Thursday, May 30, 2019

To My Son - Upon His High School Graduation

The following article appeared in my monthly column in The Clinton Chronicle on Wednesday, May 22, 2019.

This month you graduate from high school. Where have the years gone? I remember feeling like the proudest daddy on the planet the week you were born. That special five days Mary Black Hospital – your mother, me, and our newborn baby. We were so happy that God had given you to us. The nurse put you in my arms that first night and tears streamed down my face. The first few days I felt like you were my fragile gift – afraid I might hurt you some way. I can still feel my excitement as we walked into the front door of our house holding you and taking you to your nursery.  Donnie Thompson (Number 1 Sign Designs) put a huge sign over our front door, welcoming you home.

I had so many hopes, so many dreams, and so many determinations. Recently, I wrestled with the reality that I can’t control our destiny, can’t make life perfect, and I can’t fulfill every dream I had as an idealistic 28-year old new dad. I learned I can’t make everything happen like a fairy tale. I can’t keep away disappointments. I don’t have the wealth and affluence I sometimes wished for our family. Life is not always easy and problem free. Wise people learn that acceptance brings peace, and that through it all God is good and faithful. 

We shared wonderful graces along the way – Buddy Breakfasts sitting on stools over Hardee’s Cinnamon Raisin Biscuits, bike rides around Thornwell and Presbyterian College, hours spent in swimming pools and creeks, rides on the Mystery Mine and roller coasters at Dollywood, family devotions before going to bed, lots of talks about superheroes, late-night conversations lying next to each other in the dark. I’ve knelt by your bedside or stood over you many a night in prayer – sometimes with throbs of joy in my throat – other times with tears streaming down my face. And I’ve watched you develop into an honorable, fine young man.

The accomplishment that matters most on this earth is the investment of giving my children a godly father and a peaceful, happy home. I have experienced one of the greatest rewards known to man – being a father. That endeavor will outlive me.

I have hoped through the years to raise a godly man, a Southern gentleman with good manners, and one who will engage the world with his skills, talents, and passions. And for the cherry on top, one with a love for music, history and politics!

A few years ago, I realized that I hit early middle-age.  I no longer have babies and preschoolers. College is two decades past.  My children are much cooler than me.  For fun, I still listen to music I enjoyed as a teenager – back in the 1980’s.  

However, laying the dreams of youth aside, I see evidences of the Providence of God through the years. Timely relationships, provisions, and opportunities remind me of God’s activity in my fairly average life.  Reviewing my journals through the years offers confirmations of the hand of the Lord guarding and guiding. And if you follow Him, He will do the same for you.

When Joshua in the Old Testament began his leadership journey, the Lord reminded him that a key to success was anchoring his life in the Word of God, meditating on and obeying its truths. I pray you look squarely at the Lord.  He makes our steps firm.  He appoints our days.  He establishes our ways.  And we can trust Him.

Remember, the Bible is God’s Word. Keep it close to your heart. The Bible and God’s Spirit can help keep your paths straight, your mind sharp, and your life clean.

So here a few short bits of counsel:

Practice a daily spiritual habit of spending time with the Lord, meditating in God’s Word, praying and listening to Him, and enjoying His presence. Nothing is more important to your long-time walk with God than that daily habit.

You are entering a crazy world that has lost its moorings. I hope you remember in life to value people over pleasures, relationships over materials, truth over feelings, and family and friends over fame and fortune.

Discover what you enjoy doing, encompassing how God has hard-wired you as His unique creation. When there is an alignment of our skills, abilities, talents, personality traits and passions we will recognize God’s call. Then spend your life doing those things. 

And remember that very little worthwhile happens in life apart from discipline. Embrace discipline, and you will enjoy her fruit.

Now our relationship begins a slow shift from intensive parenting to becoming a counselor, encourager, and eventually friend.

Raising a family has been your parents' favorite endeavor in life. We will always love you, and our door will always be open to you.

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