Today I will rappel off the side of the Hilton College Station as part of a United Way fundraiser for our community. I am stoked to have the chance to climb down the side of an 11-story building for free without having the police called on me, and I truly do not fear for my life. However, many of my students and some of my colleagues have joked about this being the end for me, and it made me think about what I would tell my sons (and even my students after they graduate) if this was my last blog post ever. So below is a short list of life principles that I would want my sons to know if they no longer had me in their life. Let me know if you think I left any important pieces of advice off of this list.
Jackson and Jameson,
You are sinners. Yes, you, but so am I, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:23-24, NIV)
We were designed for a purpose: to love God, make much of him, and love others. The closer to this purpose that you get, the more joy, satisfaction, and fulfillment you will experience. The more you pursue what the world tells you to pursue, the more frustrated, depressed, and bitter you will grow.
Seek God first every day. Literally choose to read his word, pray, and journal before you check social media, your email, the news, or watch YouTube videos. If you have to wake up earlier in order to do this, it is well worth it. Trust me on this. Tell God what you are thankful for and actually mean it. Rummage through your plethora of blessings and choose a few to focus on. Bring your cares and worries before the Lord. He wants to take them from you, but you have to admit that there are things in life that are out of your control and ask for help. Practice seeking God instead of just seeking his blessings and gifts. Pray for others, especially the ones that drive you crazy and infuriate you, but also pray for those you love. Some might fit under both categories. Pray for them twice.
Praise God and honor him, even when it hurts.
Don’t blame others for your problems. It is a waste of time. The world is an unjust, selfish, and oppressive place because it is managed by humans. Acknowledge when you get discriminated or when you are given a bad hand in life and decide to rise above this. Study others who have achieved great things, set goals, fail, learn from your failures, admit it when you screw up, ask God to replace your weaknesses with his strength, develop a growth mindset, take risks, don’t give up, don’t give up, don’t give up, adapt, remain a lifelong learner, reignite your curiosity about life if the flame has gone out, and ask tons of questions.
“Do not wear yourself out to get rich…” (Proverbs 23:4, NIV). You can take out “rich” and replace it with whatever Earthly endeavor you desire to achieve such as fame, popularity, comfort, respect, or love. If you seek God first he will fill the void in your heart and soul in a way that nothing else can.
Remember that tyranny can come in the form of government, institutions, or the tyranny of the majority. Always stand up for your rights and the rights of others, but be just as invested in fulfilling your responsibilities to stay informed, treat others with love and respect, engage in civil discourse, vote, and communicate with your elected officials.
Don’t be quick to judge. Whether rich or poor, white or black, Christian or Muslim, religious or not, gay or strait, conservative or liberal, male or female, people are more complex and dynamic than the stereotypes allow. Learn to see people as people. They, like you, are a mixture of good and evil, strengths and flaws. Give them the same courtesy and respect that you feel you deserve. Interact with people that are different than you. It helps you to empathize and grow. Step outside of your echo chamber and allow your beliefs to be challenged and questioned.
Don’t expect others to return your love and respect. Give them love and respect anyway. People can be nasty and brutish as Thomas Hobbes once wrote. Don’t let the judgement of others define who you are or prevent you from doing great things. True greatness makes people uncomfortable. Some will laud you and follow, some will ignore you, and some will actively oppose you. Greatness, like the light of Christ, forces people to be real for a second about their own limitations and choices. This temporary self-reflection and authenticity can be terrifying or empowering. Be prepared for the whole gamut of responses when you step outside of normal and pursue great things. As Rudyard Kipling wrote, “If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, but make allowance for their doubting too…then you’ll be a man, my son.”
Character is what you do when no one else is watching. This advice from Coach Earwood has stuck with me, kept me accountable, and made me better since I heard it back in high school.
One of the greatest risks you will ever take is to place your heart in the hands of another. Take this risk. If you give love as much as you seek it, and you try to become the type of person you want to marry, it will work out. And if it doesn’t, use the gift of singleness to devote your entire attention to God and impact the world in a unique way.
Move around. Go outside for a walk, a hike, or a run. We are not meant to only sit plastered to a comfy couch for long periods of time. Find an activity that you enjoy and do it.
Put your devices down regularly, and engage with the real world around you (yes, that includes your phone).
Also be sure to rest and relax. Get some sleep. Go ahead and plaster yourself to that couch now for a bit. You’ve earned it.
Love your momma. She is a rare jewel on this planet. She has endured pain, suffering, sacrifice, and toil to bring you into this world, nurture you, and raise you to be Godly men. Cherish her as I do. Call her often and visit her regularly. It gets difficult when you start a career and a family of your own, but your momma deserves your love and attention. Treat women with respect and dignity, not as objects.
Know this. You have made me the proudest daddy in the whole wide world. You are each special, intelligent, passionate, and gifted. I am a better man because of you two. I am sorry for the times when I have been impatient with you or told you no when you wanted to play. I pray every day that you will be men after God’s own heart. You will always be my little mates.
I love you.
via Daily Prompt: Finite