Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Letter to My Son

Some time ago, I posted a letter to my daughter, which I wrote for her senior retreat in high school.  Now, my son is a senior, and he is on a retreat.  He attended the same retreat last year, but this year he is one of the seven seniors chosen to lead the four-day journey.   Parents are asked to write letters to their sons, to be read during the retreat.  Here's the one I wrote a few days ago:

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Dear Alex:

In the 10 months since I wrote your last retreat letter, much has changed, but the important things are still the same, and the best things have gotten better.
 
This past January, you were working hard to make the varsity baseball team.  Since then, you have lettered in track and cross-country, become a cross-country co-captain, and gotten into the best shape of your life. 

Ten months ago, you were starting to rehearse a play in which you had a good, but small role.  Today, you are rehearsing for a play in which you have the lead, and getting ready to audition for a play in which you hope to be the lead. 

In January, you were thinking (occasionally) about school and (rarely) your AP exams.  Now, you are thinking about college and even pausing once in a while to reflect on possible careers.

It should be obvious that this is a time of transitions for you.  While you still have unfinished business at De La Salle, you are right to look ahead and plan ahead, because that’s the only way you will move ahead. 

This is an exciting time for you, Alex, and it will get better (although, at times, there will be some moments of anxiety).  Enjoy this time, and keep doing the things you need to do to enhance your life experience – focus on your classes, the play, and getting ready for the next track season – but keep looking forward.

While change swirls about you, the important things have not changed.  What I wrote in January remains true today:  “You are a fantastic person.  You have a wonderful heart and care deeply about your family and friends.  I marvel at your relationship with Tori, and I love hearing you talk to your mother about the events of the day or the latest drama in your life.  I never get tired of talking to you (as you know all too well), and I really never get tired of listening to you.  You have a wisdom and insight beyond your years, and it is endlessly fascinating to me.”

And while so many good things have been constant, the best things have gotten better.  You have a deeper faith and appreciation of what it means to be a Christian in our world.  You have begun to understand the positive impact you can have on others if you utilize the gifts God has given you.

As you move forward, always remember Jeremiah 29:11: 

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." 

Prosperity, hope, a future – these are the wonderful things that await you if you remain steadfast in your studies, your virtues, and your heart.

You and I have spoken many times of the need to build a strong foundation.  You are nearing the time when that foundation will be most severely tested, when you go off to college and live, work, succeed or fail, on your own.  I know the kind of man you are, and I see the kind of man you can become.  It makes me smile to think of you reaching your potential.

The great American soldier, General Douglas MacArthur, prayed:

Build me a son, O Lord, who will be strong enough to know when he is weak, and brave enough to face himself when he is afraid, one who will be proud and unbending in honest defeat, and humble and gentle in victory.

Alex, you have these qualities and so much more.  I do not like to think about next year,  because when you leave for college, there will be an incredible emptiness in my home and in my heart.  But as painful as that will be, it is the inescapable companion and irrefutable evidence of the extraordinary joy you bring me every day.
 
You, your sister, and your mother are gifts from God, Alex, and I love you with the depth and emotion that such gifts deserve.  I love you without condition, wholeheartedly.  You are my son and, along with Tori and your mother, you are my life.

Dad.

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