Archive for September, 2010

Hey Matt!

The concept of writing to oneself at a younger stage of life is certainly not original.  Numerous people have used this literary device to convey lessons they have learned through time and experience.  This is my first public attempt to reach back into the past and speak from acquired wisdom to that teenager growing up in the 1980s (and anyone else who will listen).  Although styles and society have changed greatly in thirty years, some principles that I have learned remain steadfast.

Hey Matt!

Take a good look at the people sitting around you in the cafeteria.  Listen to their conversations.  (Probably more trivial than meaningful, but you won’t see it that way.)  Think about who you consider to be your friends.  What common bonds draw you together?  Why is it so important to be accepted by certain groups?

At your ten-year class reunion, you will engage in conversation with some people you tended to look past in school.  The reason is that you share important common ground.  Others will still be friends, but you will discover a different foundation for your friendship.  Often, this common ground is a shared perspective, specifically our faith in Christ and a desire to serve Him.

I was reminded of that again last week in our men’s Bible study group.  I sat with some of the same guys that are at the lunchroom table across from you.  You probably hear conversations revolving around homework, sports, music, and girls (not necessarily in that order).  On the same campus thirty years later, we were discussing how to make our life’s work have lasting value.  We challenged each other to be a witness in the workplace and elsewhere.  Every week there is some talk of how to become a godly husband and father.

It’s funny to think of the contrast between our choice of topics in 1982 and 2010.  I find that I like some of the same people that I did in high school – for a whole new set of reasons.  Mind you, there was a great group of teenagers at Keswick back then.  I just don’t remember our primary topic of conversation always being about maintaining a separated life and striving for excellence in our walk with God.

Use biblical standards and pick your friends wisely.  Don’t be afraid to think deep thoughts and speak about spiritual concepts.  Be bold about your faith.  One day a lot of your friends will eagerly talk about their love for the Lord and His Word.  Consider this your chance to be a trendsetter.

By the way, keep your plaid board shorts.  Eventually, they will be back in style – or at least your kids will need them for ‘80s day at school.

What do you wish you could tell your teen-aged self?

Fatherhood means…

In 1970, the film Love Story produced the popular statement “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”  I completely disagree with that sentiment, but that is a topic for another article.  However, in a similar vein I have discovered a personal summary of parenting.  “Fatherhood means enjoying your children’s success more than your own.”

I recently noticed this during a football game when I heard the voice from the booth announce, “Tackle made by #56 Justin Trill.”  I realized that the feeling I experienced was stronger and more gratifying than if I had heard my own name announced.  I have recognized this through the years as I watched my daughter congratulated for serves that stymied the opposing team or a big basket that turned the tide of a game.  I have felt that emotion when Aaron held up his blue ribbon at a regional art competition or his first-place medal from youth league basketball.  The same thing applies to their academic achievements. Thankfully, I also realize that I receive even greater joy from seeing my son stand in front of a congregation to present a song or testimony than in his opening up a hole in the defensive line for a running back.  The same is true for each of my children.

Therein lay the challenges for me.  First, my job as a parent is not to live vicariously through my children.  I have to remember that although their accomplishments may cast a reflection my way, they are still theirs. Second, and more importantly, I have to remember the relative value of their life’s work and consistently reinforce what is truly important.  (That’s tough for a guy that cheers as heartily as I do at their games.)  However, if I don’t do this well, they will be prone to fall into the same trap that many of us do; placing more value on popularity than on purity, more weight on success than on service, more focus on money than on ministry.  We should rejoice in every talent, ability, and gift that God gives to us.  However, we must recognize that real success in life is using them for Him.  Only then do they have genuine significance and eternal value.

Sure, I’m proud of my kids for their academic and athletic endeavors.  But, I’m even more grateful for spiritual successes.

By the way, a high school friend pointed me to this great article by Scott Linscott that reminds parents of the proper perspective we must maintain to encourage enduring faith  in our young people.