For the most part my entire Ironmen writing has followed a fairly uniform path similar to the U.S. Army slogan – “Be all that you can be”. After this my 200th writing, you might get the idea that I only sing one tune. But there’s certainly a purpose to my effort which has gone understated and mentioned only by reference. Many of you gentlemen are fathers, quite a few of you new fathers, and the rest probably intend to be fathers some day. Today’s Letter opens up that incredibly important topic for deeper evaluation and at the end a suggestion that will pay huge dividends.
As many of you know I have been blessed with 3 children whose stewardship I have taken very seriously – Dano, Shelli, and Kevin. When Dano was born I was a week from 28. If you were to ask me then if I were an adult, I’d think so. Since then, it’s beyond clear that I wasn’t. Ask anyone over 50 when a person is considered an adult and 28 is never cited. Intellectually engaged, sure. Physically finished with my development, yup. Legally responsible, indeed only in the legal sense. Not an indictment against my character, just calling out the reality of being young.
When a baby is born, so is a father. There is something very maturing about becoming a father. There is a difference, a big difference, between theory and reality in this realm. All of you fathers know what I’m saying. You look at that infant lying there all helpless and pink and feel a new reality, a weight, a motivation, a purpose. From this day forward, your actions have generational consequences. The body, the mind, the spirit in that crib is your responsibility to love, teach, develop, disciple, encourage, fund, engage, mature, and release a couple decades hence. From whatever resources and capacities you have you are responsible to pour into this little life so that they are prepared to meet whatever challenges they will face along the way. And the key here is that unless you yourself grow up the task will quickly overtake you.
Fortunately you will grow. Unless you run away from this role, which is a sad commentary on today’s endless summer approach some men have regarding pursuing superficial sex, unless you run away from taking root in life, you will grow. Children are God-designed gifts whose very nature compel you to the next level of maturity. George Will wrote: “We raise our children physically; they raise us spiritually.” What a blessing that is. Children give you reason to grow faster than you might otherwise. Whatever pace of maturity you currently possess becoming a father creates the realization that your input into this perfect little life might be, just might be, inadequate for the job. Based on the maturity of a 28 year old, I hope you feel inadequate. So upward you go.
Question: Do you own that baby’s potential? Clearly not. You are the steward of that baby’s potential. God and that baby own their potential, but you have been gifted with the opportunity to steward it into self management. And when you look at your own self management, how’s that look? If my point hasn’t become obvious at this point, let me be clear – you can only take your child as far as you’re able to go yourself. God can take them further, but the weight of your energy could be a parachute on their trajectory. Not a fair thing to say, but the opposite is true as well – your energy can define them positively. Exodus 34:6-7 Iniquities of the father is visited on generations to come … as will blessings.
This is a defining topic. It will define so much of your life, so much of the satisfaction you have, so much of your emotions and concerns, and so much of your relationships. When people look upon you and judge your character, they’ll look at the fruit of your life as the embodiment of your maturity. Yeah, I know, but it’s what people do. You have created a canvass on which your child will use the colors and strokes you have provided. Their life is a masterpiece.
So here’s the idea. Make a declaration. Write a letter to your child today, sign and date it. If your child already has many years in the bag, do it anyway. The style of this letter written as to an adult who currently is in baby form should declare who you are today and who you intend to become. It should cover your journey to this point, history of your life, and the relationships that your baby comes into. The letter should be a philosophic statement of your beliefs, your view on the world, and your role in it. It should declare to your baby what you intend to do as a father and how you intend be there for them to the best of your ability. And this love letter should be the most mature, well written piece you are capable because your child will keep this treasure forever and will use it as a template to write their own. The letter should be long and take effort to get it out. But it will be worth it.
And then you give it to them when they become of age. When they turn 13, take them away to a long weekend and give them the letter. Sure, they won’t understand much of it, but that won’t matter. They’ll read it again, and likely again and again. The older they get, the more they’ll get from the letter, and they more they’ll see you as a father who has stewarded them to the best of his abilities.
I have made many mistakes, but this one I got right.
To your greatest of blessings,