I love you. I need to make that clear up front so that everything else I write will be read within the parameters of my love for you. I love you more than I ever believed I could love another person. (Besides your mother, of course.) When you were born, something changed inside of me. Something I did not fully expect. I fully anticipated loving you, but the giant spot you carved into my heart on the day of your birth took me by surprise. From that point forward, loving you and caring for you became one of my chief missions in life. You are my son, and I am your father; there are very few bonds in the world more lasting, more powerful, and more rewarding than that.
Because of that love, your mother and I have tried to “train you in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” Our efforts have been inconsistent at times, and for that I am sorry. I look back on the years you have been in my care, and I see so many wasted moments and half-spent opportunities for true spiritual development. Even so, we tried. Often, we tried our hardest. We love you enough that our hope has always been that you would seek God first in your life. And that you would add to your faith virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, Godliness, kindness, and love. We gave you back to God shortly after your birth. You were a gift on loan, after all. Our mission has always been to guide you until you were old enough to choose to walk the path of righteousness on your own. You have done that. And for that, we rejoice and are well pleased.
Dear son, the enemy is waiting.
In the not-too-distant future, you will be entirely independent from our house and our regular guidance. As you strike out on your own, you will be confronted with ideas, worldviews, and perspectives that run counter to what you have been taught your entire life. You have been well-equipped to deal with many of these. Others will take you by surprise. I don’t say that to scare you but to make the reality of what you are going to face as clear as I can. The enemy is fully capable of making his way look loving and gracious. He will appeal to your emotions and your concern for others. He will not ask you to reject the faith of your childhood. Not at first. But he will chip away it. Slowly and methodically.
He will pose the question he posed to Eve all the way back in the Garden of Eden. “Has God really said?” You will quickly discover that there are many elements of our faith that are under attack. And they are under attack from within and without the church. “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like [a man], be strong.” I’m not asking you to blindly trust the things we taught you. We have always encouraged you to ask questions. To dig for the answers yourself. But the place you do that digging is the Word of God. And the enemy’s first weapon in turning your heart away from the faith is to have you doubt Scripture itself. Do not fall for his lies.
Dear son, you will be tempted to walk away.
I hope we never have to face this, but statistically speaking, it’s possible you or one of your brothers will walk away from the faith. We have prayed against this since the day you were born. But, if you do walk away, we will still love you. That will never change. Our love is unconditional.
Sadly, many parents who are watching their children depart from the faith, are distorting unconditional love into something that it is absolutely not. These parents are choosing to “love” their children unconditionally by walking alongside with them away from God. They are choosing their relationship with their children over their relationship with Jesus. I cannot and will not do that. My love for you is too great to follow you into sin. My great love for you compels me to teach you, admonish you, correct you, and guide you back to the faith. Embracing and rejoicing in your sin is not love at all.
If you walk away, heaven forbid, our lack of acceptance for your newfound belief system will likely create tension between us. The very thought of that rips me apart inside. Our unwillingness to go alongside you might even break our relationship. As much as that will hurt, and it will hurt more than you can possibly imagine, we will hold true to our Lord and Savior. We do that not only for ourselves but for you as well. We will cling more tightly to Jesus in hopes that you will see it and be reconciled to Him. If you turn away from Him and we follow along, why would you ever turn back knowing that your parent’s faith was so weak and timid? We strive to parent with an eternal perspective and that demands much more from us than accepting or condoning grave error or rebellion simply to keep the peace.
We will keep our eyes on Jesus and will lift your name to Him without ceasing. That is how much we love you.
Dear son, hold fast to the confession of your hope.
When doubts arise, and they will, hold on to Jesus. When the straight and narrow path seems stifling and unloving, hold on to Jesus. As the writer of Hebrews puts it, “Let’s hold firmly to the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.” Jesus is faithful. He has always been faithful. Hold on to that if you can hold on to nothing else. Do not run away from Jesus or His word. Run to them. Cling to them in the hour of your testing. They are your lifeline. Your only hope and salvation. And know, without a shadow of doubt, that we love you and will always be there to help you follow Christ with all your heart, soul, and mind. Just as the prodigal’s father did not follow him into sin but waited with great expectation for his returning, so will we eagerly look and pray for your return if you wander away.
Dear son, for now we rejoice that God is using you and shaping you into His likeness. We love your heart, and the various ways God has blessed you so you can bless others. As trials and troubles come, continue to seek Jesus with all of your heart and dive deeper into His word. That is the most important advice we will ever be able to give you.
How can a young man keep his way pure?Psalm 119:9-11
By keeping it according to Your word.
With all my heart I have sought You;
Do not let me wander from Your commandments.
I have treasured Your word in my heart,
So that I may not sin against You.