A Dad's Letter
The following is a personal letter from a father to his son. I submit it with caveats: I do not know the context of the son’s outreach; all I have is the father’s response (sort of like 1 Corinthians, yes?). The father’s advice may not be agreeable to all, but the spirit is honest and pure. Finally, the author, Bill, passed away last week. His son graciously shared this letter in honor of his father’s memory.
I’ve read your letter to me a few times and I’d like to respond. I think first of all you should not look upon your feelings as being particularly unusual considering the closeness of our relationship over the years. There are changes taking place in that relationship as you move into manhood.
Your thinking will become more and more independent of my own and this is right and as it should be. Our love for each other in no way diminishes but clearly your dependence and reliance on me must diminish. You have to be your own man. It’s not easy for either of us to let go but if you and I don’t recognize that this kind of change is inevitable it will do nothing but cripple you in your maturing process. My feelings for you as an individual and as my son continue to grow day by day. I marvel that God has blessed me with such a fine young man that I can call Son. As I sit here writing tears of joy and happiness for who you are and what you are come to me unabated. I can tell you I’m not ashamed of them the least bit.
[Comment: This father recognizes the natural maturing process of the parent/child relationship. When a child enters the world, a father (ideally) is softened by such helplessness and dependence. I believe this is intended by God to help curb a man’s natural testosterone-laden libido and self-centered ambition to achieve and conquer. Children domesticate a man so that he is drawn to serve, support and focus on his family.
As his children grow, a man must learn to relax his inclination to protect and defend them so that they learn to think and act independently. This is not an easy process since the godly father has invested so much of his time, energy and emotions in the nurturing process. It is counter-intuitive to let your child fail, to allow him to be vulnerable, to stand back and let her suffer the consequences of a bad decision (within reason – I’m not advocating neglect in the case of permanent or serious harm).
But a father must be secure in his own life and faith to let go. If a father, or especially a mother, has come to define him/herself entirely by the parental role, the tendency will be to cling, coddle and foster dependence so that they remain at the center of the child’s adult life. This is not love; it is perverse and immature and reflects a disconnect with the true role of a parent. Bill seems to understand this natural separation process well.]
As to your relationship with the fairer sex, let me suggest that there is no need to press for the kind of relationship that you’re looking for. Date often and casually and I’m satisfied that sooner or later good things will happen for you. Let me further suggest that in this phase of your life you are probably better off without a serious relationship. That’s easy for me to say but I believe it’s true. My advice to you is to relax a little bit. Don’t try to rush things. Enjoy a little, smell the roses along the way. Prepare yourself for life.
[Comment: As the maturation process unfolds, all parents worry about the crucial phase of their child’s interaction with the opposite sex. And for good reason: Our society excels at distorting and especially sexualizing courtship and marriage so that carnal desires often prevail. Our children are surrounded by false images of relationships that inevitably seep into their thinking and values. Coupled with the relative immaturity of the typical 18-25 year old mind, decisions are often made that carry disastrous consequences: Fornication leading to disease, pregnancy; or involvement with a non-Christian or someone not emotionally or spiritually healthy.
And this is a challenging time for the children as well. It is not easy to find and determine who has legitimate, solid values; who has a mature understanding of life; who genuinely loves God. So the tendency may be for the child to unduly depend on a father or mother, and for the parent to reciprocate, so that again there is the fostering of unnatural dependence.
Again, Bill seems reluctant to go down that path with Jason. He wants him to be patient and not force a relationship that may not be good.]
You have no idea how much you’re loved and respected by family, friends and peers. Just be you. It will work out. Do not try to conquer the world in three or four years. You are doing well. Enjoy the fruits of your labors as you go.
We all love you and are proud of you. Do not think that you have to be perfect. Only One ever was. I love you.
[Comment: Society pressures us, and we pressure ourselves, to conform to certain standards and expectations. Marry by a certain age. Own your “forever home” by thirty-five. Be an executive by forty. Travel the world. Drive a luxury car. Retire by fifty. The only problem is that real life doesn’t follow a human script. We may judge ourselves a failure because we have not hit certain milestones at certain times. Or, we get lost in the rat race as we try to provide unrealistic and unnecessary things for our children, maintain our buying (or borrowing) power to surround ourselves with the newest/fastest/sleekest gadget available, or live in mortal fear of losing our status and possessions to some unknown threat lurking in the shadows.
On some level Jason seems to have expressed these worries, and Bill tries to restore some perspective. To know you are loved and accepted by family, to define who you are by God’s standards, to be calm of spirit and content with doing His will – these are the things that lead to health and happiness.
“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Mt 6:33). May we always love our children, give them room to grow and be their own person, and advise them in the ways of the Lord.]