The year is almost over. You will find this happens faster as you get older.
I find that the end of a year is a natural time to reflect. I ask questions like: What have I done with this year of my life? What should I do moving forward?
It occurs to me, as I contemplate these important questions, I can’t help thanking God for you. You and your mother are special treasures to me. Our family is my greatest earthly blessing. I hope you will never forget this.
That being said, it is still sometimes easy to take these things for granted as we do what we do every day. The daily grind has a way of shrinking your perspective. At the end of a year, however, I am acutely aware that my time in both of these honored positions is shorter than the year before. For all we know this may be my last year. After all, being a pastor’s family has kept us intimately acquainted with death. We have seen friends come and friends go. We have said goodbye to way too many family members already. We have come to know by experience what God teaches us in the scriptures: “What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:14).
So, if this year is my year, and I don’t make I to next Christmas, what are some things your dad wants you to know? This is not an exhaustive list, but here are a few things that come to mind.
1. Never sacrifice the people who need you most for the people who seem to need you now. This has been a constant struggle in my life. I believe it is a struggle you will face, because I believe it is a human struggle that will not go away any time soon. We are overwhelmed with choices. In the face of what seems like endless possibilities, never forget there is sometimes a difference between what is urgent and what is important. There are some things only you can do (Eph. 2:10). Being a spouse and a parent are a couple of them. So, do not sacrifice those relationships on the altar of achievement.
2. Say “thank you” more than you think you need to. Thanksgiving is a transformative thing. Not only does it encourage the receiver, but it also changes the giver. When you give thanks, you force your mind to dwell on good things (Phil. 4:8). So, develop the godly habit of expressing thanksgiving; you will be glad you do.
3. Be cause-driven not career-driven. I heard a man name Robertson Mcquilkin says this once, and it stuck. When you begin working, there will be many paths offered to you. You are gifted (like your mother), and your gifts can take you farther than you can dream. But you will have to decide: do you want to climb a latter or make a difference. The thing about climbing a ladder is this—there is always a rung above you and one below. You will be mindful of both, as you strive to reach one, you will be afraid to fall to the other, which means you will often dangle in discontent. But when you adopt a cause bigger than yourself, when you strive to make a difference instead of being noticed, you will live a full life, one that may or may not be rewarded in this life, but you can rest assured your God will reward you in the life to come.
4. Remember God often uses people to change people. Therefore, do not fall into that trap of believing programs change people. Sure there may be seven steps to a better you, but those seven steps usually involve people. People influence people for the good or the bad. As God says, “He who walks with the wise becomes wise” (Prov. 13:30). With this in mind, be the best you you can be. Love people. Treat them the way you want to be treated. Invest deeply. Forgive quickly. Love freely. Who knows? One day you may wake up to find changed lives in your path.
5. Laugh at least once a day. I don’t mean giggle. I don’t mean snicker. I am talking about a full belly laugh. As I have told you before, we are the kind of people who are first in, last out, and laughing loudest. This is God’s world, and he has a sense of humor. People are made in God’s image, and they are hilarious. Take your calling seriously, but do not take yourself too seriously. Laugh full. Laugh loud. Laugh often. And often others will laugh with you. (Or, they may laugh at you, but who cares? You won’t notice while you are laughing.)
There is probably more I could say. (As you well know, there is always more I can say. I didn’t get the nickname “latta-words” for nothing). Please remember this: The greatest honor of my life is being your mom’s husband and your dad. May God bless you in the upcoming year, and I pray he will continue to bless you for years to come.