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A Letter to a Younger Me

I was reading an article where former National Hockey Player and Toronto Maple Leaf, Doug Gilmour wrote a letter to a younger self. I liked the perspective of writing from wisdom and experience to a younger and less experienced you. I hadn’t though of the article in quite an extended period of time, when I thought of it while I was in the shower.  Some of my best thinking happens in the shower.  It’s as if my mind is some how more attentive to the voice of God.  Probably you are thinking, you should spend more time there.

I would consider myself to be at the tail end of parenting.  Even though I still have four kids at home, their ages vary from 15 to 21.  I can feel my influence waning.  I have moved to being more of a taxi driver than parent. But over the years I have learned much, most at the proverbial school of hard knocks or plain and simple the hard way.  This is my letter to a younger me

A Letter to a Younger Me

lakeshore

Jenn, Brittany and I in front of Lakeshore Church Circa 1993

Dear John,

I’ve never written a “Dear John” letter before, as if we’ve never heard that one before.  I just wanted to send you a note to encourage you.  To give you the Apostle Paul’s admonition, “Never Give Up”.  I know you’ll need that at different points on the journey.  There are going to be points when you are going to feel done.  The problem is you aren’t going to be done.  You are going to still have to get up the next morning and keep pressing on.  Remember this, you think that you are coming at your future tasks from a position of strength.  But ultimately, I hate to rain on your parade, you will find that your skills and “know how” will be sorely lacking.  Take comfort though, in your weakness, you will discover a new strength.  One, that is not from yourself but from God.  You will discover that “you can do all things through Christ who gives you strength.”  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

It’s 1992.  Two of the biggest things in your life are going to happen to you this year.  They will shape your life for the next 25 years and beyond.  The first will be in April.  You will start Pastoral ministry in North Bay.  God is going to answer your prayer for longevity in location in ministry.  Put in deep roots because your staying for a while. There are a couple major things that are going to happen, but that will be another letter for another day.  Just fasten your seatbelts because its going to be a bumpy and crazy ride

The second will happen in November, on the third to be precise.  You’ll think it’s going to be the 15th but she will be strong and will do things in her own way.  You are a going to become a parent for the first time.  Brittany will be born, registering at a whopping 9lbs and 11 ounces.  Jenn is going to be having a caesarean section, (she’ll be fine) and will be recovering. So, the first couple hours of her young life are going to be your moments.  You are going to be dumbfounded and at a loss for words.  There are a couple things I want you to do because I can’t remember if I did them or not, So I want to make sure that you do.  When that baby is placed in your arms, I want you to savour it.  Sweet moments like this happen so few.  Lift it out of time.  Live that moment. Be like Mary when Jesus was born, scripture says that she “treasured these things in her heart.”  Put these memories in a treasure box.  I think Mary knew that she would need those precious things later.  She had also been told that “a sword will pierce her soul”.  At this moment you are not going to think that this little one will ever do anything to hurt you, but they will give you a new pain that you never new existed.  You will need your treasure box for those moments. This moment is your first jewel to put in your treasure box.  Jenn has a picture of one of the kids, it’s one of her favourite pics, in her Bible.  She will know which one.  Tell her to put that image deep in her heart, she will need to remember that moment to get through some dark times.  John, don’t miss the other moments all along the way. Hurry is going to be one of the most destructive influences that will effect your parenting and spirituality.  Watch for it! As Dallas Willard says, “Relentlessly remove hurry from your life.”

“Relentlessly remove hurry from your life.” Dallas Willard

Also, pray, lay the foundation as quick as you can.  Prayer hasn’t been your greatest strength.  I know you are hoping that later in life you won’t struggle so much with it.  But you will, it will always have to be a discipline for you.  If it’s going to be work, this will be the best time to start.  You know that book you love, Holy Sweat by Tim Hansel.  I still love it, the cover is ripped and been taped.  You will lose it a couple times because you keep lending it to people.  But don’t worry it comes back.  You are never going to forget that quote from Woody Allen in the book, that “75 percent of success is showing up”.  This is going to be your moment to show up!  Dedicate your child to the Lord.  Commit yourself fully before the Lord to the awesome responsibility of being a parent.  Claim the promise of God’s word over her from 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.”  I don’t want to scare you, but the enemy is going to shoot some “fiery darts” at you, and you are going to have to put on the full armour of God, so you can pray. Don’t wait for some overwhelming feeling or desire to force you to pray.  Be like Nike and “just do it”. (Yes that slogan is still around today, the guy who came up with that one in 1988 should get a bonus!) Always remember this: pray, pray, pray.

Remember when you and Jenn wrote on your pre-marital assessments that you wanted to have two or three kids.  Well, forget that.  Jenn will see doctors to see why she can’t have any more kids.  They will tell you that unless there is intervention, like with Brittany, you won’t have any more kids.  The doctor is going to call it luteal phase defect.  The stupid thing is you can’t even google it, because it doesn’t exist yet.  Someday you’ll get it.  With that door seemingly closed you will follow that path that you always thought that you would: Adoption.  This will be another fasten your seat belts moment.  The kids are going to start coming and they are going to come fast.  At Christmas time 1996 you are going to start adding to your family.  Stephen will be added in December of 1996 at 22 months/old, Dylan will come in October of 1998 at 15 months old, Jordan will come in February of 2000 at 5 months and then you will have a miracle take place.  That thing that doctors said would never just happen, happens.  A very special lady that you are going to meet in North Bay, is going to stand in proxy for prayer for Jennifer.  She is going to believe that in Jesus name, God is going to open her womb.  And it’s going to happen.  John, your rational mind is going to kick in and your going to miss it. DON’T! Your going to joke that your super sperm, finally figured out that they weren’t supposed to swim to the light. (yes, you will really say that out loud).  God is doing something amazing; don’t minimize it, don’t rationalize it away.  Thank God that he intervened directly and miraculously into your life.  Always be on the lookout for God’s movement in your life, particularly in your family.

I’ll give you a warning, with just Brittany, you are going to think you are a pretty good parent.  You won’t understand why other people have such a hard time with their kids.  She is, generally, going to be a breeze to parent.  You are going to be shocked and mortified to find out that the book on parenting that you are writing in your head for Brittany is not going to work for Stephen.  You are going to have to draft a whole new book.  Then the other kids will come and they need their own book as well.  Each child unique.  Each child needing special care, nurture and attention in their own way.  You are going to vaguely remember hearing some speaker talk about how they used to have no kids and five really good theories on parenting.  He then says that now he has five kids and no theories.  You’ll laugh because everyone else in the crowd is, but you’ll get it later…boy, you’ll get it.  Somewhere along the line, you will here a message on Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”

“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”Proverbs 22:6

At first you will think that the message is that you are to cookie cutter your kid to conform to a certain path.  But later you’ll see that the phrase, “the way he should go” and see that it has the connotation of training them toward their own bend.  The idea is that each child has their own unique way of being and our job is to help them, borrowing the Apostle Paul’s word’s to Timothy, “fan those into flame.” Parenting is not about conformity, but helping them discover their true identity and gifting in Christ.  The end product will look interestingly different, but wholly Christ-like.  Your kids are going to have extra pressure because they are Pastor’s kids (PK’s).  Some will react and chaff against that force, but let me say it again…keep praying and don’t lose heart.

There’s so much more I could tell you.  So, many other things I want to warn you about, things that I want you to learn quickly (not like me, who had to cross some bridges a number of times), days I want to give you the encouragement that you need and risks that I hope you take.  But I will have to entrust those things to God, knowing that He is faithful to complete the work that he begins. Let me just leave you with some tips and insights, they may not all deal directly with parenting, but they most definitely influence parenting

  1. Keep your foundation firm: When life gets crazy and busy, you need to remember that first and foremost you are a spiritual person.  Give yourself grace, but make sure you try as much as possible to have good daily spiritual habits.
  2. Make sure your relationship with your spouse is tight. Again, keep your priority relationships priority. Someday, if you do this parenting thing right, the kids will move out.  You have to ensure that there is still a strong relationship left.  Don’t forget to continue to date your spouse.  She’ll love you for it.
  3. Remember, each day is a new day: His mercies are new every day and His grace is sufficient for anything you go through.
  4. Parent authentically and consistently: The next generation is going to value “realness”, they are going to want someone who is honest about their struggles, able to apologize when needed and most of all consistent.
  5. By the power of Christ be resilient. This is a warning as well, because of circumstances you are going to teeter on the edge of depression.  In that dark time, God is teaching you to be resilient.  It is going to be difficult.  You are going to complain that the weight on your chest is making it hard to breathe.  It’s at the point you need to learn to breathe in His grace and breathe out his praise. Parenting will be harder than you ever imagined, but by God’s strength you will be resilient.
  6. Don’t Give Up. Your rallying cry will be Galatians 6:9: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

Oh, and one last thing.  Another cool thing happens in 1992, the Jays will win the first of back to back world series in 1992.  Its going to be dark times after that, but things will pick up eventually.  Keep cheering for the Leafs. They will keep losing, but it will build your character.  You will learn to live on hope, which if placed in the right direction is a good thing.

Blessings,

John

pj

2 Responses to “A Letter to a Younger Me”

  1. Fantastic! And so relevent. Thank you for sharing the difficult times and reminding us all to cling tight to God.

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