It seems like just yesterday the doctor put you in my arms, and our lives changed forever. Before you arrived, we had no idea what it meant to love something or someone so much you would give your life for it. You came with no instructions. All that your dad and I had were “ideas” brought together from our own family history. There was no map or thick book of guidance, save for our Bible. The only thing we knew for certain was that we wanted you to love Jesus with all your heart, mind, and soul. If I could have asked God for anything, it would have been for some exact instructions and the classic textbook recipe for every situation of how to raise the perfect child (note this for when it’s your turn to parent).
I’m sure you must look back over the last 18 years and wonder…”Why in the world did my parents do…..(you fill in the blank)?” I hope someday as you read this to your children, my words will make sense.
Your younger years were filled with joy, laughter and crying as your dad and I tried to navigate our way through your diapers, boo boos and the midnight tears. When you were just weeks old, we found a church family that we still call our home to this day. We’ve been blessed to have a pastor who has uncompromisingly preached the truth of God’s word, even if it made the congregation uncomfortable. For 18 years, he poured truth into your life, and you soaked it up in your soul.
I will never forget the night before you were born when your dad and I stayed up talking about our desire to be committed to Christ and faithfully attend church. To that point we were lax in our church attendance. Perhaps we were rebelling against our parents. I will never regret that decision as long as I live. Your dad became a hero to me the day he said to me, “As for me and my family….” I can probably count on my fingers how many times we have been absent from our church. I pray that has been an example to you. I believe that is one of the key ingredients of the secret sauce in creating the masterpiece we see today.
Son, as you gain your wings this year, never forget this component and use it for your life. Church does not save you. Church does not get you to heaven, but it does show you a beautiful picture of the bride of Christ. It does hold you accountable, and there is something to be said about living life in this insanely crazy world with people who love the King of Kings. Our family would not be here today without the shelter and protection of our church family and our pastor. Son, remember the guidance from your pastor. He has patiently taught you how to become a man of God by following God’s Word. Use his advice which he has wisely shared with you over the last 18 years!
Let me tell you more about your dad. They say a man will treat his spouse the way his dad treats his mom. If this is the case, then your future bride will be the luckiest woman on earth. Your dad has been a shining example of how a woman should be treated. He is kind and compassionate. He is quiet, yet I have depended on his wisdom for twenty years! From the little things like opening the doors for me, to the big things like providing financially for the family and spiritually leading our family, he is an example to follow. He is a quiet leader, neither stomping nor shouting, but when he speaks, we know that he is leading after God’s own heart, with quiet wisdom. It is a wisdom we have learned to value and seek.
There are some things I want to explain to you.
When you were five years old, our lives as we knew them froze like a picture in a frame. I will never forget it. The images we saw unfold on our television screen will be forever etched in our minds. September 11th, 2001, Muslim terrorists attacked our soil and suddenly our liberty was held captive by fear and vulnerability. Up until then, the most politically active your father and I had been was going to the polls to vote. We didn’t really even understand the true meaning of that simple task, but I faithfully went to vote Republican because that is how we were raised.
On the day the world stood still, something changed inside of me. When the attacks happened, I was running an in-home daycare. We were watching Barney, (I am so sorry about that), and your grandma called to tell me I had better turn on the news. When I turned the channel, it was as if time froze. The kids knew something had happened and they sat uncharacteristically quiet for the next few hours. As I watched the attack unfold, I was dreadfully aware that life as I knew it, was over. I knew I had changed but didn’t know how or what was ahead.
Son, your life changed that day as well. A part of your mom and dad was lost and replaced with new parents. It’s hard to explain, but when the country your grandparents fought for is under assault, and the freedom our forefathers gave their life for is stripped away right under your nose, you have no choice but to act. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer said so long ago, “Silence in the face of evil, is itself evil; God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”
For some it meant going to war, and for others it meant running for office. Action looked differently to each family. For your mom and dad, it meant a call to wake up those like us who had been asleep and were responsible for letting this happen to our nation. It meant educating ourselves on what it means to protect liberty. It meant sounding the alarm to those who were asleep. It meant electing honest politicians, and it meant driving this nation back to God.
Your life from five years age forward “probably didn’t make sense to you. The parades, the speeches, the attacks against our family were probably very scary to you. As your mom, it was hard watching your face as they attacked your mom and dad. I know that was tough. I pray you understand why we chose this path. Ronald Reagan once said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected and handed on for them to do the same”
The other thing about which you probably felt strange and uncomfortable about was that your dad and I chose to raise you and your siblings with uncompromising conservative values. We intentionally chose to raise our children counterculture to the rest of the world. In this day and age of social media, “feel good” parenting and liberal philosophies, your dad and I must have seemed liked green aliens at times. Our random social media stalking, phone checks, earlier curfews, our “no alone dating” rule, and (gasp) our limited texting plan was probably more than annoying. I’m so grateful for your kind spirit that was willing to learn though it all. I’m grateful you chose to live under that shelter. I am so proud of you. I know that was difficult.
I used to be a very big voice box that shouted, “It’s better to be respected than be your child’s friend.” Inside, that was one of the toughest things your dad and I ever did. We both wanted to be your friend and to be loved and chosen as a friend by you. I’m grateful we chose the route of respect rather than merely friendship with our child. Your bride will be blessed with a man whose integrity is intact and ready to be a bold leader. Our standards at home did not match those of the world, but the man we see standing before us today makes all of the teaching, discipline, and hours on our knees worth every minute.
Your grandparents raised your dad and me in a “Mayberry” generation. They had the media’s wind behind their sails. We did not have that. We had the likes of Vampire Diaries, The Big Bang Theory, and Two and a Half Men”helping” us parent. In the end we gave up the fight, and got rid of cable all together.
Our hope for you as you walk across that stage into your new life is this:
- That you would become a man of God who is unafraid and ready to LEAD in a world that says follow.
- That you will daily seek God with your whole heart, soul and mind.
- That you would patiently seek the will of God to find your soul-mate, a woman after God’s own heart. A woman who is so lost in God that you need to seek HIM before you find HER.
- That you would learn to trust in God’s best: that you will learn to wait patiently for God’s best.
- That you would love your country and believe in liberty and our founding principles so much you are willing to sacrifice the comforts of this life in order to protect them.
- That you will be strong enough in Christ to withstand the temptation to compromise for temporary fulfillment.
- That you will be strong enough to withstand persecution and not compromise your values.
As I look back over the past 18 years, we as parents have been far from perfect. Oh the mistakes we made. One day we will all sit around a campfire laughing at the past and the silly things we thought were“perfect decisions.” I pray we have prepared you to take your first steps out of the nest with confidence and boldness.
As you walk across the stage tonight, please know this beyond a shadow of a doubt. We are proud of you. Our prayer for you is this:
That your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve what is excellent and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ. We pray you are filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:9-11)
With all our love,
Your Mom and Dad
To parents raising children in these trying times:
Be of good cheer. DON’T give up. Never ever give up. Never give in. Don’t be afraid to say no. You might as well face it now, you will look like aliens to them and you will be unliked the majority of the time. You will feel like you are parenting in a big bad world alone. Your children won’t always like what you have to say. They may even make fun of your pants!!!
Can I challenge you? Don’t be afraid to swim upstream, counterculture to the world around you. I promise you, it is exhausting, but from my view on this graduation night, I can tell you it is worth it.