Dear Will (2023)

My son Will turns twelve today. Here is a letter to him: 

Dear Will, 

I suppose these letters all start the same, with me acknowledging how fast another year has gone by. While this won’t make sense until you are older, time seems to go faster when you are older. I used to think that was just because I was getting older and had more things to do. Now, however, I see that the real reason is value — the things and experiences I value tend to go by faster and faster. 

Your childhood is almost gone. I suspect that you probably do not think of yourself in terms of being a “child,” and that is fair. But this time in your life is unique. It is a time filled with adventure and possibility. As the oldest, you might be tempted to hurry into more responsibility, your teenage years, and even adulthood. Give yourself permission to be a kid. Play with your sister, and take part in your brother’s fun games. You will have to work at this more when you are a 41 like me, so don’t lose sight of it now. And remind your dad to make time for laser tag or Nerf wars with the three of you from time to time!  

While you are incredibly gifted with golf and baseball, I want to remind you that my love is not predicated on your sports performance. You can strike out 100 times in a row, hit 100 home runs, or shoot an incredibly low score (though you should chill out on beating Dad anytime soon — though secretly, I’m rooting for that day to happen!). 

None of this impacts my love for you. I will tell you this a thousand more times over the next ten years, so I apologize in advance. I want you to do your best, be a great teammate, and be a good sport. Your performance is not, and never will, impact my love for you. 

To this end, I want to challenge you on something I have struggled with all my life: “self-talk.” What I mean by that is how I talk about myself in my head. For example, I used to say horrible things to myself when I shot 90 or worse in competitive high school golf. For example: 

“You suck.” 

“You will never be as good as your dad was.” 

“You are a failure.” 

Get the idea? 

My dad (your grandfather) never pressured me to be as good as he was at golf. Yet, I often believed the lie that my lack of national golf success was a failure in his eyes. Again, that was NOT on him, but it was a lie generated by my self-talk. 

As I close, what I have learned more than anything from you this year is how to be resilient. I admire your ability to stay consistent emotionally, regardless of the circumstances. I think this is a quality you inherited from your mother. If things go wrong on the baseball field, you are not flustered. You just keep going on. This has inspired me as a leader this year because things have not always been easy with the economy we are in. That probably does not make sense to you now, but know you have reminded me to keep going back to the “pitching mound” every day in a business sense. 

I am incredibly proud to be your dad. Your future is filled with possibilities. I pray that you continue to read God’s word and receive your identity in Jesus. This is a thought I was reminded of in church recently, so it bears repeating: You cannot find your identity. You can only receive it.  I must confess that on too many days, I have chased finding it. But it was never meant to be found. 

Jesus is your perfect Father. I am your very imperfect father. Being a Christian is recognizing that you cannot save yourself. While achievements are great, and progress is part of being a member of a productive society, no amount of achievement works in the end. There is always a gap, always a hole.

Therefore, I pray that you receive your identity as you enter your teen years. 

You have nothing to prove to your earthly father. 

You have nothing to prove to your Heavenly Father. 

You are accepted, and you are loved. 

Praise the Lord.