Letter to my children

My Dear Children,

You are growing up before my eyes, and time, indifferent to the sentiments of a father, sees you moment by moment closer to the unavoidable day when you walk out of my arms and into the world. Until that time comes, it is my deepest joy, and most consuming challenge to help you become thinkers, believers, and earth-shaking Christ-followers.

I’m making more than my fair share of mistakes. Sometimes I will discipline when grace would have been more appropriate. Other times I will give grace when I should have been stricter. (Though I suspect you’ll be okay with that one) Sometimes I just won’t have a clue what to do or say, though I may pretend otherwise. Though I want to be the steadfast example for you to follow, I will fall short of that many times. I am after all human: stubborn, selfish, and sinful.

Our culture will do its best to turn you against me. Or, at least to get you to reject what I have taught you as outdated, disagreeable, and even immoral to your generation’s palate. Your tendency will be to fixate on the mistakes that I make, while resolving not to make the same ones in your own life or with your own children some day. That’s fine. I would rather you learn from my mistakes, than to repeat them. Just remember, as I have learned, while you are focused on mine, you’ll have your own to make.

I will do my best to blaze out a path for you through the wilderness of confusion that our culture has created, but fortunately, I offer you something more reliable than myself to build your life upon – a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, and a worldview built upon the timeless truth of His Word. He will never let you down, but I’m going to be honest, opposing opinions will seem rather convincing at times as they play your emotions and sinful nature against you. Enter here the first bit of Dad advice: Usually in life, the best choices aren’t all that appealing at first glance.

Godless culture says follow your heart, but God tells us (as does our own experience, if we are being honest) that our hearts are corrupted by sin, rebellion, and selfishness. In reality “Follow your heart” is among the dumbest bits of advice anyone could give. Follow Christ. He will remake your heart, and guide you in wisdom.

They say that the key to happiness is to discover and live out who you are deep inside. In truth, we are all experts at self-deception, and when we look inside, we usually see what we want to see. We need an objective observer, and the only one qualified is our Creator. True happiness comes from finding the identity, purpose, and destiny for which He designed us.

Culture tells us that we deserve to have instant gratification of our physical desires. In reality, instant gratification leaves us less satisfied, adding to our dissatisfaction a whole new set of troubles. It’s like giving salt water to a someone dying of thirst. In Christ, we find the deeper, more enriched life that we truly need. Our desires are fulfilled at a time and occasion when we can enjoy them in the fullest and richest way. That is the good life.

They say that resisting temptation is a sin against your authentic self. God says you are more than your temptations, and that He will give you the strength to overcome them. Yes, it’s a hard, seemingly endless struggle; we expect nothing less as fallen humans. Anyone who says a lifetime of saying “No,” to temptation is easy is doing it wrong.

They say that love is an emotion that ebbs and flows, God says that love is a self-sacrificing choice that is tenacious and gritty, hanging on despite difficult circumstances, and compelling us to honor our commitments even when it ceases to be enjoyable. True love has the audacity to love richer and deeper than even the person that we love wants us to – much like God’s love for us.

They say that making bad decisions is part of growing up. If that is others’ experience, it doesn’t have to be yours. Wise people take instruction to heart, and realize that there are some mistakes that are simply too costly to make. You can learn from both the good and bad choices of others, and from the wisdom of God’s Word.

I say all this knowing that, whether by misjudgment, or a skirmish lost with sin, you are going to have failures. The measure of your character won’t be found in your perfection, but in your resolve to keep getting up after you fallen more times than you can count. God will give you the strength. You must surrender the will, with a humble heart. When you find yourself drowning in the results of a sin or mistake, remember that while some choices do have lasting consequences, it’s never too late to start making wise choices from this point forward. And remember, there is no circumstance so bad that you can’t make it worse. So get up, dust yourself off, and keep moving. (in the right direction)

If I could sum this all up, it would be to say this: Whenever in doubt, cling to what you know, not what you feel. Contrary to what movies and TV show, feelings are as unstable as the ocean in a storm, and letting them dictate your choices is every bit as insane as trying to lay bricks on top of seawater. Emotions deceive. Truth is your harbor in the storm.

I must confess that I was scared to death at the very thought of being a father. (Sometimes I still am) That’s because the way that I lead you has eternal impact, both good and bad. Now that you are here, I can’t imagine life any different. “Daddy” is the most honored title I have or will ever will hold, and I will do my best to give you everything I have. I will one day send you out as a lamb among wolves, and with the same advice as Christ gave his Disciples: “Be as clever as a snake, and as innocent as a dove.”

–Thomas Hersman