left the country on a missions trip? 9, 10? Something like that. We all traveled together to Mexico to serve in one of the poorest places I’ve ever seen. K, we took you with us for the first couple trips, and J you joined us for several trips after that.
And then you went overseas on your own mission trips. You still do.
K, you even went on one all by yourself without a missions team. Seriously, Vietnam on your own? I know you’d been there twice before with a team, but to hop a plane and get to work with the organization over there without any team training or support was impressive. And now you are preparing to return as head of a team you are putting together to minister to the people you’ve met there over the years
J, those trips to western and eastern Europe and into Israel started while you were in high school. Then South Africa, came along, but you weren’t going as a member of the team. You led the team. And this summer you are going to do it again.
So I said this was about what you have learned. Here goes:
You’ve learned how to take initiative: Mom and I never asked you to go on these trips, never even brought up going on overseas missions. You thought of it, you explored it and you figured out how to get it done. It may not have always happened the way you expected, but it happened. And you learned that God has some great plans for you, even better than your own..
Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. (Proverbs 19:21.)
You’ve learned to adapt: J, when your co-leader in charge of logistics had to back out 2 days before leaving last year, you and the other program leader stepped up and took on the duty, all while handling all your own responsibilities. K, you had several weeks in a foreign land without knowing anyone your own age so you went to the coffee-house and made some friends, good friends that you loved to hang out and play music with even if you didn’t speak each others’ languages all that well.
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10.)
You’ve learned to trust God: K, when you were 17 and started team training for that first trip to Vietnam, you didn’t know anyone else, student or adult. But you trusted that God had put you there and that he would see you through. J, when you were getting ready to fly off to training for your last trip to Europe and got so sick you could barely stand, you trusted that God would work it out so you could still go, even if it meant joining the team late. God saw both of you through those times and so many more.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will direct your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6.)
You’ve learned the God’s word is not only powerful, but a joy: J and K, each of you have learned over the years how to study God’s word. I wish I could take credit for that, but it’s really your own relationships with God that have drawn you deeper into his word. I get to have the fun of talking about Scripture and doctrine and theology with you, and often you are the ones who bring up points I’ve never thought through. This is a joy for us in talking about it, and I can tell that you get a kick out of reading his word and studying what theologians and other writers have to say about it for yourself too.
When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, Lord God Almighty. (Jeremiah 15:16.)
There’s more of course, but I hope you’ve learned one more thing in particular. Mom and I are not only proud of you, but we are so pleased for you in your relationships with God and the people he has put in your lives. I told you when you were young and I’ll tell you now:
K – you are my wonderful boy.
J – you are my wonderful girl.
And your wonderfulness has nothing to do with whether you’ve learned anything at all. Your wonderfulness has everything to do with the fact that you are blessings from God.
[For those reading this who aren’t K & J, please know that your heavenly Father is even more pleased with you than I am with my kids. He loves you eternally and without limit, and I hope that encourages your socks off.]